Challenge of crafting characters in Indian animation

Animation writers aren’t taken seriously in our country.

MUMBAI: For most animation producers and distributors, the art of creating content strategy and research is what’s keeping them up at night. But a few of them say that a formulaic approach should be rejected in this category.

This topic was taken up at a panel discussion at the OTTv Kids and Animation summit - The challenge of crafting stories to groom, educate and entertain. On the stage were Ka Kha Gaa founder and animation screenwriter Vivek Shukla, children’s author, lyricist and screenwriter Pooja Lulla, Inox Leisure CMO and filmmaker Saurabh Verma, Sesame Workshop India head business development and marketing Mona Singh. The session was moderated by OTT and media platforms content and creative strategist Deepa Singh.

A special keynote was given by Viacom18 SVP content head kids cluster Anu Sikka on the local IP creation journey of the Indian kids' entertainment category. She raised a point on the Indian animation segment lacking the quality of storytelling and animation when compared to what the world is producing. To this, Shukla said that we lack seriousness, not talent. “People don’t take our writers seriously. The other thing is what kids want and their psychology for characters to look like and be funny,” he said.

Following the same, Verma explained that the business of content creation is so easy and hence it is difficult. “I pitch a lot of ideas and the person sitting on the other side has a fixed mind about a certain character that they want us to create for them. If we pitch stories like Doraemon and Shinchan, the over thinking of the studios and the platforms will never make the characters happen. So there has to be someone who should believe in our ideas. The other thing is, if the client doesn’t like any idea, we never get any feedback for the same as to why they didn’t like our idea,” he said.

According to Verma, the other aspect of business in entertainment is film and TV. On the one hand, a film is a serious business to put in a lot of energy and on the other hand, TV is controlled by a lot of other people; every episode is controlled by TRPs.

Talking about the basic requirements and the key factors to be taken into consideration, Lulla said that characters are crucial for the structure of the story. They take the story forward. Then what matters is the setting of the story. Also, the timing and location influence your character majorly. The message is also very important like Stan Lee conveyed the iconic message that with great power come great responsibility through Spiderman.

Adding to this, Verma said that emphasis should be laid on purity of the character, not merchandising. “Christopher Nolan took up the flawed character of Batman and added vulnerabilities and emotion. We shouldn’t create characters based on researches. The whole system of research is flawed, to begin with. We should reject the formulaic approach,” he said.

Furthermore, Mona Singh said that children learn best from the characters they relate to and the banters that they can understand. “So when you ask us, what are the key factors, then I would say we have Indian characters, but we are intentionally evolving our own characters because they are global citizens and have access to all kinds of content.”

Lastly, the session was summed up saying that storytelling is not a problem, ROI and the mindset is a problem.  

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