Gannu, the pre-school animated series written and created by Dancing Atoms creative director Saraswathi Vani Balgam, and produced by Juck Somsaman from Thailand’s Monk Studios, is selected by FIAPF (International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations) and Women in Animation (WIA) to participate in the upcoming Stories x Women program at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Stories x Women’s goal is to support access to international opportunities for women creators from emerging national film and audio-visual animation communities of Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America who want to tell their authentic stories. And the program has been sponsored by Walt Disney Animation Studios with additional support from Triggerfish Animation.
Gannu is one among the six films that has been selected by the federation to participate and get pitched at the Annecy MIFA Market 2022. Talking about the pre-school series, Balgam told Animation Xpress, “Gannu features the extraordinary adventures of a group of children and their six-year-old imaginary elephant friend, Gannu. Gannu is a goofy, easily distracted genie, whose bag of magical seeds allows the children to open doors to adventures in fantastical worlds powered by their imagination. The story is about friendship, and is inspired by family, friends and my childhood.”
The 3D animated show will focus on children aged two to five years, comprising 52 episodes of seven minutes each. A large team of artists and creatives have worked for many years on this series. “The development process can be a long and testing journey. It takes years of writing, re-writing, brainstorming and reworking the concepts. Ultimately, we needed to find the true essence of the characters and the story, so we rooted it in my childhood experiences. For example, I grew up in a middle class family that didn’t have a lot of possessions, but as kids we used our imagination where we took the smallest things available to take us on the happiest fantasy journeys. Putting all those personal elements and bringing the authenticity in the project takes time and effort,” said the director. Balgam also shared her childhood moments where she played with Kondapalli dolls which were one of the famous dolls of Andhra Pradesh. The characters in the series are filled with the colors and texture inspired by these dolls.
Gannu is produced by Saraswathi Balgam, along with Monk Studios CEO and founder Juck Somsaman. Commenting about the association, Balgam shared, “Juck is a close friend and we worked together at Rhythm & Hues Studios for many years. When we met a few years ago, we both discussed Gannu and decided to partner on the series. Aimsinthu Ramasoot, IP manager at Monk Studios, also enthusiastically joined as the producer on the Gannu series.” Balgam believes that humor and classic animated style will attract the global audience. As children always want to learn through fun, the tone of the project is comedy, and is a perfect entertainer for the preschool children.
After working for 13 years at R&H and one year at DreamWorks Animation, Balgam took the risk of developing authentic original ideas. Its been seven years since she started Dancing Atoms and now, she has taken baby steps towards creating her own IP. Balgam shared, “It takes time and I learnt that I must be kind to myself and allow my self the joy of being a creator.”
Talking about the challenges faced while working on the project, Balgam added, “The pandemic was the biggest challenge for us as we worked remotely. I am based in Los Angeles, and some of the teams are located in India, Malaysia and Thailand. Co-ordinating all these teams while working from home was quite difficult and challenging. We worked on this project remotely for almost two years, and to date I have not met most of the artists in person as everything was done virtually. It is a testament to the team’s talent and their hard work. We are taking our baby steps into pitching the preschool show at Annecy 2022.”
Talking about their participation at Annecy, Balgam concluded by saying, “I am grateful to WIA and Stories x Women and FIAPF, for selecting our project. I would also like to thank each and everyone who believed in me and I am sending them lots of love, especially my family. Going to Annecy makes me feel proud as I am following my father’s footsteps. My father went to Annecy in 1984 with his own slate of Indian projects. Now I am going to Annecy to pitch my project, and the whole experience is quite surreal and emotional. Hopefully through this process we achieve our primary objective which is to find a right home for our Gannu.”