January 5-2006
Famous House of Animation Creative Head E Suresh

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“The threshold for people to call themselves animators has to be higher”

Right since its inception in ’98, the Mumbai based Famous House of Animation has been synonymous with originality and creativity. E Suresh, the driving force behind the animation studio is a person who believes in putting in 100%.

Recently Animation ‘xpress Anand Gurnani met up with the creative genius and had a chat about the latest animation work happening at Famous.

Excerpts…

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A still from the Kohinoor Diamond film for DTC

What’s the latest with Famous House of Animation?
Just this morning we got news that an animated film that we did on the Kohinoor Diamond for DTC has been nominated as finalist at the prestigious New York Festival for TV, Cinema and Radio 2006 at New York. The film can be viewed at our website famousanimation.com.

Amongst latest work done at Famous includes a very radical TVC (both in terms of concept as well as treatment) for Levis, Happy Dent, Spice Telecom Commercial, the 3rd series of Chintamani (ICICI) ad films and the Stop Motion live action TVC for Peoples Group besides a clay animated public service film on HIV /Aids for BBC Worldwide.

That’s quite a few?
Well we do close to 2 complete TVCs a month and no piecemeal stuff. The films that we work on have good concepts and different treatment. Whatever is done at Famous is done with 100% dedication. Efforts cannot be half hearted. The sensitivity and meticulousness shows later in the client’s sales charts too. At Famous we don’t believe in the fluke formula.

So what’s your Philosophy?
The philosophy is to put one’s 100%. The basis always is our design process that is very strongly associated with the project brief. We like to believe we offer advertising
/communication using animation rather than just works of art in animation.

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A still from the Spice Prepaid TVC

When I passed out of NID in ’97, I had a very different set of skills as compared to traditional animation which was the only prevalent form then in India. I was as much interested in edit, sound and design as I was in animation and for a year I worked with a multimedia company. When we set up Famous Animation in 98 we had just one room to operate out of and we were doing whatever work came our way with crazy timelines.

Gradually the agencies began realizing our potential and gained confidence in us. And over the years we gained experience and knowledge of advertising and communication principles that we dig into when working on ad films. Today we are in a position where the agencies come to us with brief and we are a complete part of the creative and planning process.

The term animator here in FHOA means complete animation film maker and that’s what most folks that work at Famous are or eventually become. People need to know character design, storyboarding, animation, editing, sound design etc.

Every week we hold screenings and the artists are exposed to a wide variety of animated films which helps motivate them to excel at their work. We even hold theatre/ drama workshops for ourselves. Afterall, if we don’t know to emote, how do we make our characters do the same?

Could you elaborate a little on some of the films you just mentioned?
A lot of research and study was put into the 60 second public service film on HIV /Aids that we’ve done for BBC Worldwide. It took close to around 90 days including pre pro and production.

The HIV Aids kind of problem has to be dealt with in a straight faced manner. The film is primarily targeted at rural Northern India and the message is ‘Use a Condom’. Social Communication at these levels has to be very loud and clear. We have been very blatant about things because that’s the way it will be most effective.

The 3rd series of Chintamani films have been as always, a simple narrative story with that rhythmic jingle accompanied by literary visual translations and of course done in clay!

Is claymation a hot favorite with ad agencies?
The reason that clay animation is used a lot for TVCs which target the adult demo is because the realism is more and yet there is a lot that you can do with it in terms of exaggeration, humor and animation. Stop Motion animation is a great technique and we have been evolving it all the time, for example nowadays rather than using wire frames and stuff we are importing proper armatures, with ball and socket and steel rods.

When it comes to miniature shoots there’s a great amount of scope for art direction as well as for experts in material science. In fact there’s a lot of talent in art direction that is getting into animation. The art direction for the HIV public service film is done by a bright JJ graduate who was associated with Famous during the project and it is really wonderful and recreates that world which the audiences that we are trying to connect with live in.

We’d like to know more about the styles and techniques in your latest work?

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A still from the Happy Dent TVC

Happy Dent is a series of 10 seconders, all 3D animated films. There’s no music or voice over which helps break some clutter, its like a pause in the midst of all the commercials. The media strategy was to make 10 seconders so as to have more films across slots.

Spice Telecom commercial is based on the concept of keep talking. Spice is prevalent in Karnataka and the commercial has been released more in theatres than on Television.

Then there was Big Babool where we shot with a periscopic lense for live action and then tracked and composited the animation.

The People Group TVC has live action characters treated with stop motion animation. The group has 4 different companies and the brief was to put into perspective the way these companies influence an individual. Best way to put things in perspective is by using still photographs. We used that concept and then used stop motion animation to portray action. Its tougher shooting stop motion for actors than it is to do live action as they have to constantly give key poses.

Any plans for longform content?
We have developed three original series, as in the pilots and the bibles are ready and we have got some extremely encouraging response from the International market at MIPCOM. All the content we are developing is targeted at the global markets.

Could you share some more info?
There’s Neki & Pooch Pooch a gag based 3D animated series targeted at 6 to 16s. We are currently working out options like 90 second interstitials and seven minute episodes. Neki’s a huge yet dumb elephant while Pooch Pooch is a smart rat. The duo have a symbiotic relationship with each other and at times they are at loggerheads, while at times they join forces.

Then there’s Bud & Buddy, a clay animated series for pre schoolers. The third one is Jungle Rules, 3D animated show targeted at the 6 to 12 demo. It revolves around the lives of a community of animals that live in a Jungle Neighbourhood. Remember the classic TV serial Nukkad? Replace the humans with animals, and move the setting into the jungle and you have a fair ideas of the what the show is like.

The initial pilots have been liked and we are now working on fleshing out the scripts and plots to actually show how the shows work in longevity. The scripts are being paid a lot of attention because that’s what makes or breaks a show. We shall be making substantial progress on this front in the coming year.

We are also working on an action packed feature Film for family audiences.Set in 15th century India, it is loosely based on the history and mythology of the time. We are experimenting with and developing what we think is some very edgy design. This is being developed for the global market and we are looking to team up with international partners with the right kind of sensibilities for the same. Animation that is non-cute and not targeted at children unfortunately may not see the light of the day in India.

All this work is happening even as we keep doing our TVCs, Public Service Messages and Channel Packaging.

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A still from Bust That Noma

Famous does quite a few Public Service Films also

Yes. Bust That Noma which is a film that helps prepare children afflicted with Cancer to go in for treatment is a film making which was a personally rewarding experience. We don’t do such films to get awards, they are rewarding in themselves. The Tata Memorial Hospital screens this movie twice every week for kids who are going in for Cancer treatment as well as for their parents. The film explains a lot of things and motivates the children to be courageous and spirited as they go in for treatment.

In fact we hope to do at least one public service film a year and are always looking out for causes, ideas and scripts.

Parting Shot?
The situation in India is that the genuinely talented pool it has very limited and it needs to grow. Any new studio that opens or expands has to poach from the current studios and that is not a good thing at all.

I really feel that youngsters should get more interested in animation. But they need to be well informed about how they can pursue a career in it. Do they want to be film makers, do they want to be specialists in a particular process. It shouldn’t be a shallow dive, they should look deep into what they want to do in animation.

There should be more of genuine institutes that impart proper animation education and less of fraudulent ones. Some of the institutes started by the studios themselves are performing better than the others in terms of the level of expertise of students, but even they need to improve.

The threshold for people to call themselves animators has to be higher.

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