One of the most awaited animated series got released last year on Netflix which went on to win three Annie Awards this year. This series was being made by the man who is known for blending and creating magic on screen with his dark fantasy films. We are talking about Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters. The series is a DreamWorks Animation production that hit Netflix on 23 December 2016 and recently Netflix renewed the series for the second season of thirteen episodes, which is set to be released later in 2017.
What’s so special about this project? It’s the fact that along with DreamWorks Animation, a recently opened Indian animation studio has also worked on it. Started out by Milind D Shinde about six months back, the animation studio – 88 Pictures got the opportunity to work on this critically acclaimed series with Guillermo del Toro. The Mumbai based studio was created with the aspiration of becoming the content creator and executor in the animation space.
Before opening his own studio, the industry veteran, Milind D Shinde was earlier associated with Assemblage Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation’s India and Shanghai unit. Shinde has over 15 years of experience under his hood in the field of animation and is known for his skills in project management, operations and strategy planning, new studio set ups, business development, ROI accountability and operations.
So what made Shinde start his own studio? “In my decade-long experience of working in the CGI space, I had a fantastic opportunity to work with one of the leading studios in the world, DreamWorks Animation. I was fortunate to work in India and Shanghai units of DreamWorks. During my stint at the Oriental DreamWorks, Shanghai, from an outsider perspective, I got a good overview of the current CGI ecosystem in India. I sensed a gap in the market. While on one hand, there is this amazing talent pool with high caliber, on the other, there are not many high-end ingenious CGI shows getting worked upon in India. I wanted to use my extensive experience to set up a state-of-the-art studio in India that can nurture good talent and produce outstanding shows. With this thought in mind, I worked on a business plan and was fortunate to be supported by a venture capital firm, who believed in this dream as well. And here we are with 88 Pictures!” reveals Shinde.
Shinde wishes that his studio should be known for their unwavering focus on creativity, cutting-edge technology and for their commitment towards innovation. “I sincerely feel that creativity and excellence in technologies can be pushed even on the work-for-hire shows and shouldn’t be limited to original IPs,” says Shinde when asked about the studio’s working model.
All it takes is the last 30 minutes to add that last 10 per cent on the frame, which makes anyone who looks at the frame say “wow”. That’s what Shinde wants from his artists – to ideate and develop on that last mile (that last 10 per cent) which adds unsurpassable value to the project and studio’s portfolio in the short and long run. ‘Creative Disruption’ was the concept he came across while reading Ronnie Screwvala’s autobiography which left a mark on his mind. That’s the space 88 Pictures wants to be in.
88 Picture’s first project was an animated TV series called “Trollhunters” which is inching towards becoming one of the most-watched TV content on Netflix. The team has worked on the series right from its animation to final delivery. Along with that, they are also working on a few assets. Shinde adds, “As a matter of fact, we set up the company to do this show for DreamWorks. We are proud of the fact that we are the only active studio in this part of the world to collaborate with this show. We wanted to make sure our launch project reflects our philosophy and future plans. Trollhunters does exactly that!”
There are many animation studios in India. What sets 88 Pictures apart from the rest of the studios? “There are many successful studios in India and relatively ours is quite a new set-up. We wouldn’t want to look at scale or size as the differentiator. However, 88 Pictures brings in the difference through the quality of execution, use of technology, and by nurturing superior work culture. So, our endeavor is to stay relevant for the right reasons and in the process, become an internationally eminent animation studio,” states Shinde.
88 Pictures has been fortunate enough to find a venture capitalist firm that has shown faith in the team’s creative abilities and backed them with funding. Investors were convinced about the growth prospects of the animation industry and of their capabilities in taking it to the next level.
As for the business model, whether the studio will be more focused on outsourcing or IPs, Shinde says, “It will be a combination of both in the long run. Currently, we are building a good execution process employing the latest technology. The focus is on developing solid leadership and a healthy workplace that can handle high octane shows from Hollywood. Our next step will be to explore co-production opportunities. While our partners can bring the know-how of what goes into building the shows (from greenlighting to pre-production), 88 Pictures will handle the execution part.”
On the IP side, the goal is to partner and create IPs that have universal appeal. Right now, the studio is developing a couple of interesting IPs in-house.
Along with Shinde, his wife, Siddhie is the co-founder and manages the day-to-day operations of the studio. Owing to her creative background in acting, she brings in a lot of depth into the content creation space. In fact, she is actively engaged in developing a few exciting IPs for the studio.
“My entire creative and technical leadership team comes from having a feature film experience. Most of them are from the same Dreamworks Unit (India), where I come from. There are a few exciting names on board and a few slated to join our board in the near future. I guess I’ll leave that for the next interview (laughs),” mentions Shinde.
The studio is staffed at a strength that is required for the current show on the floor and is looking forward to expansion in 2017. They plan to remain a moderate size studio and not go beyond a certain number.
Revealing his future plans for the studio, Shinde says, “Animation industry is undergoing a creative metamorphosis. It always has been in a very dynamic state. People are finding newer ways of making films. This is a very exciting time for us to be in this business. We will continue to adapt the latest technologies, scale up our immensely talented staff, nurture the creative culture, and sustain investors’ faith in us. It takes time to build a good sustaining entity in this space and we are making sure to walk before we can run. The industry will see 88 Pictures as a global player in the animation domain, having a diverse creative portfolio. We also seek to forge great international partnerships along the way.”
The studio is currently working on the second season of Trollhunters.