Laying a new team’s foundation, a leader in teaching kids’ animation, Toon Club promises insightful workshops

From left to right and top to bottom: Tehzeeb Khurana, Farha Alam, Stef Deneer, Kireet Khurana, Vaibhav Kumaresh

Mumbai-based organisation Toon Club has been sowing seeds of visual story-telling and animation skills in the young minds since 2003. It is the sheer love, passion and commitment of industry doyen Tehzeeb Khurana, an experienced animator who has been contributing towards inculcating the knowledge to the upcoming generation, that has escalated the growth of the organisation. What started as her dream venture being managed almost single-handedly, has now spread its wings and has a strong team with the addition of another core member and three advisors.

Toon Club has been putting the young Indian animation talents on international maps, and has bagged several awards and accolades (three industry recognitions and an award tally that has gone up to 61 International awards). In an exclusive interview with AnimationXpress, Toon CLub founder Tehzeeb Khurana talked about her amazing team, how she tackled Toon Club’s functioning during the pandemic and their upcoming agendas.

Regarding the journey spanning 18 years, the changes and the growth story, Khurana said, “When we started in 2003, we didn’t anticipate that Toon Club would come this far. As change is the only constant, we have consistently worked on improving the curriculum, upgrading it from time to time to introduce our students to new and innovative concepts, styles & techniques of animation. This has been a learning journey not only for our students, but for us too. As the famous adage goes: You teach best, what you need to learn most! Another change that we see over the years is the increasing recognition and appreciation we have received for our work. What has remained unchanged though, is the passion and commitment with which we run Toon Club.”

The pandemic was like a dark cloud with a silver lining for them. “On one hand, we missed interacting with our physical/ in-person workshops. On the other hand, we found that the world had shrunk further and we weren’t restricted by boundaries anymore. We did three major International collaborations with Poland (Children’s Art Centre in Poznan), Brazil (Anim!Arte – International Student Animation Festival of Brazil) and Spain (Punto Y Raya Junior Festival),” she said.

Tehzeeb Khurana

Khurana, who has been the face of Toon Club, managed everything with the available resources and strong support of the back-end team at Climb Media, its parent company. “We have often reached out to our friends and colleagues from the animation industry for help, guidance and support. Vaibhav Kumaresh conducted a Toon Club workshop in 2005/2006 along with Arvind Chudasama. Arvind came back to do a session with our students in 2018. Likewise, the talented and award-winning animation filmmaker Divakar Kuppan did a paint-on-glass animation workshop with our students in early 2020. We are grateful that the industry has supported us generously all these years,” she shared.

Talking about pandemic’s gift of online collaborations, Khurana said, “The pandemic has brought golden opportunities for collaborations due to the digitalization of teaching. I am really pleased to have filmmaker and stop-motion animator – Farha Alam to partner up with me in the core team at Toon Club.

She shares the same passion and vision that we have for Toon Club. With her on board, we feel stronger and have recalibrated our ambitions. We are also proud to announce that my international counterpart Stef Deneer, founder of Rekker Studios (Belgium), has consented to be part of our advisory board. There are a lot of tips & tricks on animation education I have imbibed from him. We are also humbled by the inclusion of Vaibhav Kumaresh on the advisory board along with our co-founder and mentor, Kireet Khurana. Vaibhav has always been my go-to person for advice”.

Also, several other international advisors and mentors will be included in the board shortly.

On joining Toon Club’s team, Farha Alam said, “Stop Motion is a great learning tool for kids! Not only does it inspire kids to think creatively, but also help them understand patience and perseverance. The craft’s basics itself are simple and forgiving, but excite kids to see the magic in everyday, routine lives, since Imagination is everything, as I always tell my students! And of course, by teaching and disseminating information, one not only feels grounded but also enriched – to have spent time with young, young minds who question you constantly, so as the mentor you learn new things, every single time.”

Rejoicing his association, leading animation educator from Belgium, Deneer exclaimed, “I’m very happy to be part of Toon Club now. Thanks to Tehzeeb, who had the vision and enthusiasm to bring this great team together. The team shares so much experience and knowledge, from all over the world, with coaching children in making films. You know this collaboration will result in great things.”

“Tehzeeb is one of the most passionate teachers of animation that children in India can ever get! She has dedicated her entire journey inspiring young ones and introducing them to the beautiful medium of animation. I am very happy to now be officially a part of her gang and look forward to our collaboration,” Kumaresh known for Cartoon Network show Lamput said.

Filmmaker Kireet Khurana too takes pride in the Toon Club’s growth “from a nascent concept to an amazing pioneering organization which has truly put India on the global map in terms of children’s animation education”.

Sharing the efforts of adopting online teaching, the educator revealed, “However, teaching animation online has been a challenge and a huge learning experience. You put in five times the effort than what you do for physical sessions. A lot more work goes in planning the online session so that kids understand the concepts and are able to execute animations at home with little or no hand-holding (and with limited resources). We make pre-recorded tutorials and demos to aid teaching. This has been the reason why our online sessions have been almost as successful as our physical/ in-person sessions. We are able to extract wonderful results from our students and this is extremely satisfying. Makes it worth all the effort! Also, our children feel a sense of achievement as they’ve done it all by themselves.”

Toon Club founder Tehzeeb Khurana with kids before the pandemic

Recently, Toon Club partnered with Ri8brain, an initiative of Toonz Media Group.

“I have personally aligned with Ri8brain as a mentor, which allows me to keep my existing association with Toon Club intact independently. I’ve designed five courses exclusively for Ri8Brain which are conducted in a hybrid format (pre-recorded & live sessions),” Tehzeeb Khurana said.

Toon Club provides immense exposure to young minds through several workshops, international participation and so on. Their film ‘Fly’ won three International Awards and over 12+ Official Selections including The Golden Bundle award at the 9th Nationwide Festival of Animation O!PLA, Poland, 2021.

Khurana appreciates the introduction of the IB program in India which recognizes and addresses the need for innovation in education. According to her, animation gives children a platform to tell their stories, create their own fantasy world (characters, props, backgrounds) and express themselves creatively.

“The missing A for ARTS in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is now made central to understanding varied disciplines. Introduction of Animation in IB curriculum in itself has been path breaking, as it is a healthy amalgamation of varied disciplines, a perfect example of STEAM,” she said.

With the brand new team, parents and children will have a range of techniques, styles and concepts to choose from and get access to the best mentors. While conducting online workshops without physical contact, Khurana has ensured not to dilute the quality and outcomes in any way. The details of their current range of animation workshops offered to students are available on their website. They are also very active on their social media handles.

Revealing their upcoming plans, Khurana said, “At Toon Club, we have just announced three exciting Diwali Workshops in November. Animate Any-Thing! (with nuts & bolts) by versatile animation filmmaker Aman Gupta, Cardboard Stopmotion Workshop by Farha Alam, and The Spinning Story by me.”

The friendly educator signed off by saying, “We are also currently discussing workshops and collaborations with a few schools, International festivals and organizations. Fingers crossed. So yes, there is a lot of activity at the moment at Toon Club.”