When it comes to producing animation series, very few can hold a candle to Cosmos Maya. Founded in 1996 as Maya, the studio began its journey in IP Creation since 2012 with the superhit series, Motu Patlu and since then there has been no looking back. Operating out of Mumbai and Singapore, the animation studio has grown leaps and bounds over the years, always being the trendsetter in the industry and now stands toe to toe with some of the prominent studios in world.
Following the resounding success of Indian animation productions like Motu Patlu (MP), ViR – The Robot Boy, Kisna, Shiva, Bure Kaam Ka Bura Natija, Kyun Bhai Chacha, Haan Bhatija (BKBNKBCHB) & Guru Aur Bhole (GAB); the studio also branched out into crossover Indian animation productions with Eena Meena Deeka (EMD) and the soon to be launched Tik Tak Tail which are Indian shows for the global audiences.
Taking further strides in the global space, Cosmos Maya currently has three international co-productions Captain Cactus, Atchoo! and Help Me Ganesha, in different stages of production and development. It is all set to consolidate its position as one of the leading IP creators of this country. We had an exclusive interview with Cosmos Maya CEO Anish Mehta and he spoke to us about their exciting journey of five years, being an excellent producer, their 12 shows and the 1000 plus episodes that has been created in such a short period of time.
Anish Mehta said, “At Cosmos Maya, the way we approach an IP is keeping in mind what is going on in the market and how do we bring in the next new trend. Balancing both of these things is what we focus on. We started with Motu Patlu, India’s take on Laurel & Hardy and a first of its kind animation show which has two adult protagonists behaving like silly kids. Then we made the first Indian sci-fi comedy with Vir, the first Indian detective comedy series with BKBNKBCHB, the first action animation series with Shiva, the first musical comedy with GAB; so a lot of firsts you see.”
“For Motu Patlu which is our first series, we produced the pilot and then approached broadcasters. It has now become our standard approach to IP creation. With digital platforms coming in, there is a sense of flexibility in storytelling. But for all practical purposes, there aren’t many changes.”
In case of Motu Patlu, it has produced 299 episodes and one for Christmas which makes it 300 episodes that is 600 stories and then there have been 13 TV films & one theatrical feature film, Motu Patlu – King of Kings; all of this in the last 5 years. Motu Patlu has been the rating maker and record breaker for Cosmos Maya. But to nurture a brand to get it to this stature isn’t easy. However, Cosmos Maya surely knows how to master it.
With a long term production contract confirmed with Nickelodeon, there will be many more episodes & TV Films of Motu Patlu which will come out over the next 5 years. Mehta says, “The children like to look up to people who inspire, so we changed the characters of Motu & Patlu into aspirational heroes, rather than the bumbling buffoons that they featured as in the original comics.”
“We believe that everything about our work should be larger than life & our storytelling is very inspired by Bollywood. That makes the content more entertaining for parents and thus works better for co-viewing.” he adds.
Anish Mehta also spoke about a future animated series they are planning. He said, “We have just signed a long term production contract with Viacom 18 for both Motu Patlu & Shiva. Apart from that, we also have two spin-off shows. However, I can’t disclose much about it right now. But as a studio, we are also coming up with a stand-alone series of two characters from Motu and Patlu which are by Inspector Chingum, the adorable police officer from Motu Patlu who is extremely popular with kids and Guddu Ghalib, the timid circus lion who became the protector of the jungle in the feature film, Motu Patlu – King of Kings. While the details will be announced soon, both of these shows will be with a major digital partner and will be digital first productions.”
The animation studio also confirmed that it is going to make a big announcement about Captain Cactus soon. By the end of this month, it will be signing the worldwide distribution partner whereas by the end of September it would have all the Asian partners on board. The pre-production has already begun though.
Cosmos Maya is hopeful that Captain Cactus brings about a new revolution in global co-productions since it has got the best of both worlds that is a strong Asian studio, European creator and European distribution partners. It is also in talks with a couple of broadcast or digital partners worldwide.
Mehta feels, “From a show perspective we have Olivier Jean-Marie with us who is known for a certain style of story-telling and people jump at the chance of working with him. So we are quite confident that Captain Cactus will deliver.”
“We have also partnered with Gerhard Hahn, one of the most respected creators in the animation space on a co-production inspired by Ganesha. The show is tentatively titled Help Me Ganesha and we are very confident that we with Gerhard Hahn as a partner we will take it on a never seen before global level. We have a very clear three-pronged strategy. At one level, we will keep our domestic productions. There are Motu Patlu, Shiva, GAB, and BKBNKBCHB. All these shows are Indian with an earthy Indian appeal. Then there are shows like Eena Meena Deeka, Tik Tak Tail (which we will be launching soon) don’t necessarily look Indian because they have a wider appeal globally; and lastly there are the international co-productions” he further explains.
With its production going on in full swing, Cosmos-Maya is also looking at scaling up its operations to further strengthen its robust infrastructure. With an additional dedicated new facility coming up in Mumbai, near its operational headquarters in Filmcity and captive satellite units coming up in Hyderabad & Kolkata; Cosmos-Maya is looking at adding over 300 team members to its 550 member strong artist pool.
Cosmos-Maya has also tasted success with its IPs in the digital space with YouTube. Their channel WowKidz has over 1.4 million subscribers & over 1.4 billion views at the time of publishing this story and the tally has been growing constantly. “ViR – The Robot Boy has been one of the most important IPs on WowKidz, as per the data analytics from YouTube and we are creating spin-off content from this show for WowKidz”, adds Mehta.
The first in the lot are a set of nursery rhymes for their second channel WowKidz Rhymes, which also has recently crossed the coveted 100,000 subscribers mark and is marching forward. Original pre-school content inspired the lead characters of the series, ViR & Imli is in the pipeline and the rhymes have already started gaining good traction on WowKidz Rhymes.
Now the world is not restricted by geography. With digital coming in that is one of the game changing trends right now. The Cosmos team has gone strong with WowKidz crossover. WowKidz has acquired a show called Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 which is raking in good views.
India as a local market is strong at the moment and is growing steadily. With established players like Viacom 18, Disney, Turner & strong new entrants like Sony, Amazon, Netflix, good news is that the Indian animation industry is growing.
Talking about other ventures it has also begun its prototype projects in the AR and VR space. Founders Ketan Mehta and Deepa Sahi had this urge to do something which eventually became an industry. There is a live VR project currently going on with a private public partnership with one of the state governments of India. It will take it a scale up in their business. On being asked if Cosmos plans to open office overseas, Anish said, “Actually I am not in a position to answer that question right now. Currently the operations are going the way they are but at a strategic level if any need arises, then we might consider.”
He also said that the future of animation industry is very bright. To quote him, “With so many avenues for our content in place, it is indeed one of the best and the brightest phases for the animation industry.”
Five years since Cosmos-Maya began its journey on the IP creation path, it already has 12 TV series under its belt, averaging at least three per year with over 1000 half-hour episodes produced thus far.