Year Ender 2022: Basking in the glory of original content creation, Indian animation studios promise to keep up the tempo
For the Indian animation industry, 2022 has been fruitful in terms of new projects, working on own Intellectual Properties (IPs) and overall growth. The increasing number of animated series and features being produced in India has attracted global audiences, with many of India’s works getting distributed globally. The demand for animation has expanded with the increase in children’s broadcasting viewership, the availability of low-cost internet access, and the growing popularity of OTT platforms. According to estimates by NITI Aayog, the animation and VFX sector in India was valued at USD 1.131 billion.
To understand the views of the animation industry and get a sneak peek of their year’s performance, Animation Xpress got in touch with the heads of various companies:
Progress Report 2022
With global partnerships, revenue, and expansion, Toonz Media Group fared really well. In terms of revenue, the group clocked 30 per cent more this year than in 2021.
“It was an exciting and fulfilling year as we partnered with global partners for our fantastic new projects. Some of them are Pirate Academy with On Entertainment, France; Pinocchio and Friends with Rainbow Studios, Italy; our latest feature project, The Canterville Ghost, with Space Age Films, UK and the new season of our globally successful show Zoonicorn. We also started a new 2D feature called Bartali’s Bicycle with Italian companies Lynx Multimedia Factory and Rai Ragazzi. The other exciting and successful projects we were involved in this year include Pajama for Sony Yay, India’s additional seasons of Pakdam Pakdai for Nick India, Michael’s Adventure, and Creepy Candy, to name a few,” said Toonz Media Group chief executive officer P. Jayakumar.
The company has added 20 per cent expansion this year and is already a 1000+ strong workforce in India. Also, they have taken an additional 8,000 sq. ft space at Technopark, Trivandrum, to support their expansion plans.
For Reliance Animation, a leading animation studio that has been delivering IP-driven content across multiple Indian languages, it was a stable year as compared to the last one. They had new developments in 2022 and are going to sign new shows. Currently, apart from Pune, the organisation is operating at Kolhapur, Indore, Satara and Hyderabad.
“We propose to expand internationally and discussions are in advance stages for Canada and Singapore,” revealed Reliance Animation CEO Tejonidhi Bhandare.
Charuvi Design Labs (CDL), the Delhi-based animation studio and design lab known for their work in an anthology of three animated films Dastaan-e-Shahadat which depicts the life, teachings, and sacrifice of Guru Gobind Singh, completed multiple museum films, short animated films and specialised content across mediums in 2022.
Talking about the expansion programs and other plans, CDL founder/director Charuvi Agrawal said, “We plan to undertake a lot of in-house IP development work and hence are planning to increase our staff strength towards more than 50. In addition, we have implemented new technologies including the adoption of AI-based tech and motion capture.”
Currently working with the strength of 25 employees, Studio Eeksaurus fared well in 2022 in terms of projects and revenues.
Studio Eeksaurus founder and creative director Suresh Eriyat pointed out, “Lots of original short films were created this year from the youngest of the animation community – students and young graduates. This is a promising change compared to earlier years. The seeds that we had sown in the past in terms of inducing filmmaking and storytelling ‘Keeda’ (insect) in the institutes, young folks and curricula are becoming fruiting trees.”
Dominant Trends & Technology
“This year we have reiterated our commitment to increase the CGI feature film pipeline significantly and will continue our substantial progress moving forward,” Jayakumar said.
Talking about the latest trends that dominated the animation industry, Jayakumar said, “One of the exciting trends this year is the new generation of IPs with creator-driven shows crafted with solid characters and scripts, adaptations from bestselling authors and extension of original characters-driven series from the short-form streamers to the global screens. Extensive 360-degree experience aided by new technologies has become a popular and promising trend.”
Moving further, he mentioned Unreal, originally a game engine is now becoming a vital TV and film tool as it drastically reduces the rendering time. He pointed out how this facilitates the artists to spend more time enhancing the quality of the shots. Tools like ActorCore and Mixamo have helped the industry with readymade assets for CGI production. Software like Maya, VRay and Arnold provides some great options, resulting in minimal rendering time and great visuals.
Bhandare feels that Metaverse will probably open doors for animation, especially character designing, modelling and texturing. “In terms of software, Flash 2D and Maya dominated the animation industry over the course of the year. Harmony is also trying to make a mark and I am sure in the coming years we will have sufficient talent to cater to the needs of the software,” he added.
“The animation industry has adapted to the changed circumstances by leveraging the latest technologies to produce quality content at lower costs. Plus, advancements in VFX and virtual production technologies have boosted the animation industry in many ways. World’s biggest brands are investing in animated videos to communicate with their audience and drive conversions. Moving forward the focus will be on quality content and better storytelling,” Bhandare said.
Echoing Jayakumar’s thoughts, Eriyat also mentioned that Unreal and Unity have gained massive popularity in the industry as compared to last year.
CDL’s founder pointed out that the adoption of AI is the talk of the town. It would be interesting to see where this is headed. Also, various software and tools that dominated 2022 include Maya, Blender, Unreal and Unity.
Expectations from the government / AVGC Taskforce
Feeling grateful for the formation of the AVGC taskforce, Jayakumar said, “It is a welcome move that the government came up with a tax credit/subsidy for co-production projects, which is a significant step forward. We also expect DD Kids to see the light soon, as this will be an ideal platform for local content. I am also hopeful that many other long pending demands from the industry will be addressed in the upcoming budget.”
Reliance Animation listed its expectations from the AVGC task force. Their major expectation is to have a free-to-air platform like DD Kids. Their additional proposals are:
•The AVGC sector especially the small/medium-sized service providers is not able to break even due to heavy Software costs. There should be some scheme for them like a 50 per cent incentive on the software costs.
•100 per cent FDI in the AVGC Sector.
•Providing incubation centres for new studios or individual talents who want to create content. Norms could be laid for this but providing a platform for the talent is important.
•Stringent norms for education in this sector.
According to Agrawal, the AVGC task force has certainly worked towards getting things in place to promote the industry. Agrawal further expressed her expectations of having specialised AVGC events which target all sorts of stakeholders, including events of the nature of Comic Con, Videogame Fest, etc, targeted towards children as the core audience. The industry is aimed toward younger audiences and having such events can be truly fantastic.
Current projects and 2023 plans
Toonz Media Group has several current and upcoming projects lined up.
“We are thrilled and looking forward to seeing the feature film The Canterville Ghost with Space Age Films, UK, going to theatres in the second quarter of 2023. Another important project I would like to mention is an animation feature called Bartali’s Bicycle. We are co-producing it with our partners Lynx Multimedia Factory and Rai Ragazzi. Bartali’s Bicycle is a story of friendship and sports solidarity involving legendary cyclist Gino Bartali,” Jayakumar said.
There are important co-productions and IPs, which they are sure will be well received and are set to become the big news in 2023. Earlier this year they created a buzz when they announced that they will revive the iconic 90s superhit classic SWAT KATS with Tremblay Brothers. Along with this, Harold and the Bears again with Tremblay Brothers and Paddypaws with Keith Chapman are some of these upcoming projects.
The company head gave a glimpse of their 2023 plan before bidding adieu to this fruitful year.
“We are actively expanding in gaming and metaverse space, and as we have announced earlier, our live-action feature slate is also growing. Our current projects in live-action include Zombie Town, which is in the post-production stage, and Trolgar & Me, which is set for release in 2023. With a portfolio of current and upcoming projects combined with our vision to expand, we are looking forward to 2023 with enthusiasm,” he concluded.
Reliance Animation has two to three shows in development with some of the Bollywood actors. Little Singham which is currently airing on Pogo is already making a mark in the industry. Also, their new show Bhaiyyaji Balwan is showing steady growth on the Hungama channel and they are investing their energies in it to make it bigger.
Sharing about the studios’ plan for the upcoming year, Bhandare said, “We are focusing on expanding internationally and also building the education arm for Reliance Animation Studios with the brand name Reliance Animation Academy. The focus will be on providing high-quality education with some International tie-ups.”
Sharing about CDL’s plan for the upcoming year, Agrawal added, “We would be launching our own IPs going ahead but further details will be shared at a later date. In addition, we would be undertaking more specialised content in the immersive space.”
In 2023, Studio Eeksaurus will be doing some short-term recruitments to help them complete its big projects. Always focused on creating and working on films that are based on local stories which create a big impact, the studio is hopeful to work on the same in 2023.