Several industries are still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and though animation as a medium was not as adversely affected as others, it faced its own challenges.
Content consumption in the kids sector in the country reached greater heights during the lockdown since 25 March 2020 and continues to engage and instill hope among the younger generation through varied programming. Cosmos-Maya, one of the biggest and leading animation studios in India, too managed its way around the Coronavirus outbreak and the lockdown that followed, to keep production pipeline running and undisrupted entertainment to kids.
AnimationXpress spoke to Cosmos-Maya CEO Anish Mehta on the effects of COVID, projects, producing new shows for Disney, POGO and more. Read on:
> How’s Cosmos-Maya coping or has coped with the pandemic as a studio till now? How has it affected the projects?
The pandemic has been a challenging time for every industry. Companies have gone through considerable restructuring of their workforce. In this, we have stood strong by finding valuable opportunities to provide premium content in sectors such as EdTech’ which is the need of the hour for kids studying at home. Animated programmatic content has also gone up and we have a good number of projects in TV and film lined up for release in 2020. We delivered shows to Disney, ZEE5, Titoo is our latest release on POGO, and also working on Dabangg, our animated series based on the popular cop Chulbul Pandey from the superhit film series. We have been receiving prestigious international projects too in the Europe market. So yes, as far as our business is concerned, we have largely stayed our course, despite the paradigm shift of our entire work from our cabins and office desks to the safety of our homes.
> Have the employees resumed work from the studio? If yes, what’s the percentage of employees at office? What are the safety and precautionary measures that the studio is undertaking?
Our employees have displayed a stellar attitude in handling this pandemic. The studio has implemented every step to facilitate all required health and safety measures as mandated by the government. At the office we have committed to a system to reduce the employees physically present to the most essential ones for now. Barring a small number of employees in the editing department who undergo required sanitation procedures during their workdays, most of our team members are working diligently from the safety of their homes and this structure shall likely be followed until the situation becomes significantly safer.
> What have been the measures put in place for possible re-opening of office spaces fully in the near future?
We have thoroughly kept up to date about the changing trends of the pandemic and the government regulations around them. As and how they permit, we shall open our offices in controlled phases to maintain the essential number of employees as required and shall exercise. We are implementing social distancing in our work culture to maintain a safe environment for everybody even after the lockdown potentially gets lifted until the safety standards everywhere are closest to acceptable. We’ll make decisions according to the situation and guidelines.
> Has there been any monetary challenges during this COVID imposed lockdown? If you could through some light on salary reductions and furloughs in this situation, if any?
Like I said, companies across the industrial spectrum have undergone restructuring and financial changes. Ours did too, however employees have stood strong and accepted that glitch to keep doing their best work in the current pandemic situation. These have been challenging times across the board. However this period has been better for media producers especially in the animation space. All of us have accepted the global situation in its capacity and have been working efficiently without letting it affect work-life balance.
> How are you managing if there are some technical issues during work hours while people are working from home? If you could throw some light on how you managed working remotely during this lockdown period?
We are providing technical backups for any hiccup employees face with their work tools. We have provided for full hardware replacements if the employees’ work equipment faces irreparable damage. Working from home, we all have functioned quite seamlessly to work consistently via calls for the most part. The productivity has surely gone up. Our employees have also invested in personal development,betterment of skills, spending quality time with their families and adopted new hobbies which has a positive effect on their work. It has been a period of adaptation and discovery.
> What are the current and upcoming projects that the studio is working on?
Cosmos-Maya has had a very productive year. We have a slew of TV series and also an international co-production set for release/airing in 2020 – Dr. Tenali Rama, Bapu, Gadget Guru Ganesha, Lambuji Tinguji and our latest release Titoo just to name a few. Our next IP is the animated adaptation of Dabangg-Chulbul Pandey in association with Arbaaz Khan Productions. It will also feature other known characters from the film series and will cover his day to day shenanigans with his entourage of policemen. The show is made with the focus to make kid-friendly entertainment that shall appeal to the entire family. We are also working with Apolo films for co-production of Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds, a Spanish animated film based on the classic novel The Three Musketeers.
> Cosmos-Maya recently produced ‘Titoo’ for POGO? Was it done remotely? Does the IP belong to the studio?
Titoo is our latest IP to air on TV. It is completely owned by Cosmos-Maya and licenced to Warner Media and is airing on POGO since 27 July now. It has been under-development in co-production with As You Like It Productions, since before the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown set in. Titoo is a significant milestone for us as this is the first animated series out of our studio that saw a major chunk of the production happening remotely by our animators. A portion of the work had been done pre-lockdown and the post-production happened majorly from home. The show stands testament to our constant drive to provide top-notch animated stories that strike all the right chords with our young audiences at home.
> How do you think COVID-19 will affect the animation/VFX industry and what would be its solutions?
Contrary to other sectors, the animation industry has been doing well in the midst of the pandemic. During these past five months, media and content consumption has gone up significantly with people having to stay at home to self-isolate. Animation has an advantage in this crisis situation unlike live-action media content. From OTT programmes to movies to EduTech apps for school kids studying from home. On the advertising front, animation has provided a new direction for brands and agencies looking to find a voice during this lockdown by allowing them to work through the physical constraints of live action media production and by expanding the creative limits of brand communication. The sky is really the limit when it comes to the creative reaches of Indian animation for the field of brand communications in these trying times.
> How Indian animation is catching up with the global industry according to you amid this crisis?
The last couple of years have seen major developments in the OTT animation space in India which have broadened the spectrum for the larger animation industry, providing technical upheaval and more platform options for animated content to be hosted on. Just in March 2020, Walt Disney forayed into the Indian OTT space through Star’s homegrown OTT platform Hotstar, rebranding it into Disney+Hotstar. They have currently acquired 234 episodes of Selfie With Bajrangi, one of our bestselling shows. Subscription-based OTT media consumption has gone up, and so has demand for Indian animation globally. I’m very hopeful for the future of Indian animation.