Disney targets five local productions; to kick off with 'Vicky Aur Vetaal'

MUMBAI: Walt Disney is stepping up its localisation drive in India. One major push in this: have five locally produced live-action Hindi shows tailored for Disney Channel in a year's time.

"Local live-action programming is the way to pump up Disney Channel. We plan to have five original shows within a year and are in talks with various production houses," Walt Disney Television International (India) executive director, programming and production, Nachiket Pantvaidya tells

Disney will have 130 hours of locally produced content over the next one-year period. "India is the first market in the TV business outside the US where Disney has gone in for original local production," adds Pantvaidya.

The plan is to increase local content on Disney Channel from 20 to 40 per cent in a year's time. The move falls in line with Disney's step-wise localisation strategy. This involved languaging the content, creating local environments through interstitials, acquiring local content like Karishma Ka Karishma and lastly, original local production.

Disney Channel is all set to premiere its first original live action Indian production Vicky Aur Vetaal, a contemporary version of ancient Indian folklore, on 8 October.

Disney is also actively considering the option of producing a local movie for TV aimed at the Indian audiences, Pantvaidya says.

So is Disney also looking at producing animation content in India? "We have nothing planned at this stage. The problem with animation is that the costs do not justify a product just for local TV. It has to spread across markets," says Pantvaidya.

Disney has commissioned production house Cinevistaas Ltd. for making Vicky Aur Vetaal. Disney has joined hands with other prominent names in the industry like programming director Suraj Rao, music duo Shantanu Moitra and Swanand Kirkire (composer and lyricist) and singer Babul Supriyo.

The series will air every Sunday at 10:30 am on the Disney Channel. Speaking on the developments of the new show, Cinevistaas vice chairman and managing director Sunil Mehta said, "We started production in August last year, with six episodes complete. We have signed on for 26 episodes which can be extended."

The story pans out with Vetaal trapped upside down from a banyan tree for three hundred years and is rescued by an eleven year old brat Vicky. Vetaal's magical powers have also become rusty landing the pair into trouble, thus the chosen theme "Vetaal ka magic gadbad ghotala." To undo the mess, Vetaal uses an eccentric 'spell book' which has a life and attitude of its own. Inspite of the havoc the pair bring to the show, it also promises to subtly bring out certain moral undertones of responsibility for ones actions.

"Disney Channel's commitment to localisation has been a well planned endeavor and we are extremely happy to be delivering on it. We believe in the strength of Indian stories. Our creative idiom with Vicky Aur Vetaal was to contemporize and keep it relevant to today's generation. In the process of narration, we are able to involve kids in the storyline by addressing their day to day issues in a fun way," says Pantvaidya.

With its entry into India, Disney sought pioneer live action programming in a cartoon driven kids market and, according to Pantvaidya, within a span of two years the market has tripled its size.

Says Walt Disney Television International (Asia Pacific) senior vice president and managing director Nicky Parkinson, "We seek to strengthen connections with kids and their families by developing creative, quality local content that reflects the lives of the local audiences. This major initiative is a strong step forward in establishing Disney Channel further as a committed local player in this country, and also a reflection of the Walt Disney Company's commitment to seeking great creative from the global marketplace."

For the promotional activity around Vicky Aur Vetaal, Disney Channel has launched a theme-driven marketing campaign involving TV, Radio, Internet, and outdoor apart from an off-air promotion which includes touch-points at McDonalds and other outlets frequented by kids.

In the week preceeding the launch, an on-ground teaser campaign was unveiled whereby 'authentic duplicates' of certificates were issued announcing a change of name of the person in question. This, along with marriage proposals from strangers and even inanimate objects like trees got people really curious about what was going on, creating the much desired buzz around the campaign. Besides, Disney has used out of home initiatives in malls across 22 odd markets in the country to create optical illusions. The revealer campaign will be unveiled in 2-3 days.

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