Year Ender: Indian animation studios share how the year has been and their plans for 2022

ANX-Year-Ender-2021

The Indian animation industry has experienced robust growth in the last couple of years, thanks to the pandemic which brought more opportunities for the industry. Indian studios worked tirelessly to keep the public entertained throughout the pandemic with its fresh and unique content. Need for more content from Indian broadcasters also helped the studios to keep their businesses running by producing various original contents right from Dabbang: The Animated series to Pinaki and Happy – The Bhoot Bandhus. According to reports, India’s media and entertainment industry is all set to grow at 10-12 per cent CAGR to become a 55 to 70 billion dollar industry by 2030, and its next phase of growth will be led by OTT, gaming, VFX and animation. The year 2021 has been the year of  original IPs and local animated content, co-productions, new production pipelines, adoption of newer technologies and  many studios have also stepped into NFTs taking the Indian animation industry a step ahead.

AnimationXpress got in touch with various Indian animation studios to know their plans and strategies for 2022.

Toonz Media Group

2021 has been a great year for Kerala based animation studio Toonz Media Group which entered into new co-production partnerships with several leading studios and creators around the world in 2021. Notable among them is partnership with Italy’s Rainbow SPA for a 3D adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s masterpiece The Adventures of Pinocchio. They also tied up with American studio Dreamdust Studios to create and develop a new pre-school girl-centric CGI property called Daisy Dew Drop and the Rainbow Garden. Toonz further partnered with Finnish animation studio Ferly to produce a new animation series called Kingdom of None

P Jayakumar

Commenting on how 2021 has fared for the studio, Toonz Media Group founder and CEO P Jayakumar said, “2021 has been a rather eventful year for Toonz. We expanded and diversified our business to include several new initiatives. We also launched new animation projects, started new co-productions and partnered with media houses and platforms across the world for content syndication and distribution; all while bravely facing the challenges posted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Overall, I think like the rest of the industry, we benefited from the increasing demand for content in the last two years; especially the skyrocketing demand for kids’ content. The pandemic has essentially compelled all of us to think global in every aspect. Business-wise there is now a lot more focus on technology integration, process efficiencies, and reduction of lead times. For companies like us in the entertainment industry, the need for remote collaborations for creative ideation has also never been so high. We are working out different strategies to enhance and improve these collaborations and processes.”

Currently, they have 1,000 artists and staff working directly across their global offices and around 3,000 indirectly through their  associate partners. The revenue percentage has been growing at a rate of 30 to 40 per cent year on year.

Recently  Toonz released  Pinocchio in Italy’s top kids channel Rai YoYo, and the show has been topping the charts at number two at the channel. The studio also released season two of Gummy Bear and Friends. Also, Abhimanyu, which was produced by Toonz, went live on ETV’s new kids’ channel Bal Bharat. The studio has launched its maiden broadcast channel in Asia – Toonz Kidz – and it is the first exclusive kids’ channel in Indonesia with programming in native Bahasa. With 11 offices across countries, Toonz expanded its footprint in Dubai.

The media group also launched the world’s first fully integrated NFT design lab. Talking about the NFT venture, Jayakumar added, “Beyond animation production and distribution, we also launched several new initiatives in 2021. The top among them would be Toonz NFTLabs. This is a new venture we launched along with the blockchain R&D company GuardianLink. Toonz NFTLabs is the world’s first fully integrated NFT design lab specializing in state-of-the-art Non Fungible Tokens for custom-made digital assets. The lab will provide integrated services for artists, creators, collectors, athletes and brands to create curated digital assets and NFTs representing them.”

Revealing the plans for 2022, Jayakumar mentioned, “We have several exciting projects in the pipeline which are all in different stages of production. There is the pre-school series Paddypaws which has been created by Keith Chapman. With American actress Janet Hubert, we are producing a 2D feature cum series called JG & the BC Kids. The feature film is slated to release in March/April 2022. Another marquee project currently under production at Toonz along with Clan TV (TVE)  is Sunnyside Billy, a very colourful and upbeat slapstick comedy 2D animation series about a friendly fried egg and his friends. . The creative heads behind this project are none other than the late animation legend Olivier Jean-Marie, and creator of Robotboy and Dude that’s my Ghost Jan Van Rijsselberge. Meanwhile, the CGI series Aliens in my backpack comes from Rob Lee and James Driscoll, creators of BAFTA nominated World Award winning titles like Fireman Sam.  Meanwhile, the CGI series Aliens in My Backpack comes from Rob Lee and James Driscoll, creators of BAFTA nominated World Award winning titles like Fireman Sam.”

The studio is also co-producing highly anticipated animation features including their first ever English animation feature of Oscar Wilde’s popular short story The Canterville Ghost, and CGI feature Pierre the Pigeon Hawk which is being co-produced with director John D. Eraklis and Sugar Water Entertainment. 

Reliance Animations

Reliance Animation, a leading animation studio that has been delivering IP driven content across multiple Indian languages with the help of latest and licensed technology in animation and VFX known for shows like  Little Singham amd Golmaal Jr, ended 2021 on a good note. 

Tejonidhi Bhandare

“We were able to achieve 80  per cent of the targets. The major reason for the drop could be because the employees were working from home and more so because this sector is used to working in groups with a mix of junior and senior employees,” Reliance Animation CEO Tejonidhi Bhandare shared.

Currently, they have 460 plus employees and the number is increasing day by day. With offices in Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolhapur, and Indore, Bhandhare claims to continue with the expansion within India and abroad. They have many projects in the pipeline. The latest one to be launched on Disney Network would be Bhaiyyaji Balwan, which will broadcast in April 2022.

Some of the shows the studio is working on are inspired from Bollywood and others are homegrown stories.

According to him, 2D Flash must have dominated as the artists were working from home and the production across the sector was going on smoothly probably because of the low sized files which made the transfer a little easy. Another reason could be the production time that is required for 2D Flash which is faster than other softwares.

Speaking about the latest trends in the animation industry, the CEO said, “The next big thing that we all will witness is Metaverse while Unreal and motion capture is picking up.”

Talking about the growing prospects of the Indian animation industry, Bhandare said, “The demand for content is on the rise and especially for the Indian homegrown stories. We have a huge opportunity for both linear TV and digital platforms. The talent in this sector is also developing new skills and showing keen interest in experimenting. The inclination of both kids and adults towards animated content is very encouraging for the producers.” 

Tavrohi Animations

One of the creative studios in India developing original content and IPs, Tavrohi Animation, is the mind behind the creative and satirical political cartoons. Commenting on how the year 2021 has been for the studio, Tavrohi Animations CEO Rohit Kataria stated, “Because of the pandemic, 2021 has been a challenging year for everyone. We at Tavrohi are grateful that despite the pandemic, we were able to work on some very interesting projects and deliver them on time. We did a whole lot of movies for IPL 2021 and the T20 World Cup including the Title opener. We also worked and delivered some episodes for an international 3D animated series which is currently on air on Apple TV. We have also delivered the second season of Pinaki and Happy – The Bhoot Bandhus and recently started to work on subsequent seasons. We also got another series approved which is currently under production and slated to release and be on air very soon. Apart from this, 2021 also saw the start of six to eight new IP’s which are currently under development.”

Rohit Kataria

Currently they have 120 full time staff and around 200 consultants and freelancers working from partner studios. Apart from this, Emmy award winning writer Sonam Shekhawat has joined as the head of IP creation. With her extensive experience in creating children animation, she will be looking over all new concepts and scripts. 

Pinaki and Happy – The Bhoot Bandhus won the Best 3D Animated Series at the ANN Awards 2021 and also the Dadasaheb Film Festival award 2021 for Best Animation category. Delighted by the success of the show, the studio is currently producing its third season. 

The studio plans to expand to newer locations in India and is also set to expand its marketing team in Europe, US and MENA.

“We plan to buckle up and give our best in the upcoming years. We are creating IPs that inspire children to be inclusive and unique. We are including newer ideas that children have not been introduced to before. We also plan to expand to newer locations so that our cartoons are seen and enjoyed globally. But to begin with it all, our instant plan of action is to deliver the ongoing projects so that there is more room for new and upcoming projects,” said the CEO.

He further added, “We have several exciting projects ongoing and upcoming. We are working on different IPs for audiences of all age groups. Hopefully the audience will get to see it soon. Apart from creating new IPs, we plan to make a feature film and two animated shorts for 2022.”

Digitoonz

Vikas Kumar

Digitoonz is one of the leading animation studios which worked on award-winning animations for some of the most prestigious animation studios in the global industry. The studio is currently working on more than 12 animated series including 2D and 3D for US, UK, Australia and European markets. “Year 2021 has unpredictably been very good for the company. In fact, both years – 2020 and 2021, were one of the biggest years for us in terms of financial growth, new projects  and team growth. The revenue has increased in the past two years extensively. In the last two years we have seen a significant growth in terms of percentage. It’s more than 300 per cent growth we have seen and a lot more coming up in the near future,” said Digitoonz founder and CEO Vikas Kumar.

There are more than 430 artists who work across three studios including Delhi NCR, Kolkata and Connecticut US. The founder is also planning to expand Digitoonz to a few more cities and countries in upcoming years. 

Revealing the studio’s major plans for 2022, Kumar mentioned, “We are working on Atchoo season two which is almost at its end just like the year. It is a co-production with Studio Campadeli and Cartoon Bolino which is going to broadcast on RAI TV in Italy. We are working on so many exciting IPs for the global market which we are expecting to release before mid-2022, we strongly believe those IPs can create a big impact in the industry. Our plan for 2022 is to open another studio and to scale up our team upto 600+. It is going to be a big turn up and we are sure it is going to happen really soon.”

Graphic India

Graphic India, the Bengaluru-based animation company is a hub of creative forces working towards bringing in a revolution in character entertainment in India. The animation studio released the first-ever Indian animated Hotstar Specials series, The Legend of Hanuman season one and two. 

“We had a groundbreaking launch with The Legend of Hanuman series on Disney+ Hotstar which was in February and then season two in August so that has kept us busy! It’s really rewarding for all of us to see the hard work we have put into this series, find an audience and achieve these great milestones for Indian animation. We continue to be truly humbled by the response and positive reviews and feedback we are receiving,” said Graphic India co-founder and CEO Sharad Devarajan.

Based on Chakra The Invincible, an Indian superhero comic, created by Stan Lee and Devarajan, the Chakraverse limited-edition NFT collection was launched on 27 December to celebrate the 99th birthday of its co-creator Stan Lee. Investing in more NFTs will be the main strategy of the studio with “an aggressive push into Web3 experiences.”

Defining the vision and mission of the company, Devarajan elaborated, “At Graphic India, we’re recruiting artists, writers, painters, creators and disruptors with one defining mission – to create stories, heroes and characters that spark the imaginations of audiences across India and the world. That’s the goal of our company and the personal driving mission of my life.”

Sharad Devarajan

Revealing the upcoming plans of Graphic India, a hopeful Devrajan shared, “We have over a dozen new IPs in animation and live-action that we are developing and many more in comics for 2022. There has never been a bigger time to create superheroes for India than today and I think we are on the verge of a creative pop culture explosion in the country. It’s now been nearly two decades since I created the Indian version of Spider-Man with Jeevan J Kang and Suresh Seetharaman and we introduced Pavitr Prabhakar into the world with the Spider-Man: India series in 2004. That was one of the first Indian superhero comics to go global in a big way and spark a new generation of comic and superhero creators in the country which we brought together in our studio in Bengaluru.

Anyone who saw the recent Spider Verse animated sequel trailer that came out a few days back saw the references to India and, who knows, maybe now all these years later we may see Pavitr jump into the big screen for the world – what an amazing moment for Indian superheroes that would be.” 

Graphic India in association with Netflix and Tiger Baby is producing a film based on the most popular Archie comics character Archie Andrews and the film will be set in 1960s India. They are also working on new animation and live action projects.

This year, Graphic India also announced the launch of India’s first dedicated webtoons comics platform, TOONSUTRA, which will come out soon.  Toonsutra will showcase and promote emerging rising star creators across India and give them a home to tell their stories .

Paperboat Studios

Headquartered in Mumbai, Paperboat Studios is one of the creative power houses which delivers high quality animated content including kids’ favourite Pakadam Pakadai, Fukrey Boyzzz, Sub Jholmaal hai, Bandbudh Aur Budbak. The studio also started a VFX CGI division Occult VFX in 2021. 

Aashish Mall

Mentioning about the projects that the studio worked on in 2021, Paperboat director and co-founder Aashish Mall commented, “As we all know how the pandemic has affected the entire world, so we are not an exception. It affected us the same as others in the country, but still we came out of this challenging phase from the immense support from the artist, senior teammates, clients, producers, channels etc. In 2021 we started season two of Fukrey Boyzzz with Discovery Kids, finished Kemon Ache with Nickelodeon and continuously we are working on various projects with Sony YAY!, other channels and ad agencies. In the start of Covid lockdown in 2020, we started our VFX CGI division Occult VFX, and in 2021 we have seen Exponential growth in that division.”  

Mayank Patel

During the pandemic the studio started Paperboat’s online team, and have increased their strength from 150 to 200. In the coming year, Paperboat targets to increase the team strength to 300. The studio is also exploring Kashmir, Gujarat and Northeast for their new expansion.

“As for the industry, everyone is recovering from the pandemic, so I can’t say that it is the best year for Paperboat but yes, we maintained our regular top line and expected 2X growth next year. Acquisition of Paperboat by Vistas Media Capital is the biggest news in the industry. Vistas has taken majority stakes in Paperboat and we have expanded our operations in Canada and in the upcoming year we are growing our creative studios in the United Kingdom as well,” said the co-founder Mayank Patel.

Soumitra Ranade

Revealing the plans for 2022, co-founder Soumitra Ranade added, “In 2022 we have some amazing lineup of shows and movies that will start from Keeda, Kabuliwala, and a NFDC project. We are looking forward to NFT and blockchain games. With our partners Fantico and Vistas, we are planning to create some international property around metaverse, which we will announce in the first quarter of next year.”

In the coming years the studio will focus on training the best talent in the country. Disclosing the studio’s strategy for 2022, Mall added, “Scarcity of talent in industry is not new, so, we are planning to find a solution on how to train the best of the talent in the country. Our focus in upcoming years will be how we can create talent in the country rather than poaching from different studios, collaboration with international artists to train our Indian team and to create a team who can deliver global IP.”

Assemblage Entertainment

Mumbai-based animation studio, Assemblage Entertainment aka MAD Assemblage, is one of the fastest growing 3D animation studios that has produced a host of content for some of the world’s leading streamers such as Netflix, Amazon, AppleTV, HBO Max, and Disney. Commenting on how 2021 has been for the studio, Assemblage  director Arjun Madhavan said, “2021 has been a transformational year for Assemblage. As it completed eight successful years, the year has solidified Assemblage’s position in the global animation fraternity as one of the most trusted, credible, versatile and sought after CG studios for premium animation productions internationally. The year has been a turning point in many ways and the studio is poised for further growth in 2022.”

Arjun Madhavan

He further added, “Some of the key highlights of 2021 have been the culmination of various business relationships with world class animation and VFX studios of global repute and an expansion of its marquee clientele. The trust it enjoys from a high pedigree of global animation houses is unparalleled.”

According to him, the strength and power of Assemblage lies in a prolific set of people who display and exude solid teamwork.

Speaking about the strategies and plans for 2022, Madhavan revealed “Assemblage is readying itself with a robust pipeline of technology for the new digital era, and developing workflows, plugins and tools for more scalable and seamless productions and artist friendly user experiences. With a keen eye on technology, Assemblage has a set of R&D initiatives in place for the next 12 months particularly for Hollywood VFX productions, use of gaming engines and remote working/work from home model.”

He further added, “2022 will see Assemblage at its best so far, with some exciting works, new technology, and best in class partnerships, remote operations across India and the subcontinent, and a dynamic team culture of excellence — we look forward to continuing our legacy of outperformance.”

Parijat Animations

Atish Tripathi

It’s been a quite good year for Parijat Animations as it received various credit and awards for its animated series Captain Vidyut and Monkey & the Bananas. “2021 has been a stellar year for us. Our debut animated feature film Captain Vidyut continued receiving Official Selections at International Film Festivals and even won an Award of Excellence from ASIFA INDIA  as a Best Animated TV Episode for 2020-21. Captain Vidyut was also a recipient of Best Soundtrack in Feature Films Category at International Animation Festival, Curitiba, Brazil. We are also very excited that our latest offering  Monkey & the Bananas made it to the list of Top 6 Finalists at Animation Pitch conducted by Asia TV Forum & Market, Singapore,” said the Parijat Animations  managing director  Atish Tripathi.

The studio is looking forward to developing some interesting animated properties for YouTube and it is currently working on the sequel of animated feature Captain Vidyut and episodic series of Monkey & the Bananas. Revealing the plans for 2022, an excited Tripathi added, “We enjoy coming up with new ideas which can find their way into animation. We will be presenting a bunch of new ideas out in 2022 and see how they evolve, and continue to produce high quality entertaining animation.”

Studio Fiction

Parthiva Nag

A two year old animation studio, Studio Fiction has been performing well and focused towards delivering quality content. This year the studio created a title sequence for a show called Shantit Kranti produced by Bhartiya Digital Party and The Viral Fever which was showcased on Sony Liv. A promotional animated video for the Amazon Prime show Mumbai Diaries 26/11 called Saahas Ko Salaam was also created by the team. “2021 has been quite a special year for us at Studio Fiction, as being only in the second year of operations, we had quite a busy year. We constantly teamed up with different production houses and agencies to work on commercials and we also teamed up with agencies like Dentsu Webchutney and The Bigger Picture Films this year. We are very excited about launching our website finally as we’ve been working on it for a few months now,” said the Studio Fiction founder and creative director Parthiva Nag.

In terms of revenue, the boutique studio has grown about 80-85  per cent  in its second year when compared to its first year.

Revealing the  plans and strategies for 2022, Nag added, “We are also very excited about our collaboration with the MCGM as it’s going to be a live musical fountain show to an animation film created by us in the heart of our own city, Mumbai. We can’t wait to share that with everyone. It is slated to launch around March – April 2022. 

He further added, “Our plan for 2022 is to do some national and international collaborations, work with artists, animators and clients from across the country and globe, and to also grow and expand the business and our potential.”

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