Mumbai: Indian producers have discovered a magic ticket to reach out to younger audiences: animation and special effects. That’s unusual, because animation films have not done well in India, the world’s most prolific movie factory. Now, changing tastes among the young could change that, industry experts said.
“With two-thirds of the Indian population in an age group that is fast adapting to new entertainment tastes, animation will be one of the strong content genres in the future,” said Ronald D’mello, chief operating officer, UTV Software Communications Ltd.
The success of India’s first full-length cartoon movie, Hanuman, in 2005 testified to the taste for animation and special effects among youngsters.
Then, in 2006, came live-action, special effects-filled superhero film, Krrish. The film, which cost its producers $10 million (Rs44 crore), is estimated to have earned $15 million in its opening week, while Hanuman raked in Rs7 crore in total box-office collections.
This year, Media Factory India has lined up a $5 million project, Magik, for a May release.
The month will also see the release of B.R. Films’ Krishnaleela. Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd plans to release Ghatothkach: Master of Magic later in the year. And UTV Software Communications Ltd has four animation projects in the pipeline, including a $20 million film that it is producing in association with Overbrook, Hollywood actor Will Smith’s production house. Eros International Plc., a distributor of Indian films abroad, has global rights for Friends Forever, a Celluloid Dreams Pvt. Ltd production that is a blend of real-life actors and animation characters.
Adlabs Films Ltd plans two animation films in 2008, including one on popular Tamil film star Rajinikant, who has a huge fan following in Japan—a big market for anything to do with animation.
Thus far, animation films made in India have had a background in mythology. However, producers have realized that original characters will ensure a wider appeal and provide them an opportunity to earn more revenue through merchandising opportunities.
“There is a lot of money if we own it (the character),” said Sidhartha M. Jain, head, animation division, Adlabs. Only 18-20% of an animation film’s revenues are from the box office; the rest comes from merchandising, said Timmy Kandhari, executive director , entertainment and media practice, PricewatehouseCoopers Pvt. Ltd (PwC), an audit firm. PwC estimates the size of the Indian animation industry at Rs1,200 crore now, and forecasts that this will rise to Rs4,200 crore by 2009.
More than two-thirds of animation revenue is generated by the entertainment industry, although much of the market still lies outside India.
Traditionally, even international movies with high-quality animation and award-winning scripts “have not been crowd-pullers in India,” said D’mello.
“It will take some time before animation is accepted as mainstream,” added Kandhari.
Krishna, an animation movie based on one of the most popular gods in the Indian pantheon, did not fare well at the box office. It cost Rs3.5 crore to make, with another Rs2.5 crore going on publicity and merchandising.
“We still recovered the cost. We had a lot of publicity and about 50-60 merchandising items were there,” said Amit S. Chheda, director, Shethia Audio Video Pvt. Ltd, Krishna’s makers.