"The Indian animation industry is coming of age," announced Subhash Chandra, media mughal and chairman of Zee Network, at the international launch of the Animation Producers Association of India in Cannes in October 2002.
Animation as a promising business proposition is a comparatively recent field of serious interest in India.
In the Asian market, India has been a late starter after Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, but the country is fast emerging as an important centre for the production of animation. More and more work is being outsourced from India by foreign companies. India has seen at least 75 large animation post-production studios coming up in less than five years.
Hollywood is in love with Indian animation!
Indian animation studios have international standards and are technologically high end. Because of our strong information technology base, creativity and value for money, the Indian animation industry is expected to become a dominating global player in the next few years.
During the initial growth period of the industry, the United States, Canada and Europe were sending work to countries in Asia, particularly the Pacific countries and Indian animation studios, to keep costs down. Today the studios compete with China where the cost is even lower than it is in India.
Indian animation studios are now marching ahead in the arena of creating original products and establishing their own intellectual property rights.
In this area India has several advantages not only over China but the rest of the world with its rich history and culture of storytelling along with high quality artistic capability.
Animation actually travels very well internationally. The much talked about crossover for Indian content to an international audience is far more likely to be achieved through animation than live action films. Animation content created in India to western production standards looks and feels completely international.
Animation properties generally have a very long shelf life. Even today animation products created in the 1930s by Disney are making money. Animation content producers regularly exploit downstream revenue opportunities through merchandising, games and music very effectively.
The industry is inherently international and collaborative in structure. A typical animated property is "co-produced" with a number of participants from various countries. The government plays an active role through tax waivers, production subsides (in return for home country rights) and broadcast legislation.
In India a new animation revolution is underway with Generation Next being exposed to world-class animation from TV channels such as Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Hungama, Pogo and Animax. This is also creating a domestic market for Indian animation products.
India has the right balance of ideas and talent, but unless action is taken on the training front, we are going to lose our place in the international arena.
The Animation Producers Association of India which was officially inaugurated by Sushma Swaraj, former union minister for information and broadcasting, at the 33rd International Film Festival of India on 3 October 2002 in New Delhi has been working closely with the Indian government to create a training strategy for the animation industry in India.
The association organised a special interactive workshop with the French animation industry and the French association of film animation producers a few years ago and is now working with the University of Southern California's film department, New York University's film and video school, Canadian Animation institutes and the International Emmy Award Council to create training workshops.
As Indian animation skills and products find newer markets globally, the world of animation is suddenly taking India seriously. All important manufacturers of animation software and hardware consider India a major buyer for their products.
International animation companies regularly look at Indian studios to update themselves on the high quality of original animation being produced in India. Even Robert Iger, who has been recently elected chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, is slated to visit India next month along with the current CEO, Michael D. Eisner.
Animation clearly is a sunrise sector in the Indian entertainment industry.
And as Subhash Chandra had foreseen: "It's only the beginning ."Bhuvan Lall is the president and CEO of LALL Entertainment, a company based in Los Angeles and New Delhi.