Will this ‘Arjun’ hit the bullseye?

Looks like ‘acche din’ are here for broadcasters in the kids’ genre (read Disney, Pogo, Cartoon Network, Nick, Sonic, Nick Jr.). There was a time when all one used to get to watch was Tom chasing Jerry on screen, Swat Kats fighting crime to save Megakat City from the evil clutches of Dark Kat or Popeye gulping down spinach to clobber Bluto and save Olive (not that we didn’t like these classics). But, it’s really heartening to see broadcasters lapping up original Indian IPs and going a step further by getting involved in the making as well. This brings us to the new show ‘Arjun: Prince of Bali’ that is set to see the light of day on Disney Channel beginning this Sunday 1 June at 9:00 for a 52 episode run in Hindi (as of now there aren’t any plans to dub it in any other language). Being a creation of Green Gold Animation, the character has the daunting task of matching up to its peers – Chhota Bheem and Mighty Raju – that have carved out a space for themselves in the last few years. So does ‘Arjun’ have the stomach for this battle… let’s find out! Speaking exclusively to AnimationXpress.com’s Sidharth Iyer, Disney India director programming Devika Prabhu and Green Gold Animation founder & MD Rajiv Chilaka share their vision and plans for ‘Arjun: Prince of Bali’. “I guess it was only a matter of time; we have had a long standing association going back to end of 2008. Green Gold Animation has done three seasons of ‘Chor Police’ and two seasons for ‘Luv Kush’ for Disney and we have always wanted to better that as we felt, both the shows didn’t really match-up to our expectations, thus ‘Arjun: Prince of Bali’ happened,” expounds Chilaka on the association with Disney India for the new animation series. Disney India on its part has for long been carrying a lot of imported content on the channel, and with this move is certainly opening up the floodgates for other Indian animation studios to sit up and take notice. Prabhu adds: “I believe in strong characters and great stories; when we saw what Rajiv and his team was planning with the character of Arjun, we were really excited to work with someone who really knows the industry and the Indian animation space, we were very much on board and have been working closely on the series. It’s a free exchange of ideas how things have to be developed; I have to particularly applaud the look, feel and design along with the animation style that is amazingly bright and really beautiful.” If we just backtrack over a year, when Chhota Bheem and the Throne of Bali hit screens; a lot of research had gone into getting the look and feel of Bali right as that was the essence of the story, so with the new series that is mostly based in Bali what kind of research was done, “We did travel during the movie to Bali with a team of seven guys and whatever research we had done then we keep referring to it till now. But, I feel the time is right to travel back and study the location once again to get into more detailing of the setting,” says Chilaka. About three to four individuals have worked on the character designs and nearly180 artists have put in the hours for the 52 episodes, of which 15 episodes have already been delivered to Disney by Chilaka’s company. Each episode is of 22 minutes duration, slip into two story capsules of 11 minute each. Nearly, 10 days go into the production of a 22 minute episode. “If you want to fit action, adventure and comedy then this is a good format to work with, we have seen success with it in the past as well. It’s long enough for children to stay on and short enough to keep it fresh for them, also when a new story is being told we don’t plan to program any caps because for us the viewing experience comes first,” reveals Prabhu. The series promises to be a perfect blend of action and comedy. It revolves around the daily life of Arjun, Prince of Bali. Where, each day brings a new sense of adventure, discovery and exploration and fun, and with the help of his own family and friends, Arjun learns about his important role in the world that he is growing up in. Being raised to be skilled in the art of warfare he overcomes obstacles that come his way while also funnily disorienting his enemies with little tricks. The series follows him on his fun-filled escapades and experiences. Sharing her views on the promise ‘brand Arjun’ holds in the coming weeks Helios Media MD Divya Radhakrishnan says: “The summer season is an opportune time for all genres, be it kids as well and it holds a lot of promise to launch new shows. Keeping in mind that the character is from the same banner that came up with ‘Chhota Bheem’ it certainly has an advantage. It’s also good to know that Disney, which generally survives on a lot of imported content, is encouraging Indian IP as well. If they carry out a 360 degree marketing campaign, I am sure brands in the FMCG categories like biscuits, ice-creams, dairy products, etc. will show keen interest.” That would really be encouraging for Disney, which is still in the process of getting sponsors on board for the show which begins airing this Sunday. Prabhu is very confident of Arjun doing really well, “I think it’s important to understand why he is set apart from other heroes and lead characters in the world of television. Yes, he is brave but on the flip side he is also someone who wants to learn take on responsibility, the characteristics are the thing which the kids will identify with. Things don’t come easily for him, though he is a prince. He is respectful towards his parents and shares a very great bond with his sister Tanya. We haven’t seen such kind of relationship on television before so the story telling will be really unique and we are banking on it.” The script and storytelling for ‘Arjun: Prince of Bali’ is completely a joint collaboration between the companies with both having given multiple inputs. “The name of the characters, their background, we have taken everything into consideration and it has worked well. When the movie was released we had the plan of coming up with a series, but the characters needed to be further developed, and we are really pleased with the end result,” Chilaka exults. The show is primarily targeted for the age group between 6-12 years of age. And it will certainly compliment ‘Chhota Bheem’ which comes on a rival channel at 9:30 am every Sunday. Thus, it seems like a strategic move to keep all parties happy and not eating into one another’s share of the pie. “We want all the characters to succeed but that is not possible, in this field there is a wave of popularity sometimes its Pokemon then out of the blue it was Doraemon and Bheem have been around for 6 years; there is a saturation factor that will come in and the audience will get a little bored. But Arjun is fresh as it has a new look, story and feel, along with a new channel, new packaging and brand new story lines, it will have nothing to do with Bheem or Raju so I feel that will work,” Chilaka explains. Green Gold Animation is also planning to take the series to the Indonesian market, and is in talks with a few broadcasters there. “Kids love comedy, humour and action. Indian Animation industry in kids segment has climbed the value chain. Today, India has the third largest TV households globally and we are making breakthroughs and experiencing a huge change in the children’s entertainment genre. It’s the Indian animated characters dominating the Television space. So! Kids’ breakfast time with Arjun shall be a milestone. Realising the need for the Domestic content to reach out to their audience and the demand for local content is growing rapidly as well,” says Maya Digital Studios, media & broadcast relationship head Aruna Kumar. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by former Reliance Animation big boss Ashish Kulkarni, “Green Gold Animation is a big studio and Rajiv has been around for long now, he’s one guy who really understands the space; so without any doubt I am certain that just like Chhota Bheem, even Arjun would do well among the kids. Rajiv has three to four well established brands and is using it well, if the channel and Rajiv do justice to the character it’s bound to succeed.”