Viacom18's global push with international animation series

The Twisted Timeline of Sammy & Raj is being coproduced with Nickelodeon International.

MUMBAI: Entertaining kids on television is not a child’s play. Many an Indian broadcaster will agree. But Viacom18 owned Nickelodeon India has managed to do it well by bringing to life iconic characters like Motu Patlu, Gattu Battu, Shiva and Rudra amongst several others. Now the kids broadcaster is making its biggest bet: teaming up with its international associate Nickelodeon International to co-produce a new 2-D  animation series targeted at two to 14-year-olds all over the world.

Titled The Twisted Timeline of Sammy & Raj, it is slated to roll out on Nickelodeon’s international channels in 2021.

“The UK and the US are two nations that produce a lot of animation content. India is the only region other than these two which has scaled up its original IP animation production capability,” says Viacom18 content & research Kids TV network creative head Anu Sikka. “When the UK team approached us, we thought as so many productions are happening in India why not do something from India. The idea was to create an IP and a show which works across the globe.”

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And that’s why it took the teams from the two companies which included - Sikka and Nickelodeon VP animation Chris Rose - two years to crack the project. Sikka brainstormed with her Indian colleagues to come up with the basic concept, which was then fine-tuned and honed jointly with the Nickelodeon International team. “We have incorporated India’s cultural nuances in the show in order to make it more endearing for both Indian and international audiences,” reveals Sikka.

The writers room for The Twisted Timeline of Sammy & Raj is now located in the US under head writer Jordan Gershowitz’s supervision. Creatives are being supervised by both the UK and Indian creative teams with the animation being done at Big Animation’s Pune studio.

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The channel is using for better connectivity as well to clear assets and storyboards. Sikka highlights that due to the pandemic, the entire process slowed down. According to her, the studio has gradually picked up the pace and arranged software and necessary equipment for employees sitting at home. She says: “Luckily for kid's content and animation, we did not require any shoots, so our work didn’t stop. Yes, initially the challenge was to coordinate with everyone, there were internet connectivity issues at some places. There were initial hiccups but now we are back on track. Pre-production work that also includes conceptualisation and writing went at a rather swifter pace.”

Sikka says that while the IP of the new series lies with Viacom18, distribution will be done by Nickelodeon International in the territories where it can be sold. Of course, the first telecast right will lie with all Nickelodeon channels. She says her  primary focus is to launch the show on a larger scale, and then depending on the traction the channel will look further into distribution and licensing.

She points out that English dubbing will be done in both India and the UK, but the dubbing of the content in Hindi and other regional languages will be completely homegrown. She further adds, a movie franchise could also be in the works – just like Motu Patlu -  depending on The Twisted Timeline of Sammy & Raj’s popularity.

Animated shows on Indian television are budgeted at between Rs 12-25 lakh for a 2D series and Rs 22-35 lakh for a 3D one. Sikka was loathed to reveal the budget of the co-production. But industry sources reveal that it might be in multiples of what Indian shows can command.

The news about the co-production has warmed many an animation industry veteran’s heart. Says one of them: “This is so good. There was a time when India was known for outsourcing and not for original IPs. But recent efforts like Mighty Little Bheem by Green Gold on Netflix and Vaibhav Studios’ Lamput on Cartoon Network has made waves globally and are telling a different story about India’s animation prowess.”

The hope, amongst most industry professionals is that The Twisted Timeline of Sammy & Raj will take that story of animation further into its next chapter. 

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