evolve more mature ways of relationships between studios and talent
a glass full, or half a glass empty, the difference is in how you see
An hour spent with Ashish Kulkarni, one of the prime movers and shakers
in the Indian Animation Industry and one cannot avoid getting affected
by his optimism and conviction.
The debacle of several studios (big & small) in the last few months
is a big and important question. Commenting on the issue, Kulkarni shares
that "Life for the last few months has not been easy. I still wake
up in the middle of night thinking about how to put all the hard working
artists back in the creative environment. It's a different challenge to
train the talent pool and make them production ready, its another challenge
to keep the highly experienced & productive talent engaged all the
Convinced that the Indian animation scene has matured, Kulkarni who foresees
a great future points out, "I feel greatly relieved and satisfied
that the maturity amongst the talent pool in India has evolved over the
years. I have a great regard for all those animation artists who stick
around and complete the projects. The artists have matured and become
more responsible, the production pipelines have evolved, Indian studios
have delivered quality projects and on time. I foresee a great future
for the Indian animation industry"
Animation 'xpress' Anand Gurnani met up with Ashish Kulkarni while
he was in Mumbai adjudging for an animation awards function.
Here are excerpts from the conversation
was one of the top 4 animation studios in the country. What went wrong?
I wish to refrain from commenting on it.
What about the artists that you had been working with for so many years?
Some of them have taken up jobs elsewhere, many of them are utilizing
the time to create their own short films.
what about your future plans?
I am in the midst of making a business plan; I have spoken to most of
the prospective clients and plan to set up a high-end digital animation
studio that will cater to the animation long form and feature film market.
Given an opportunity, I would like to help all the artists who worked
with me in the past and those who aspire to work on high quality long
form animation and feature films. I would like to really see that they
are constantly working so that they keep up with their production tempos.
plan is to set up a fully animated feature film facility and also create
original content from India. I am also involved in raising fund for creating
and acquiring original animation content.
You have been actively involved with the industry for the past 6-7
years. What has been your experience?
I feel all the animation players in India have put in their best efforts
by constantly marketing their services and delivering in the last 6-7
years, against all odds. All the existing studios have been able to create
and establish the brand called India on the international animation front.
It was not easy at all. 6 years ago we faced a lot of hurdles in pushing
the industry, we had to create a brand for India in the global market
and on the home turf we also had to spread across the message to parents
& artists that animation was a great career. Only now, that we are
able to understand the nature & challenges of animation industry.
We have got used to the ups and downs of the production cycles.
My experience, particularly in establishing the state of the art production
pipeline, process automation for efficient working and production tracking
was very good. The capability of developing the proprietary tools &
plug-ins is a big achievement. This unique combination of creative &
technical teams to ease out the pressures on the artist will take the
Indian studios far ahead of its competition.
feel all the animation players in India have put in their best efforts
by constantly marketing their services and delivering in the last
6-7 years, against all odds"
you foresee for the future?
We are at a threshold in India right now when the artists have consistently
delivered great quality work, it is time now to nurture most of the experienced
artists to get into feature film production and get the new talent from
various schools to do television and DTH production. We all have started
with 2D, moved to 3D and Flash productions for broadcast quality. Worked
on stabilizing the deliveries and progressively are moving on to DTH &
feature film productions.
What I really foresee is that there would emerge a few big studios that
would get into feature film production by end of 2006 and early 2007.
I foresee that as a bright future for the Indian animation industry &
the beginning of a new era.
The launch of the new TV networks and a deeper penetration of animation
content in APAC regions is of a significant importance to the animation
industry in this part of the world. Most of the stakeholders and the networks
would soon look for original content from ASIAN region. This is the time
that most of the creative talent can start creating original ideas and
take the help of the studios to take these ideas for international production.
I really foresee is that there would emerge a few big studios that
would get into feature film production by end of 2006 and early
would like to say that the core teams would get attached to the bigger
studios & most of them would constantly work on project basis. But
long-term contracts cannot be ruled out. Great artists will always find
long-term contracts/ relationships with studios. There would evolve more
mature ways of relationships between studios and talent where both of
them would be contractually bound and would ensure the well being of the
talent as well as ensure the completion of the productions.
I foresee in the next few years a lot more expatriates from the western
world and experienced producers and directors moving to India to work
on several projects and the Indian animation talent will have a first
hand experience of working with most of the producers and directors not
through the internet but on the studio in India. I also see placement
of a high-end creative Indian talent in the pre production teams in Europe
and the US. I feel it is a significant step for India to be a part of
the pre production process.
Indians are capable of becoming producers also rather than doing just
the BPO kind of operations consistently. I understand that there would
emerge a co-existence of service work and IP creation with most of the
studios in the years to come. The positive side is that many studios and
experienced professionals in animation are looking at a niche of IP creation
alone as a business model and what India really needs is few serious joint
ventures with the entertainment giants from the west and few Indian corporations
to look at diversifying or logically expanding into animation as a serious
about the future, I would also like to emphasize on the need to focus
"If content is King, then
quality is queen. Timely delivery is the prince and communication
is the princess"
sincerely believe that, "If content is King, then quality is queen.
Timely delivery is the prince and communication is the princess".
Nothing in the creative world would be really respected or successful
if we don't look into the quality aspect. Two
other important factors are communication with the artists and directors,
and production teams ensuring timely delivery.
the talent base? What about training?
I have been spending good amount of my time visiting various cities and
small towns to address the students and their parents on making careers
in animation. It's been a very encouraging time for the industry to really
see a great support from the media and especially the effort by all animation
educational academies trying to spread the message on careers in animation
and reaching out to the smaller centers.
still need to establish
a proper university recognized
long term degree course after 12th
for animation art and filmmaking"
hurdle had been convincing the parents that their child by drawing painting,
sculpting and acting could make a serious and successful career. By virtue
of being in animation, the work created by these young artists sitting
in India will be watched and appreciated by global audiences for years
Over the past 3 years we have established a good amount of penetration
of animation training schools all over India and built an ecosystem for
the industry. Secondly we have done timely analysis and course correction
in the curriculums to cater to the industry needs, we anticipate that
the existing effort in training will not only bring in a fresh and production
ready talent pool but also add 1000 to 1500 artists every year for the
next 3 years and the number is bound to grow beyond 2008.
A positive thing about India is that the industry is growing in several
cities. The first few studios had started in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai
and then into Trivandrum, New Delhi and Bangalore and now Kolkata, Pune
and Nagpur are getting added as production destinations, this way the
talent pool is getting to know about animation as a career and having
an opportunity to work closer to the hometowns. Of course the high-end
creative talent will associate themselves with the bigger studios doing
high-end work and would be willing to relocate.
In contrast the trend has been very different in many countries where
the concentration has been mostly in & around one major city in the
all that, I also wish to point out that we still require establishing
a proper university recognized long term degree course after 12th for
animation art and filmmaking. We also need to train the trainers. The
biggest weakness that we had was the quality of trainers. While most of
the good and experienced talent was always busy with production deadlines.
The nurturing of the new talent is generally not done full-heartedly.
We need to define a rotation programme amongst the high end & specialized
industry-experienced artists to visit training institutes in the region
and share knowledge regularly. This I believe is of outmost importance
especially in the areas of animation, lighting, rigging,
texturing, story boarding, character design, styling etc.
need to define a rotation programme amongst the high end & specialized
industry-experienced artists to visit training institutes in the
region and share knowledge regularly"
would you have for aspiring animators and artists?
We have mostly seen that the sense of timing and acting in new animators
is hard to find. Nobody tells them how the learning of all the process
from "script to screen" is important for the first few years.
How an artist can map the special skills they posses to the area of specialization?
I have seen that each and every person wants to become an animator.
An animator's requirement is the sense of
timing, proportion, acting & composition. A great sculptor must concentrate
on becoming a 3D modeler. A good painter can concentrate on texturing
skills. A good break-dancer may become a rigging artist?. just joking.
A good architect can be a set designer. A good painter with lighting sense
can concentrate on becoming a lighting expert and experiment with various
lighting tools in the software.
We had to concentrate and spend valuable resources within the studio to
sharpen these skills so far. Now the training institutes must concentrate
on these areas & the studios in the region must send the best talent
as a visiting faculty to the institutes to ensure the fine results.
At the same time most of the talent is in a hurry to get on to the studios
to work. The guidance must be provided at the institute level to do more
then one course before getting into the studio. If the doctors have to
spend 5 years for MBBS, two years in internship & two years for specialization,
even before they start operating on their own. How can we take it so easy
in animation to do short cuts in 6-9 months and get into the production?
The basics in film making frame by frame, scene composition, acting, lighting,
expression, camera & each and every aspect has to be learned before
stepping into the studio.
The large number of youngsters jumping into the animation sector considering
it to be a multimedia and multi-stream opportunity mostly ends up in them
spending a lot of money and no jobs. This is my serious concern.
My advice to the parents and young artists inspiring into making a career
into animation is that, one must select the right course, complete multiple
courses and specialize in the interest areas and then step into the studio.
After all, selecting to be a professional in animation is stepping into
the serious business of film making with universal appeal. The developing
budgets for broadcast quality content per minute can rang from $10,000
low end to $ 40,000 for high end animation from script to screen. For
the fully animated feature films its been over one million US dollars
How do you expect that the studio to take a chance by selecting a young
artist who is not trained enough to create animation to match these quality
and high budgetary content development!
have been quite a few figures about the size of the Indian animation industry
and the potential. What do you make of them?
has been in media analysis & space selling and so I respect all the
figures that have been put out after a lot of research. These figures
were put together in 2002 projecting revenues for the next 5-6 years.
We have already lost 3 years discussing and disputing these figures. The
time has come that we sit together and talk about how to achieve the figures
rather than dispute them. Else we will have to put up with the lower figures
and be contented with them.
time has come that we sit together and talk about how to achieve
the figures rather than dispute them"
It is high
time that the top 20 IT companies and top 20 industry houses start looking
at investment in animation seriously in some form or the other. It is
just about time, for the consolidation within the Indian animation industry.
We have already seen a great response from advertising agencies, ad filmmakers
and live action producers. In the last few years you must have definitely
seen India cinema using a lot more animation, the frequency of animated
advertising films has increased on Indian television. An overall appetite
and acceptance of animated content has certainly increased in the Asian
At the same
time, we must encourage the top 10 global TV networks, entertainment companies
and gaming companies to have an India strategy and relationships with
Indian studios. This will help establish a higher degree of quality standards
in the overall system.
I think that
this is the most appropriate time for the Indian animation industry to
position itself in the global arena. If we get delayed, the global industry
will position India differently.