For several months I’ve been monitoring all the animation activity in the constantly growing animation industry (and fandom) in India. This report, mainly culled from stories posted on Animation Xpress for November 2013, is so large that I have to divide it into two columns. Here is the first part.
November 8. It’s the end of Diwali today – from November 3 to 7, 2013, actually; the Hindu five-day Festival of Lights — sort of like a Hindu Christmas and New Year’s celebration wrapped into one. Animation Xpress asked animation studios across India to send in Diwali cards. Most of these are still cartoons rather than animation, but it’s like American animation studios’ Christmas cards; still worth looking at.
November 8. On November 7, Hungama TV launched VIR, the Robot Boy, a new animated children’s series. “Talking to AnimationXpress.com about how is VIR different from other Super Heroes, Ketan Mehta, Chairman and Managing Director,Maya Digital Studios,says ”We created VIR to bring out an innovative character who can be a Science Fiction Robot, having contemporary modern super powers, beyond mythological concepts.” VIR is a heartwarming story of a robot with human like qualities and a unique blend of emotions and superhuman abilities. The series follows his humorous escapades as he manages to save through his quick thinking and a wide array of robotic abilities, along with his closest friends – Chulbul the pet Donkey, 8 year old Imli and Gintu, his magical Djinn. VIR is naughty intelligent, funny ,compassionate, playful and street smart yet has a golden heart, all of which define the kids of today.”
Er … didn’t Osamu Tezuka do this with Astro Boy, more than fifty years ago?
November 12. “‘Histree’ Wins at 3rd Pune Film Fest 2013. ‘Histree’- a 2D Animation short won the Animation Award at the 3rd Pune Film Fest 2013. This 2 mins 21 seconds social awareness short, directed by Mikil Puthran, targets the Indian society as a whole, focusing on the importance of conservation of nature.
Talking to AnimationXpress.com on the key points that this short focuses on, Mikil Puthran, Director of ‘Histree’ and Stalwarts Entertainment, says ‘This short highlights the plight of the present environment scenario, the careless attitude of human beings towards nature and how urbanization results in the destruction of nature and its resources.’”
November 19. “Mumbai based Framebot Studio, jumpstarted this year by Hormaz Baria, a renowned face of Indian Animation Industry, has delivered CGI for Kellogg’s Krrish 3 Promo TVC. A Toy CG model of Hrithik Roshan in Krrish Avatar along with a Bag tag was created by studio. Both these CGI models are an actual representation of the products which come as a gift with the new Kellogg’s Chocó’s Krrish 3 Special Pack.
“This 25 second TVC, marks Framebot’s debut in the animated commercials sphere. The studio is also producing Kireet Khurana’s next animated film ‘Jugnoo’, whose very first teaser is now in its completion stage.”
Frankly, this TV commercial of a Krrish 3 plastic action figure jumping out of a box of Kellogg’s Chocó cereal is not very exciting. But Framebot’s animation “team was given a deadline of four days to complete the project”, and you can’t expect much animation in only four days. But what is Krrish 3? Wow! It seems that the Bollywood movie industry is making its own VFX-intensive live-action superhero features, just like The Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Thor in the U.S. Since the American superhero movies are arguably animated considering all the VFX shots in them, here is the trailer for Krrish 3, subtitled in English. You can get the whole 141-minute Krrish 3 on YouTube, but in Hindi.
(To be more specific, “Bollywood” refers to movies made in Mumbai, formerly Bombay, on India’s northwest coast, invariably in Hindi. “Kollywood” refers to movies made in Chennai, formerly Madras, in India’s far southeast corner, invariably in Tamil. “Mollywood” refers to movies made in Kerala, in India’s southwest on the Malabar coast, in Malayalam. Do you care about “Tollywood”, “Lollywood”, and others? Don’t forget, India has 22 official languages, mostly limited to local geographic areas. Hindi is the most widespread, and the Mumbai area has the most and biggest animation (also live-action) studios, which is why most of Animation Xpress’ coverage is of Bollywood productions in Hindi. When India became independent in 1947, the new national government briefly tried to make Hindi the official language of the whole country, which resulted in furious protests and riots in other areas, leading to the current compromise.)
November 22. “Arjun: The Warrior Prince & Goopi Gawaya Bagha Bajaiya Win at 18th Intl. Children’s Film Festival India. Indian animation stood out at 18th International Children’s Film Festival India with Arnab Chaudhri’s Arjun: The Warrior Prince bagging Golden Elephant trophy for Best Animation Feature- Children’s Jury and Shilpa Ranade’s ‘Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya’ winning the Jury Prize for Best Artwork. The films have won in the International Animation competition category.” The 18th International Children’s Film Festival India was on 14-20 November in Hyderabad.
“Arjun: The Warrior Prince first win was FICCI BAF Award in Animated Feature Film [Theatrical Release] Category. On the victory at Children’s Film Festival, Arnab Chaudhri, Director of the film, says, ‘I’m thrilled on winning this award! It’s fantastic to see that the movie has been loved by the kid audience.’”
Arjun: The Warrior Prince was produced by UTV Animation and released theatrically in India on May 25 by Walt Disney Productions (whose subsidiary, The Walt Disney Company (Southeast Asia) Pte. Ltd. in Singapore, bought UTV Software Communications Ltd. in June 2012). Judging by the English-language trailer, Arjun is dubbed in Hindi. It also played at Disney’s showplace El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on September 2-9 to qualify for a 2013 Oscar nomination as Best Animated Film.
“So after the success of Arjun, what is the next from Arnab Chaudhri? He revealed this exclusively to AnimationXpress.com, ‘I’m directing and producing a full length mythological animated feature ‘Circle of Fire’ that revolves around mythical character Abhimanyu.’
‘Circle of Fire’ is set for delivery in 2016. Arnab adds more here, ‘We started working on the movie about 6 months ago and it is currently in its Pre Production stage.’”
“This fest’s opening film ‘Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya’ swept 500 kid audiences off their feet. This award comes as a second one, for the maker Shilpa Ranade, as earlier this month the feature was honored with the Asifa India’s Award of Excellence.
We chatted with Director Shilpa Ranade to understand what made it win the Best Artwork Award and she says, ‘The story line of the movie has a complete new world, color setting, is filled with humor and has quirky characters and sets.’”
It is probably significant that other news reports of the 18th International Children’s Film Festival India barely mention the animation. There were 16 categories. According to The Indian Express for November 21, the big news was “Kauwboy, a Dutch film about a 10-year-old boy and a bird directed by Boudewijn Koole, won the Golden Elephant Award for best film in the ‘International Live Action’ category at the 18th International Children’s Film Festival this evening. The festival concluded today.
German film ‘Das Pferd Auf Dem Balkon’ (A horse on the Balcony) won the Golden Plaque for second-best film in the same section.” In animation, “The International Animation Competition section, which was added only this year, saw ‘Ernest Et Celestine’ winning the award for Best Animation Feature while ‘Zarafa’ winning the Golden Plaque for second-best animation film.
‘Kauwboy’ and ‘Ernest Et Celestine’ won Rs 2 lakh cash awards [Wikipedia says that a lakh in this context is 100,000 rupees] apart from certificates and trophies. Hindi film ‘Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya’, directed by Shilpa Ranade (which opened the festival) won the jury prize for best artwork under the Competition International Animation section. The film is a Hindi version of the Satyajit Ray’s popular Bengali film ‘Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne’.
The children’s jury chose Arnab Chawdhury’s ‘Arjun’ while special jury prize went to `Moon Man’.”
Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya is Hindi for The World of Goopi and Bagha. The film (recommended for ages 9-up), produced by Paperboat Animation Studios, played at the Toronto International Film Festival 2013, whose notes gave it this synopsis: “Banished from their respective kingdoms for causing a disruption with their cacophonous musical ‘talents,’ singer Goopi and the dholak-playing Bagha accidentally meet deep in the heart of the forest. While trying to scare off a tiger by singing and drumming, their ear-splitting music warms the ears of the ghosts and spirits who live there. Somehow enthralled by their dreadful music, the king of the ghosts grants them four magical boons and sends them on to new lives in the neighbouring Kingdom of Shundi. Thanks to their new gifts, Goopi and Bagha are appointed the court musicians, but are quickly caught up in a dispute between the King of Shundi and his long-lost brother. It will be up to them to use their boons (and their brains!) to prevent war between the kingdoms — and win the hands of two beautiful princesses.” Describing the art style as “quirky” seems an understatement, but both the judges and the young audience loved it. Director Shilpa Ranade is a veteran Indian animator and book illustrator; this is her first animated feature. Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya was also submitted for ASIFA-India’s International Animation Day 13 in Mumbai on November 9, where it won the Award for Excellence in the Best Professional – Animated Feature Film category.
Finally, this has nothing to do with Animation Xpress, but I may as well mention it here. I was recently asked what I knew about Blue Sky Studios’ Robots 2? I answered that no sequels were ever made to Blue Sky’s 2005 animated movie, and as far as I knew, none were planned. In reply, I was sent this trailer on YouTube:
Duh! Well, from the credits it appears to be an unauthorized sequel made in Thailand for release in India during 2012, with an obviously American voice cast. Being a Thai production would explain why it was never mentioned by Animation Xpress. Judging by this trailer, it has absolutely nothing to do with Blue Sky’s Robots, or the Ramayana. In fact, considering the title of Yak, the Giant King buried in this trailer, I suspected that the Thai studio never made it as a sequel to Robots, and the tie-in was created by the Indian distributor.
Apparently so. Wikipedia says that Yak, the Giant King was an October 2012 release by Workpoint Pictures, a studio in a city near Bangkok, for distribution in Thailand, India and Malaysia. I can believe that the Thai animators may have been inspired by the robot character design in Blue Sky’s feature. Yak, the Giant King is technically a version of the Ramayana set in the future with a cast of robots. Yak is a renamed Tosakan, an enemy of Hanuman, the Monkey God. The CGI does look very professional, and the American-voiced trailer implies that someone tried to sell it to an American distributer. I would like to see it. Thanks, Wikipedia, for clarifying this for me.
Next week: the rest of November.