Indian animation turns spotlight on local stories

Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:37am EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - When the Cartoon Network channel launched in India more than a decade ago, it simply dubbed its shows in regional languages.

But it soon realized there was a market for local content and tapped Indian animation firms for shows such as "Krishna Balarama" on a Hindu god and "Tenali Raman," a popular folk hero who was a 16th century court jester.

Last year, parent Turner International, in a maiden effort, set up a multi-million dollar unit in India to develop and produce animated films and original live action TV series.

"The opportunity in developing local animation content is significant," said Samir Patil, chief executive of ACK Media, which was recently commissioned by Turner to produce two animated films and a TV series based on popular Indian folk tales and mythology from the Amar Chitra Katha comic books.

The animation industry in India, including entertainment, visual effects and gaming, is estimated at about $500 million and forecast to double by 2012, according to financial services firm Ernst & Young. The entertainment segment is likely to grow at 18 percent annually.

Animation in India, driven by lower costs and software expertise, was largely limited to low-end work such as title credits, special effects and brushing up of scenes created in Hollywood studios. Original work was rare or of poor quality.

"None of the studios were innovative enough to produce their own content. The mentality was Hollywood-centric because that is where the money was," said Avi Sidhu, a partner in Virtual Realms Productions, which is making a film on Rajput king Ranjit Singh.

But with local content ruling television and the big screen, studios soon began looking at local content for animation, too.   Continued...