Global animation industry has long-term stake in India

MUMBAI: "Animation is the greatest frontier of human expression! But, visual effects are merely one of the tools which beef up good story-telling and content. Finally, animation is all about human capital over technology - not the other way around"! These were some of the key views expressed during the session on animation at the seminar on technology for information, media and entertainment organised by FICCI, NASSCOM, TIE and e-Entertainment alliance held on 13 March 2003 on the pre-inaugural day of Frames 2003.

Moving Pictures CMD Ramesh Sharma moderated the session which had panelists such as Australia-based animation firm BEEPS executive Ian Maycock, Germany-based Daswerk's Christian Leohardt, Toonz Animation's Atul Rao, UTV Toons general manager Akhauri Sinha and UK-based Framestore CFC executive Mike Milne.


Most of the experts present at the seminar agreed that the global animation industry's fascination with India wasn't a fad but a long-term obsession. India has to explore various options and move up the chain from comics to C&S TV animation shows to Home Videos animation shows to animation films. Simultaneously, the key is to ensure that animation is used in education, infotainment and entertainment. Increased domestic consumption can fuel growth for the Indian animation industry. Also required is the government's assistance in terms of tax benefits.

Moving Pictures company CMD Ramesh Sharma

* Animation is the fastest growing IT-enabled services segment and the size of the industry is expected to grow from US$ 550 million to US $ 15 billion in 2008 (Ernst & Young estimates). The industry is expected to grow at the rate of 30 per cent per annum in the next three years.

* India has got the following advantages: quality manpower, time zone advantage, cost-effective options, connectivity-related infrastructure and one of the biggest indigenous film industry in the region.

* Overseas companies are increasingly showing interest in forming joint ventures with Indian companies. This will be a win-win situation for both the partners and enable Indian companies to access the global markets.

Australia-based BEEPS' Ian Maycock

* The best part about technology is that the geographical location of the offices doesn't matter any more. Clients can be serviced from anywhere in the world.

* Technology has the capability to move millions of images and huge files across the globe in shorter time frames. Seamless results can be attained by the animation companies through associations and partnerships with other companies located in different parts of the globe.

* The new emerging segment is the genre of "visual effects" that are not meant to be seen.

Germany-based Daswerk's Christian Leohardt

* People involved in animation should develop a Hollywood mentality/orientation in terms of thinking bigger and delivering faster. The key lies in impressing the Hollywood studios that animation experts in emerging Asian countries or European countries have the requisite expertise, acumen and equipment to deliver the same results as those in the developed animation markets.

* India and other Asian countries will need to compete with East European countries such as Hungary and Poland which are eating into the share of the developed animation markets of Europe.

Toonz Animation's Atul Rao

* Animation is the greatest frontier of human expression. It can sell ideas and values using humour. In animation, the writer isn't the only story-teller but the artist also gets involved and hogs the limelight. The artist puts a soul into the proceedings.

* The key is to ensure that "universal values" are reflected - jealousy, love, parental relationships, friendship amongst others.

* The challenge is "How can one culture narrate stories that relate to other cultures?" India has depth of culture and mythology and the key will be to leverage the same.

* The global animation industry's new-found fascination with India is not merely a fad but a growing obsession.

* Animation is being increasingly used in areas such as medicine, engineering, education in addition to entertainment.

* The Indian industry can obtain additional revenue from merchandising opportunities.

UK-based Framestore CFC's Mike Milne

* When the US-based Hallmark channel approached animation experts for a TV series with special effects, it set off a major trend a decade ago. Thus was born "Gullivers Travels" - the six hour TV series which became immensely popular.

* Some years later, a British TV producer wanted to do a series on dinosaurs for television. The challenge was to ensure the same quality as one sees in feature films. The animation and special effects had to look as if it was the real thing. The success of this TV series made for BBC spawned off a series of TV documentary films and series.

* Finally, in the new millennium, computer animation on television is being taken seriously. There is a huge future in doing documentaries using computer animation and another emerging trend is creating fantasy films for children and adults.

* The challenge is ensure that technology is leveraged effectively so that the Hollywood experts/clients don't have to travel half-way round the globe. They can converse and discuss post-production issues with their Asian or European counterparts using broadband.

UTV Toons general manager Akhauri Sinha

* The key aspects of growing the animation industry are increased consumption, financing options, infrastructure, technology, human element, operations know-how, systems and process and enhanced domain knowledge.

* As far as Asia is concerned, Japan (US$ 1.5 billion) and Korea (US$ 1 billion) are right at the top; China, Taiwan and Hong Kong form the second rung; India and Philippines are slowly emerging and making their presence felt.

* The idea is to reach the level which France and Canada has attained. China, Japan and India are doing a lot of original animation work whereas most of the other Asian countries are struck with "services" part of animation. China, Japan and Korea are also catering to their home (inbound markets) in a big way and gaining substantial revenues. Korea has 20,000 animation experts as compared to India which has just 4000 qualified animation experts.

* Indian animation experts need to beef up their skills - expression, verbalisation, comprehension and interpretation of client demands. Asian Networks have started looking westwards to beef up their offshore presence (Sun Woo has opened offices in North America).

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