Toonz Animation India completes Seven Years: Q&A with CEO P Jayakumar

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“The competitive edge of the future will not be some smart technology or business model; it will be a company`s ability to embrace fresh thinking and new ideas everyday”

Seven Years in the Indian Animation Industry is quite a long journey, please share with our readers how it was in the early days for Toonz? The journey has proved to be exciting, challenging and fulfilling in many ways. When we began operations in 1999, it was a huge leap of faith for all of us. We didn`t know where the future would lead us, but we persevered. The first batch of animators at the studio was put through a rigorous training program under veteran animation trainer Ajit Rao and other foreign experts. Every department was headed by a veteran professional from either the US, Canada or Philippines. Interestingly, now Indians head all our technical departments. The exposure we have given to our artists on international production values seem to be paying off now. Your comments on maintaining a competitive edge in today`s environment? The ability to change with the times is the key to success in a world where the competition is relentless. What seemed like a winning formula two years ago has become obsolete today. 2D has given way to 3D, cheap pricing has changed to competitive pricing, work-for-hire system has been supplanted by co-production and quantity has been replaced by quality. The competitive edge of the future will not be some smart technology or business model; it will be a company`s ability to embrace fresh thinking and new ideas everyday. Some Key people who have contributed greatly to the success and longevity of Toonz Animation India? The founders Late Mr. G. A. Menon and Mr. Bill Dennis were the visionaries who set this company on the road to success. The management guru, Late Prof. M. N. V. Nair, came onboard as Chairman during a period of transition and made a lasting contribution. The expatriate staff was crucial and beginning with Cathy Peza, the first Studio Manager, and Mr.Subra, our first creative director, they played a key role in setting up the intricate production systems and the creative processes that we still use today. Our present management team consists of Mr.Atul Rao, our Vice President – Creative Affairs and Mr.Hari Varma our Director – Operations, also played a major role in the success of our company. Some key milestones and turning points for Toonz Animation India so far?
  •  The first global awards including the one for the UNICEF film `The Stone Cutter`
  •  Toonz events like `The Week with the Masters` and `The Children`z Animation Workshop` which captured national and international attention
  •  Producing India`s first animated television series `The Adventures of Tenali Raman`
  •  Launching Toonz` own library of properties for the global audience
  •  Switching to co-production and signing groundbreaking deals with Marvel, Hallmark, Paramount, BBC among others
  • Emerging as a 3D powerhouse with the Hallmark project, from being a pure 2D studio
  • Largest installation of Toon Boom in India, in preparation for the production of the epic `Geet Mahabharat`
  •  Entry into the global merchandising and licensing market
  •  Powering animation education in the country, Toonz set up the country`s first free standing animation academy in collaboration with Webel, a nodal agency for the Govt of Bengal. World-class Toonz Academies will soon come up in all the major cities and towns in India.
  • Establishment of Toonz Licensing & Merchandising in India, Toonz Entertainment in Singapore, Toonz Distribution based out of London and upcoming Toonz gaming facility are important milestones for the company.
Human Resource Management in Animation is one of the most critical areas. What is your approach to the same? We believe in nurturing talent, both in-house and through our Academies. We believe that skills can be upgraded and that a talented artist can work and progress through new evolving mediums. Our HR systems are flexible and give the employees space to grow and learn. Those with cross-functional skills or inclination towards certain a skill set are identified, encouraged and absorbed into departments where their skills can be better utilized. We do, however, put a premium on performance. We believe that we are competing against the best in the world and that there is no scope for slacking. Some of the projects that Toonz Animation India is proud to have worked on and some new ones that you are working on Some of our ongoing projects
  • `Wolverine and X-Men` for Marvel Studio USA
  • `Free Fonix` for BBC
  • `Dragonlance` for Paramount Home Video , USA
  • Horrid Henry for Novel Entertainment, UK
  • `13th Kitten` for 2 Sides TV, UK
  • `Geet Mahabharat` for Impact/Toonz
Some of our best loved projects
  • `The Adventures of Tenali Raman` for Toonz
  • `Brady`s Beasts` for Tiva (France), Treehouse (UK ), Vivatoon (Cananda)
  • `Katya and the Nutcraker` for John Cary Studios (UK )
  • Tommy and Oscar for Rainbow (Italy)
  • `Finley the Fire Engine` for Hallmark Entertainment
Some of our original projects (in production and development stage) are:
  • `Paddy`s Pages`
  • `Maharaja Cowboy`
  • `Frogskool`
  • `Bubbles`
  • `Baba Yaga`
Your comments on Indian animation Emerging Trends, challenges and the positioning of Indian animation globally? Indian animation industry is growing at a rapid pace. Active participation of the government can make it grow faster. The challenge for the industry is in creating exciting original shows and features for a global audience. connect@animationxpress.com

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