Back In The Day
Though there were many attempts at producing films with ‘magic tricks’; thoughts and ideas were publicized with a few animated stunts in ‘Raja Harishchandra’ (1913). It was a silent movie.
Many magic tricks later, the first film by the Indian Animation Industry was produced in 1957!! Yes, even before the Indian Market introduced the color television! ‘The Banyan Deer’ (1957) was made by a group of Indian animators under the guidance of Disney Animator Clair Weeks, who had worked on ‘Bambi’ (1942) and was on a mission to establish and train India’s first animation studio as part of the American Technical Co-operation mission. Out of this group, 2 people went on to be animation pioneers in India. Ram Mohan, known as the veteran in the Indian animation industry today, worked as an animator till the late 1960’s, thereafter, establishing a production of his own in 1972. Bhimsain Khurana, known as the father of Indian animation, became independent in 1971 and made another animated film ‘Ek Anek aur Ekta’ (1974), which was the first animation film aired on the famous local channel, Doordarshan. His son Kireet Khurana would go on to walk in his father’s footsteps.
Educating The Young
Most animated series and short movies in the 1980’s were dedicated to teaching lessons mainly to the younger generation. The Hindi version, of Aesop’s Fables, was one of them. Children love cartoons, and this seemed the best way to get through to them in an educational way. Some folk tales in the form of short films were also transformed into animations for entertainment purpose.
Bending Beyond Boundaries
Animated characters alongside actors, was first seen in the movie ‘Raja Chinna Roja’ (1989). A director’s wish took animation to the next level. Bringing actors into the animation world not only entertained kids but also got the older generation intrigued. Later on, actors started voicing cartoons in the late 1990’s. Initially, cartoons were dubbed by non-actors but soon a new trend hit the market where actors were lending their voices to dub many cartoon characters. This is probably as India is obsessed with the Bollywood film industry, because the actor is known, these cartoons are also enjoyed by adults. Yes! It is all about knowing your audience and making them grow. Another advantage is that the dubbing, of national and international animated films, had created a notable scope of employment for Indian mimicry artists.
What’s an Industry without Challenges?
According to The Economic Times in 2008, there were a lot of challenges faced by this industry in terms of releasing a full-featured animated movie in India. Lack of developed market, low level of professionalism coupled with diminutive investment in technology are some of them, which needed to be overcome on priority basis in order to put the industry on the path to great success. Further, the Indian audience is, till date, skeptical about spending on visiting the cinema to watch an Indian animated movie though you will find quite a few interested in watching the Western ones.
In 2010, the Indian animation industry was expected to be worth 2.5 billion dollars! And it was predicted that it will grow by 23% in the next four years. The three main factors that were to push animation in India to grow were low cost of production, highly skilled labor and of course, the government’s support in producing original content locally. But because there are no tax breaks or subsidies by the government with regards to this industry, it is impossible to produce a lot of local animated content in the Indian market. Most of the shows watched by children are either from America or Japan and only dubbed in India. Skilled labor in this industry is in plenty but professionalism has yet to hit us.
Animation Cronies Today
Today, animation has found itself expressive and communicative in various fields like e-education, medical/mechanical information, architecture visualization, web designing and various segments of entertainment such as TV broadcast, animated movies, cartoons, computer games, direct-to-DVD and VFX. Many of these are now being done with the help of computer animation where animated images are generated by using computer graphics.
Finally a Blockbuster, but…
The animations, in ‘Life of Pi’ (2012) and ‘Prometheus’ (2012), were impeccably done by a number of artists in Mumbai. Every shot had been an exploration of art. For example, the ocean had to be visually stunning and hence, every effort was made to make this animation look real as seen in the final movie. This movie received a number of awards for its animation and visual effects and it gave the Indian animation industry hope that they will soon be recognized globally. To everyone’s dismay, the main company that hired the animators, filed for bankruptcy soon after the movie’s release, and was sold to another animation company (with a wholly owned subsidiary in Mumbai). This sent around 200 people looking for another source of income.
Outsourcing – Most Feasible
So, as you see, either the film is not a hit as the audience possess a different mind-set or the film is a hit but the companies making them fall apart and there is no continuity to take this industry to greater heights or release a blockbuster. Perhaps another hit in the following years would show some positive direction to the Indian animation industry. Until then, the industry continues to be an outsourced one where they earn a respectable amount to produce imagery for international markets for movies to be released in the US, France, etc. They also do imagery for the Bollywood animated movies coming up in India.
End of the day we see that the evolution of animators in India has come a long way since the beginning and now, more than ever, with the increasing availability of Professional main stream education and Skill Development programs in India the Indian Youth have better opportunities to enhance and showcase their skills as Animators and Visual Effects Artists. The future in these Digital Media, Animation & Entertainment Arts looks brighter than ever before.