Television

Guest column: Personifying animated characters for kids

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MUMBAI: One day, while at my neighbor’s house, I couldn’t help but notice how excited her daughter was to dress up for her annual fancy dress competition. More than being excited about the event, she was looking forward to dressing up as her favorite animated character! I realised then how big a role characters play in influencing kids. They just don’t consume the content but also relate to the characters as they are the first and major source of entertainment and engagement for them.

Growing up is about following myriad animated characters. The story of a character transcends beyond the show into the kid’s world and builds a strong bond with them. A child consistently associates with key qualities of a character such as beauty or courage or even just language, mannerisms or situations. Beyond just being entertained, kids constantly pick up nuances from these character worlds and relate them to their own. In them, they find an idol, a hero or just a friend.

Kids today are surrounded by innumerable characters that have become a day-to-day part of our pop culture. We, as content creators, tend to plug into a kid’s system to gather their understanding about their likings, preferences, routines and relationships, which become an innate part of their personality. From the look and feel of the characters to the storylines, the ultimate aim is to give kids something genuinely engaging and a reason to connect with the characters.

Readings indicate that an average child watches approximately 18,000 hours of television from kindergarten to high school. It is thus natural for them to learn and soak in these animated characters. The animation industry, which has been a massive part of our childhood, is becoming more widespread and impressive as time has gone on. Shows with Indian characters with relevance and comedy-oriented plots click brilliantly with children. Hence, a content curator needs to constantly work towards build a show by personifying an animated character with the hope of making the brand memorable and the character that may seem worthy of a relationship.

It is only in the kids’ segment that viewers’ loyalty goes beyond the show to its characters. Characters tend to develop into being kids’ friends with whom they can have fun with. This is exactly what translates into kids wanting to have every product or merchandise with their favorite character on it.

“Only children believe they’re capable of anything,” quoted Paulo Coelho. They're trusting and fearless; they believe in their own power and animated characters create a fictional world that kids can relate to. It encourages them to believe in the victory of good over bad and appeals, to a great extent, to their optimistic outlook.

Today, India’s animation industry is booming and a large part of the revenue comes from licensing and merchandising (L&M)–an important layer that allows characters to be present far and wide in a kid’s life like in schools, homes, play areas and even their bathrooms! This, however, needs to be a lot more organised and L&M needs to be seeded while a show or a character is being conceptualised. The amount of animated character-based merchandise available in the grey markets for toy clearly reflects the enormous opportunity for any brand to put foresight and planning to create product-embedded concepts and shows.

Moreover, building early affinity to a brand can lead to a lifelong relationship. By creating meaning in the mind of the child, it helps the brand become more relatable to them. Thus, linking a brand to a popular character helps bring it to life and leverage the relationships kids have already formed with these endearing characters that they see round the clock.

public://ms-leena-dutta.jpg The author is the business head for the kids' genre at Sony Pictures Networks India. The views expressed here are her own and Indiantelevision.com may not subscribe to them.

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