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'Animation is a serious business'
Disha Pinge
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July 05, 2007

Part I: Fancy a career in animation?

Yesterday, we took a look at the professional animation course being offered by Toonz Animation Academy in Mumbai.

Today we present an exclusive interview with Vinod A S, head of the 3D department at Toonz. Vinod has been working in the animation industry for 12 years now, and has worked for some of its biggest names -- here he discusses his own career, and offers some sound advice to young would-be animators:

Tell us a little about your background. How did u start off in this field?

"I was a science graduate, and was always interested in film-making -- and in creative fields of every kind. In those days, however, filmmaking did not have enough openings. When a friend suggested animation I was fascinated, and decided to  pursue a career in the field."

Animation was a relatively unknown field in India back then. Was it a struggle? What was the biggest problem you faced?

"The biggest problem I faced back then, was that there were no professional courses offered to those who wanted to pursue a career in animation! It is only now that the industry has become so big, and circumstances today are different."

So the course Toonz Academy is offering is the first of its kind?

"There are several computer institutes which offer training in animation and multimedia. But familiarising yourself with software is simply not enough. There has to be a more wholesome approach, and students need to unleash their creativity. Learning how to use a software is in no way learning animation. Our programme offers a better approach to the subject. It is a production-ready programme. Students will become adept within one year, and a few months on the job will make them expert animators."

Coming back to your career, which was your first 'big break' in the industry, so to speak? Name that one assignment which put you on the map in the world of animation.

"That would have to be my stint with Pentafour (one of India's leading computer effects companies). We worked on 'Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists', which was India's first animated feature film.

Anyone you particularly look up to in this industry?

"Yes, of course. I admire Walt Disney [Images] a lot, and Richard Williams is one of my idols also. His book, 'The Animator's Survival Kit', is one of my favourites.

So what is it like working at Toonz on a day-to-day basis? What is the atmosphere like?

"Toonz is great! We have very professional timings -- we are at work Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. It is a very liberal environment, and we have expert animators coming in from Canada [Images], the Philippines, Mexico, and several other countries to work with us."

Where does India stand in the field of animation?

"India has a lot of talent but unfortunately, there is a very small market within the country. For example, 'Hanuman' and 'Tenali Raman' made us famous in domestic circles. They are a huge hit here, but are not meant for a global market. We concentrate more on global projects."

When you are working on a project, how do you go about it?

"When the storyline comes in we go through it thoroughly, making notes down to the last detail regarding lighting, colour etc. Then there is a lengthy process which leads to the finished product -- key animation, key layout, key background, background images, character design and final artwork all go into readying the final piece. Animation is not a one-man show. It's teamwork all the way."

Which has been the toughest project you've handled so far?

"The most difficult project so far has to be the current one we are working on. It is a big-budget production called 'Twin Princes'. The most difficult part is that in this movie, the background is 2D and the characters are 3D. Also, the entire storyline is underwater. So it is also a little painstaking when we have to work out the sort of lighting it will have."

Is it a stressful job?

"I don't think so. I enjoy my work. I don't feel like I'm stuck with a boring office job or anything!"

What remains to be achieved? What are your dreams, career-wise?

"Toonz is expanding. We are going to Nagpur. We will soon have 10 branches across the country. Rather than turning out hundreds of students with limited knowledge, we are aiming at training fewer individuals and offering them the benefits of specialisation."

Any advice for youngsters who want to pursue a career in animation?

"Don't pursue animation if you don't have the passion for it. This is not a mechanical job -- it requires a great amount of creativity and visualisation. So unless you are sure that you are cut out for this industry, don't join it. A career in animation is not to be taken lightly -- this is a serious business."

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