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NASSCOM Animation India 2006

I had the wonderful experience of attending Nasscomm’s Animation India 2006. I spent two days learning loads of stuff and getting a lot of perspective on an industry about which I had the sketchiest of ideas. There were world beaters at the conference – people who were involved in the Simpsons, Teletubbies, the Rugrats, Shrek, Madagascar, Hanuman… There were also game builders and TV channels.

Here are a few quotes I jotted down – these are just sound bites I managed to remember long enough to take down, and are not representative of what the speakers spoke. Again, almost all the quotes are remembered, and therefore may not stand up in a court of law! I quote from memory, and mine is notorious for remembering only what it wants to!

So, here goes:

Ms. Ratnaprabha, IT Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh:

All villages will have 100 mbps connectivity.

Terry Thoren, CEO, Vibrant Animation:

Animators are like gypsies – they go where the great projects are. They will travel the world for a great project.

Nandish Domlur, Founder and MD (India), Paprikaas Animation Studios:

We need a lot of handholding from western talent – on creatives, not on technology.

A key challenge during production is hiring experienced overseas talent – as supervisors and technical directors.

V.G. Samanth, Director, Silvertoons, of Hanuman fame:

Some people tell me there are technical defects in Hanuman. I ask them: Are all Indian movies free of technical defects?

Hanuman was made in spare time by Silvertoons.

Vishnu Atreya, Senior Programming Manager, Cartoon Network India and South Asia, displayed a chart showing that Cartoon Network was the third most watched channel by children in India, with 10%. Number one was Star, but the surprise was the number two channel, which had 15%. It was Sun TV! Vishnu Atreya attributed this to Indian homes being predominantly single-TV households and parental control over television.

Chris Bateman, Managing Director, International Hobo:

For hardcore gamers, gameplay is a lifestyle engagement!

Tony Garcia, CEO, FXLabs Studios:

When someone said that the budget for a short animated film used to be in the region of one or two million USD: That would be just the Coke budget for the team now!

Cindy Armstrong, VP, Business Development, Sony Online Entertainment:

In Asia, a gamer is a cool guy. In Europe, a gamer is a nerd who can’t find a date on Saturday night. In the US, it falls somewhere between the two.

She also said that for Sony Online Entertainment’s Everquest, 83% of members were male, while in the game, only 50% of characters played were male. She said that it could be because of the fact that female characters would be helped along in the initial stages more that male characters!

Theresa Plummer-Andrews, Managing Director, Plum Trees TV

We were lucky that not one Brand Manager, not one Sales Manager, interfered in any way with the creative process of Bob the Builder.

We do not have too many American pre-school programmes on British television. They are too worthy, too yucky, too educational and too sentimental.

There are presently 22 kids’ channels in the UK, with two more set to be launched.

It does not matter whether it is stop-frame, claymation, 2D, 3D or CGI – only the content matters.

Keep your own myths for your local markets.

Sudhish Rambhotla, Chairman and MD, Color Chips India Limited:

Forget the world animation map – we [the Indian animation industry] are not even on the Indian animation map.

Jyothirmoy Saha, VP, Animation and New Media, UTV Software Communication:

On major animation players bemoaning the lack of government support in India: There is no governmental support in Japan and the US, and yet their animation is among the best in the world.

We have to wait a little bit for the industry to mature before asking for trade barriers and similar governmental support.

Tapaas Chakravarti, MD, DQ Entertainment:

Amazing quality is coming out of India.

Creative abilities must get priority over any other production decision.

In 2005, the animation industry was worth 51.7 billion USD globally. In India, it was worth a mere 387 million USD. It is expected to grow by 30% in 2006.

Mark Lorenzen, Associate Professor, Copenhagen Business School

Denmark has a great storytelling tradition. It’s not about bringing home Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes. It’s about telling a good story.

State support usually contaminates industry. Education and infrastructure are not support – they are basic.

Joan Vogelesang, President and CEO, Toon Boom Animation Inc.:

Japanese homes are very small, with many rooms being multifunctional. [Explaining the popularity of Gameboy and similar handheld gaming devices in Japan.]

On the Indian animation industry:
Strengths:
Technologically strong
Enthusiasm to do good work
Rich local content to connect with local Indian audiences

Weaknesses:
Lack of unity
Undercutting prices
Need for creative training

Opportunities:
Use technology to make games more appealing and interactive
Take advantage of broadband and cellular phone network growth
Develop new user experience

Threats:
Rapidly evolving technology demands constant upgradation of skills and knowledge
Lack of creative talent

Alok Kejriwal, Founder and CEO, Contests2win.com

This guy’s presentation was titled “Animated Characters and there role…[sic]” In spite of this, his presentation was quite engaging, and the thoughts he came up with were quite cool. Mainly, they had to do with the uselessness of traditional advertising media – print, television and radio – and the advent of what will replace them – engaging online promotions where the consumer chooses to be advertised to.

Rajiv C, Director, Green Gold Animation

This person’s presentation was peppered with inaccuracies, inconsistencies and a lot of rhetoric.

Excerpts [My comments in square brackets]:

India requires 2000 hours of content every year. The UK is a smaller country with a smaller population. So they require only about 500 hours of content.
[He was referring to the hours of animated content required, assuming there are three children’s channels broadcasting animated content for two hours a day in India. What makes this exceptionally ridiculous, never mind the fact that hours of content required can never be a function of the size or the population of a country, is Theresa Plummer-Andrews’ mention, just a few hours before, that there are 22 children’s channels in the UK!]
We need to outsource to countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangaldesh, and maybe 20 years later, back to the US and Canada.
[Does this even need an explanation!!!]

Ashish Kulkarni, Founder and CEO, Anirights Infomedia Private Limited:

“Skillsets” is the biggest single item on any animation company’s P&L statement.

You can teach technical skills to an artist, but you cannot teach artistic skills to a technician.

[In India] Talent with skills, even though they haven’t proved themselves, are being absorbed by studios at higher and higher rates.

Skills of existing talents need to be enhanced continuously.

Sanjay Mistry, Worldwide Trainer, Electronic Arts, UK

Internal training at EA: between projects, a couple of weeks are spent learning new or upgraded tools.

Development Teams consist of:

    Production, art, engineering and game design
    Artists include modellers, character modellers, character animators, texture artists, technical artists and art directors
    Level builders

Game development takes large teams building complicated products. Communication skills and team-working skills are essential.

Manu Ittina, Managing Director, Ittina Animation Studios

It’s all about the people. Indian animation houses need to realise this. It’s not about the machine; it’s not about the tools.

You can’t rush art.

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