2019: How did Indian animated IPs fare?

Animation has gradually become mainstream from the periphery, and this year has been a prominent example. The upward spurt of the animated IP rush that started in 2018, continued this year too enabling the numbers to rise exponentially.  Fresh debuts for children in the competitive space of TV shows and OTT platforms have actually helped in growing the audience which indicates that more children are opting to watch new programming with the growing focus on dedicated TV channels for the kids genre. As that number grows, the share of animation driven quality content is also expected to grow. According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) report (February 2019), the animation segment is expected to grow at a higher CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 15.50 per cent, largely led by the continued swelling of animation and VFX services in the domestic television and film space. Infact, animation and VFX industry in India reached Rs 73.90 billion (US$ 1.15 billion) in FY18 from Rs 62.30 billion (US$ 928.60 million) in FY17, at a CAGR of 18.60 per cent.
‘Fukrey Boyzzz’
The trends this year clearly reflected that flagship shows and localising content in regional languages continue to pay dividends. Kids’ entertainment channels prosper on the dominance of flagship shows. The numbers increased as the broadcasters focused on commissioned original animated shows and build their own library rather than licensing content. At least 12 to 14 Indian originated shows are produced each week creating a healthy assembly line of production. And this year, we saw the Bollywood love affair of Indian animated content splurge. After the huge success of Little Singham last year, 2019 witnessed two more Bollywood inspired animated IPs- Fukrey Boyzzz (October 2019) from Discovery Kids and Golmaal Jr. (May 2019) from Sonic, part of Nickelodeon, launching and almost immediately clicking with the younger audience. The success of these animated IPs influenced by Bollywood film franchises, was the outcome of intensive and extensive research aided by a brilliant understanding of their consumer – the kids, and their fascination for Bollywood characters and stories. This helped the channel to deliver the right product to the right TG (target audience) at the right time. Comments Discovery Kids business head Uttam Pal Singh, “We’re happy to be the trend setters in this format. Animation as an industry is definitely entertaining and Bollywood is like a religion here. So, these two joining forces together is sure to gain more traction. In the Fukrey franchise, we saw great potential from the audience point of view. The characters were so appealing, that we decided to give it a shot. We also had a lot of other things to look at too and wrapped the concept into a setting and pitched it to Excel which they loved. Leveraging the brand’s strength is the popularity of the actors that would definitely attract more eyeballs. It was a very conscious decision to resemble the animated characters to the actors of the film. We brought in the whole cast and I think their animated versions found their own space in the series by adding more layers. It’s like a sitcom that you want to come back to everytime and enjoy. I think Fukrey Boyzzz is going to lift the Indian animation industry.” Fukrey Boyzzz eventually led to a huge upsurge in viewership of 60 per cent in the afternoon slot and 84 per cent in the evening slot for Discovery Kids. The show jumped to number three in the following two weeks as the overall channel TSV galloped 19 per cent from 82 minutes to 98 minutes. (According to data provided by Discovery Kids). Viacom18 backed kids channel Sonic, (a part of Nickelodeon) also saw promising potential in the trend, when they launched Golmaal Jr. which went on to garner appreciation and eyeballs all over. It is based on one of the iconic movie franchises of Hindi cinema – Golmaal, immensely popularised by Rohit Shetty and brings to life a mix of slice-of-life friendship, relatable characters, humour and loads of fun – all rolled into an enthralling joyride. The series has a 2D animation format of 11 minutes showcased in the usual half an hour slot. Targeted at the age group of six to 12 years, the humour is the key ingredient and the broadcaster has tried to give full justice to the original franchise with the use of proper elements. Viacom18 Hindi mass entertainment and the kids TV head Nina Elavia Jaipuria thinks that the show will be entertaining not just for the TG but for elders too. According to the latest BARC report (2 November to 8 November 2019), Sonic stands at number three among the top five kids channels. Notes Viacom18 Kids Entertainment Cluster content head Anu Sikka, “Bollywood has been the wholly accepted religion of India which has entertained kids and adults alike. It is an important part of every Indian kid’s life and they have always loved films and these characters. Golmaal has been a very successful franchise, much loved by kids, and the animated series Golmaal Jr., with its unique take on fun, friendship and humour is sure to get the same patronage and love from our young fans. The addition of Golmaal Jr. will bring further depth and repertoire to our squad of indigenous Nicktoons.” What is more exciting is that Sonic has improvised the character of Bhavani Shankar, immortalised by Utpal Dutt in the 1979 classic Gol Maal, as the principal in order to pay homage to the veteran. Besides the midas touch of Bollywood in Indian animation space, we saw a few popular celebrities getting animated! The list includes Indian Cricket team skipper Virat Kohli (from Star Sports), legendary comedian Johnny Lever (from Yolo Media) and India’s first superhero Shaktimaan (from WordSword Creations). Launched on the occasion of his 31st birthday today, 5 November, Super V is an animated series that features the teenage animated version of Kohli. Teased for the first time during the ICC Cricket World Cup in June, Super V is a weekly animated series about a 15-year old aspiring cricketer inspired by Kohli in his older days. The 15-year old Virat when discovers that he has superpowers, assumes the responsibility of fighting the looming threat of a super-villain, who can destroy the world. While he vanquishes villains, he also has to deal with the everyday issues that an ordinary teenager faces.
‘Super V’
Kohli mentioned in an official statement, “In today’s world, children are always looking up to superheroes for inspiration, and I believe Super V aims to send out the right message to young viewers. I am ecstatic to be a part of this concept and to be associated with Star.” Commissioned in 2017, Super V has been produced as a collaboration between Star India, Cornerstone Animation and Baweja Movies. The 12-part series premiers in 70+ countries across five continents via the Star network and Hotstar. On the other hand, In a first of its kind in India, a famous Bollywood actor/comedian is going to have its own animated series, similar to that of immensely popular and cult series of West, Mr. Bean. Yolo Media in co-production with writer Sukhwant Kalsi has created a 3D animated series based on the popular comedian. Titled Johny Lever, the series consists of 52 episodes of 11 minutes for season one.  Hopes Srivastav, “I see some fantastic times ahead with this new animated show coming soon. We’re very excited about this as Johnny Lever’s mannerisms are sure to attract audience irrespective of their age. We did research on the kind of movies that he has done and his enviable popularity among kids, even in recent films.” For Shaktimaan, WordSword Creations are creating a 3D animated series and already has 26 episodes ready as of now. Targeted at 10 to 25 year olds, WordSword is creating the animation of Shaktimaan inhouse and just launched the teaser at Mumbai Comic Con on 7 December.  WordSword Creations founder Catherine John shares, “The purpose of bringing up of Shaktimaan in animation is that today’s generation should know our first Indian legendary superhero and the positive impact he had on the generations that followed. It is very important for us to incorporate those educative knowledge in today’s young generation that the character has already proved in the past.” Mukesh Khanna who popularised and conceptualised the idea of Shaktimaan back in 1997 exclaims, “A superhero in animation becomes immortal as this will remain even when I’ll cease to exist. Today’s kids are living in a fast life run by competition and internet. Kids sometimes need somebody to show them the right way. Shaktimaan, being a great icon in the past helped kids and gave guidance. Today’s kids I think need it more. So, I think a character like Shaktimaan is the need of the hour.” The makers of both Johny Lever and Shaktimaan animated series are looking for OTT platforms beside linear television to showcase their much talked animated content. With that, we turn our focus to various OTT platforms who are also eyeing animation as a genre to attract masses and the market. Several animation shows both acquired and original are making the rounds of a number of OTT platforms which have garnered a huge number of views and appreciation. Golden Robot Animation head of business development RK Chand asserts, “The best thing about OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon is that they have given us the liberty to innovate and experiment with the storytelling. Kalari Kids is the first kids content (Beyond Chhota Bheem) on Amazon which has now found its way to Pogo. Basically, the secret of success lies on the style of storytelling and reach. With Mighty Little Bheem, we’re trying to reach that place.” Mighty Little Bheem has gone to become a sensation since its launch on streaming giant Netflix, which has greenlit the its third season after the first two seasons of the animated original series received rave reviews and created headlines. Netflix CEO Reed hastings recently revealed at HT Leadership Summit 2019, “People like babies in many countries and Mighty Little Bheem has been viewed by 27 million households outside India. Baby Bheem is going strong.” Mighty Little Bheem is a preschool spin-off based on the much loved kids animated franchise Chhota Bheem. Launched in April (first season) and on 30 August (second season), it soon went on to become the first Indian animated show become a global hit. It has taken the standard of Indian animation at par with its international counterparts, and has also become the second most popular original kids programme to be launched on the platform. An elated Green Gold Animation founder and CEO Rajiv Chilaka says, “We are very proud of  Mighty Little Bheem and humbled by the positive response it has been generating across the world. Our friends and associates across the globe have been appreciating the show and it’s a joyous feeling. This also gives us the boost to make more of such shows with high-end animation and entertaining story-lines. We’re hoping to take it outside India on linear television.” Apart from infant Bheem, Indian IP Lamput from Vaibhav Studios is also going steady and earning recognition across the world. After being invited to Annecy in June, the second season of this critically acclaimed local Indian homegrown animation, was nominated for an International Kids Emmy and scooped an additional two Asian Academy Creative Awards last week. Lamput also emerged as a regional winner in the India category at the 2019 Asian Academy Creative Awards, in ‘Best Animated Programme or Series (2D or 3D)’ and ‘Best Short Form Content’.  Cartoon Network, POGO and Boomerang Asia Pacific head Leslie Lee informs, “The global response to Lamput has been astonishing, and being invited to participate at Annecy was a real honour. The series has been huge on both our TV channels and our digital services in India. The feedback has also been phenomenal in almost every other corner of the world, from Latin America to Europe and Asia Pacific. It may be a show born in Mumbai, but it’s shown it has got real legs (albeit orange and gooey!) and travels extremely well.” Vaibhav Studios founder Vaibhav Kumaresh points, “I’m thrilled at the nominations and wins. The most important component in Lamput is the visual script. Being a non-dialogue show, it relies heavily on the plot and its visual narration. It  includes a lot of homework, in the form of creating doodles, oral narrations, deciding on acting choices, writing notes and more doodles goes into arriving at a strong animatic which is the blueprint of the film. We were busy having fun creating it and enjoying the heartening reactions by the audience. It’s been really hard work for the team, but it’s been immense fun. We have recently been creating some of our best Lamput shorts to date.” In keeping its efforts to strengthen the local animation fare on the Disney Kids Network, Disney Channel too launched two original IPs this year – Oye Golu (May) and Bhagam Bhag Weaving in magic and adventure, Oye Golu brings in the antics of a seven year old boy named Adi and his friend Golu, who happens to be a genie! Golu cannot resist helping Adi face his daily problems in life – with a little bit of magic, of course! However, Adi’s ambitious plans and Golu’s unpredictable magic often create bigger.  Bhaagam Bhaag on the other side, is about Sunny a not-so-average school going boy, and his race against time to beat the school bus to school every single day. One would think Sunny is an average school boy, but he isn’t! His escapades to catch his school us on a daily basis make a seemingly ordinary task an adventure of blockbuster proportions. The new show launched in October.  Other animation broadcasters and studios – both indie and big ones have contributed enormously to the expansion of the Indian animation space. Broadcasters like Sony YAY! who didn’t come up with any new IP this year, had a plethora of event activations lined up to keep their loyal fans and admirers hooked throughout the year. Major ones were: GoKickO song launch with Badshah, Multi-city mall and canter activations, Association with PVR for the theatrical release of Honey-Bunny movies, Celebrations of World Music Day (Roped in singers like AR Rahman, Sonu Nigam, Shaan, Amaal Malik, Arko, Palak Mucchal to donate autographed instruments to an NGO, Teach For India), ‘Heroes Behind the Heroes’ activation (The channel felicitated the likes of DIVINE, P. Gopichand, Dilip Vengsarkar, Afroz Shah for inspiring millions across the globe and being the real driving force behind successful individuals across multiple walks of life), Participation at Juniorthon Mumbai 2019 – Honey-Bunny flagged off the kids marathon.  SPN Kids genre business head Leena Lele Dutta noted, “We conducted our van activation across almost over 100 cities and towns through the length and breadth of the country. So, that’s a big big initiative. In one city we visited two to three locations, collate kids, have contest, get inclusion from parents. So, we’re trying to make sure our characters’ presence is widespread than launching another IP and focusing on that. This entire year it’s about making our IPs popular through our PTL activities and this we plan to take the entire summer season on ground.” Even Viacom18 Kids Network was not behind and had a fully planned and executed marketing strategies. Viacom18 Kids Network and Hindi Mass Entertainment head Nina Jaipuria mentioned, “We’re a 360 degree entertainer across all platforms. We have almost 11,000 reach in retail and ‘Back to School’ products. For Golmaal Jr. we’re checking highly visible outdoor plans. From visibility in malls, to retail outlets, to transit media branding, to partnering with fun-zones, fun photo opportunities with the iconic Golmaal bike and audio standees at multiplexes playing the catchy Golmaal title track, pranks on Fever FM and Golmaal promos in theaters, we have a lot that’s sure to break the clutter.” Apart from the biggies in this industry, The Government of India has also come forward to keep the growth of AVGC sector unhindered. They’ve agreed to set up the National Centre of Excellence for Animation, Gaming, Visual Effects and Comics industry across the country including Kerala, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and coming up in Kolkata. In fact, 100 per cent FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) is allowed in the sector through automatic route provided it is in compliance with RBI guidelines. Besides that, State-level initiatives by governments has also been taken to encourage animation industry.

Even the Telengana Government has played an important role and IndiaJoy is the most visible aspect of Telangana’s drive in the AVGC sector. It has a very aggressive AVGC policy which it drafted two years ago in order to attract investments. Some of the highlights of  the policy are:

  • Reimbursement of production cost for “animation theatrical released film” upto a maximum of Rs 1 million  per film for one company per annum. For SC/ST and women entrepreneurs – Rs 1.5 million per film.
  • Mega project incentives: Special incentives and subsidies package will be worked out for mega projects investments beyond Rs 1000 million.
  • Rs 1.5 million as recruitment assistance for employing minimum 100 employees within two years of commencement of commercial operations.
The Indian animation and VFX industry is expected to expand to Rs 151.80 billion (US$ 2.26 billion) by FY23. 2018 and 2019 has proved to be far the best times for the Indian animation, professionals and wise minds from the business have different views, opinions and formula to attain success. With myriad ideas and innovations pouring in, it’s difficult to zero down on a model that’ll work, but the sector is sure to generate more revenue, job opportunities and provide high quality content on the broader global canvas.

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