Technology is no more seen as intrusive nowadays in animation creation. What is your view about that?
India has had the technology and know-how of 2D animation since the 1990s. Yes, there have been technological advancements and we do have better tools at our disposal but animation has always been a medium of creative storytelling and the animator assumes utmost importance.
There have been improvements with each subsequent phase but the 2D animation process remains largely unchanged. There has been no change that drastically cuts down the production time. Even in the case of 3D animation, the Maya software has been in use since the early 2000s. There have been periodic upgrades but not much has changed.
How well the animator picks up the vocation is what matters in the end. The changes in creative expression and aptitude over the years matters more for us.
How do you think content creators are affected by the growth of new distribution platforms?
The increase in distribution platforms has proved to be very beneficial to content creators. There is a plethora of new VOD platforms competing for both consumers and content. Content creators have been given a license to create disruptive storylines which can be aired on a number of platforms.
Age-old formats have started changing. Episode numbers are no longer stipulated. As content producers, there are a lot of creative liberties we are getting nowadays, but whatever the medium, that is the connect with the audience still holds paramount importance.
There are examples where upstarts with great stories have made a name for themselves. YouTube has been the preferred platform in these cases given its high potential. However, for kids’ content, there are a lot of SMPs that creators need to keep in mind and only a compelling narrative does not suffice.
Is animation on mobiles the next step forward?
Yes, without a doubt. India is a country where most households have a single television set. When parents want to watch soap operas or a news channel, mobile is the only platform kids have for watching their favorite shows. India is a country with close to 600 million smartphone users. Kids, being very mobile-phone-savvy, are an unexplored audience whose digital consumption helps media conglomerates drive consumer-aggregation.
Amazon Prime Video and Netflix both run on smartphones and there’s always YouTube. More than 60 per cent of the content consumed on YouTube by children under the age of 14 is short form content.
Give us an update on the new productions of Cosmos Maya.
Cosmos-Maya’s Selfie With Bajrangi currently airing on Disney Hungama is on its way to become the next big thing in kids’ animation. After its successful launch on Amazon Prime Video in Oct, 2017, the first half was launched on Disney Hungama as a summer holiday attraction early this year. It performed exceedingly well on its Pay TV debut and the re-run, a preamble for the second half of the season, was just as successful. The second half began airing on Disney Hungama 29 Sep, 2018 onwards and has been a category topper ever since.
There are quite a few international co-productions we are working on. ‘Atchoo!’, one of our co-productions, has recently been syndicated to 108 countries and is available on Amazon Prime Video. Also in the pipeline are ‘Leo Da Vinci’ and ‘Berry Bees’. While Leo da Vinci is a spin-off series of the 3D Animation feature film ‘Leo da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa’, Berry Bees is an all-girl spy-action series. There’s a bunch of others that we are exploring which we’ll be announcing in due course.
Do you have enough workforce to handle in-house and offshore projects?
Cosmos-Maya currently has more than 1400 employees. The plan is to double this count. Apart from our studio in Mumbai’s Film City, we have another one in Hyderabad with a strength of around 200.
We have developed an integrated pipeline which is three pronged and which works in tandem with each other for the studio’s functionality. The first is the production pipeline which takes care of delivery. The second is the contractual pipeline to ensure that there is enough work to hire workforce and the third is the revenue pipeline. Whatever content we produce has to generate enough revenue.
How lucrative do you think is the animation industry for GenY?
A career in animation is one of the most sought for today’s youth due to its high salaries, career growth and opportunity to showcase their creativity. The animation industry offers multiple roles for aspiring individuals from various fields and profiles.
Over the years, it has also developed into a multi-billion-dollar trade with a significant rise in demand for skilled talent. The demand comes from all countries in fields like entertainment, government, education, and marketing amongst others.
The animation industry in India has a very lucrative present and a shining future. No surprises then that huge investments are flowing in. One example that strikes the mind immediately is that of Cosmos-Maya. Emerald Media, the Pan-Asian media investment platform backed by US private equity giant KKR, has acquired a controlling stake in Cosmos-Maya, thereby further strengthening the kids’ animation landscape in the country.
Government initiatives are also coming up in this field. Telangana has its very own animation, visual effects and gaming organization, TVAGA. TVAGA (Telangana VFX, Animation and Gaming Association), is a nonprofit association, formed and led by a team of well-known CEOs, founders, and academicians of visual effects, animation, and gaming industry in India. There are massive plans to create infrastructure for the animation industry and the government is willing to offer subsides to companies to create new jobs.
What kind of professionals do you prefer to employ?
Animation has always been a medium of creative storytelling and the animator assumes utmost importance. A major advantage of choosing a career in animation is the fact that it is easy to train interested youngsters. Entry into the field only requires an aptitude in sketching, drawing, and basic knowledge of computers. Post training, the animator’s creative skills and ideas play a major role in the climb up the animation ladder.
That being said, we prefer to employ professionals with free flowing creative juices and a strong will to learn. At Cosmos-Maya, we nurture creativity and help channelize it into something productive.