Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Animated Ambitions

The renewed interest in comic books — the sector had been dormant for some years, with the advent of cable television and 24x7 cartoon channels — started a couple of years ago. Analysts point to the growing popularity of gaming and graphic novels among older teens and young adults helping the trend spread to younger consumer groups as well. Then, in 2006, a group of non-resident Indians, in partnership with maverick entrepreneur Richard Branson, author and spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and film maker Shekhar Kapur, launched Virgin Comics to not only address the comic book market, but also tap into the Indian creative pool for the global market. While the arrival of new competition propelled the older players to rexamine their growth strategy, what finally moved them into higher gear was a change in management at both publications this year. Last month, India Book House sold Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle for an unconfirmed Rs 10 crore to ACK Media, a newly formed entertainment and education company for pre-teens and teenagers, while Geodesic Information Systems paid a similar sum for Chandamama in March. Why is everyone treating comics as such serious business? The revival is heavily influenced by the huge market potential — 300 million Indians in the 6- to 17-year age group. Granted, they’re not all likely to read comics — the 300-million figure covers all income groups and education levels — but the publishers aren’t complaining. Chandamama India CEO L Subramanyan claims that sales of the magazine (newsstand price: Rs 15) have increased from 160,000 a month to 360,000 over the past year, while ACK Media reports monthly sales of 140,000 for Tinkle (Rs 40 per issue). Virgin refuses to divulge sales numbers. Also, according to estimates by PricewaterhouseCoopers global media and entertainment outlook from 2006-10, while magazine publishing revenues in India (comics come under this category) is expected to grow at a CAGRof 13.3 per cent, revenues from home videos (CAGR 41.5 per cent), TV networks (11.2 per cent) and filmed entertainment (11.9 per cent) are also expected to deliver healthy growth rates. The global opportunity is equally big, points out Sharad Devarajan, co-founder, CEO and publisher of Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation. The market for comics and related products like merchandise and films is estimated at $40 billion (roughly Rs 160,000 crore). Japan, with its Manga books, makes up 30 per cent of the market, followed by the US and Europe. In stark contrast, India accounts for under 1 per cent. The players are determined to change that. Which is why they are planning to take comics beyond the traditional book format to not just films and television serials, but also online games, social networking sites for children and so on. ACK Media CEO and co-founder Samir Patil agrees there is a huge global audience — primarily NRIs — waiting to lap up diverse and differentiated Indian content. It plans to reach them through online services like the ACK Shop, which also sells products made by competitors such as Karadi Tales, Tulika Books and so on. Meanwhile, it is building an online base with a children-oriented website, tinkleonline: the “social networking” site allows children to earn points and exchange them for games, books and toys. Needless to say, the site also allows online shopping of ACK products. Chandamama, too, has turned to new media. Apart from uploading its stories on the Internet, it has also tied up with satellite radio service provider Worldspace to bring the Indian story telling tradition live through radio. In a couple of weeks, the company will also announce its tie-up with a national FM radio station for a weekend story-telling slot. Television and film are also part of the new focus. Chandamama has already created a story cell that will produce scripts for animation films and programmes, while ACK is exploring tie-ups with production houses that will replicate its comic storyboards on film. At present, neither ACK nor Geodesic are looking at creating new characters — they just don’t see the need. Amar Chitra Katha, for instance, published more than 400 titles over the past 40 years, while Tinkle’s characters, too, enjoy high recall levels. “It will take years for consumers to become acquainted with new characters,” points out Patil. Geodesic, too, plans to leverage its existing strengths — Chandamama reportedly has a story bank that will last 15 years. That’s not Virgin’s strategy, though. In fact, the huge dearth of new original characters is the raison d’etre for the organisation — Mickey Mouse was created in the 1920s, Batman a decade later and Spiderman in the 1960s. They still remain the most popular animation characters. The only recent addition is Pok√©mon, and even that is over 10 years old. “We decided to focus on India as not an outsourcing destination but as the source for new comic characters,” says Devarajan. In line with that decision, Virgin Comics are made in India, for a global audience. The company already has a 200-executive-strong studio in Bangalore and plans to set up two more across the country next year. In fact, when it comes to the beyond-books strategy, Virgin is far ahead of the other two players. In a move that will facilitate transit of its comics into Hollywood films, the company has started a Director’s Cut Comic Line series where it has associated with Hollywood directors. In this series, Hollywood directors such as Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Terry Gilliam, Shekhar Kapur, Jonathan Mostow, Ed Burns, and Nicolas Cage associate themselves with the creation of a comic title. For instance, Guy Ritchie’s Gamekeeper, which was released through Virgin Comics, will be adapted into a film co-produced by Warner Bros. Virgin has also tied up with two Indian production houses — UTV Motion Pictures and Studio 18 — to create Indian superheroes and horror films, respectively. The company has also entered into a partnership with Sony to develop online games on its Ramayan 3392 AD title. For the television medium, it has a partnership with Sci-Fi channel. The power of content from India is also a top draw. Gotham Chopra, chief creative officer, Virgin Comics, claims that Virgin’s titles like Virulents, The Sadhu, Ramayan 3392 AD and Devi, all part of the Shakti series, have fared as well as Director’s Cut books. “India is the biggest celebrity because of its mystery and exoticism,” he says. (courtsy:Business Standard)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Animation in music album Shaam Tanha

Click to Watch the Video
The third video of music band Agnee's self-titled debut album is making waves not only for some great music but also for the extensive use of animation in it. 2mins 04 seconds of classical animation has been incorporated in the video of 4 mins 33 seconds which intersperses seamlessly with the live footage featuring the group. A team of 30 people has worked on the animation and the job was completed in three months. It has been developed using avid, premiere, 3D max and combustion. The creative part in the animation has been done by final year students of various animation and design institutes of Pune. These youngsters were experts in cell animation. "Basically it's not about what technology we used to create content, but it's about the CONTENT itself. We wanted to give it a very retro India animated feel. The characters were finalized after a million thoughts and discussions!" stated Alok.
Added Mohan, "We had not seen any of their previous work. But they took a lot of pains on the storyboard and showed it to us with all important scenes and characters. The physical drawings looked too good as they had done great hard work. They have been successful in maintaining a balance between the band's scenes and the animated story. We feel this is a path breaking venture and we are very happy with it."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cadbury gorilla is voted favourite TV ad for 2007

Cadbury’s have just launched a £6.2m campaign for Dairy Milk featuring a gorilla playing the drum solo of Phil Collins’ track ‘In the Air Tonight’. The ad was written and directed by Sony Bravia ‘balls’ creative director Juan Cabral of Fallon London. Rather than wet our appeite for gorgeous tasting chocolate, the ad simply aims to entertain.Laurence Green, planning director of Fallon, “Cadbury traditionally did well-built ads for the interruption age when consumers had an implicit media deal with advertisers. In exchange for free TV they would allow us to interrupt their programmes with commercials,” says Green. “The nation has a massive soft spot for CDM and it is deeply embedded in the national psyche. For a brand that is so well known, it’s arguable whether the old style interruption advertising model is the best model for the future. So we are trying to engage more genuinely with our audience.”
The website TellyAds.com named the top 20 favourite adverts based on the number of times each clip was viewed online. Its founder, Jon Cousins, said: "There are those who say TV advertising has had its day, but a lot of people who visit our site tell us they think the ads are often better than the programmes. It's interesting to see that there have been around 4,000 new TV adverts produced this year alone. Created by the award-winning Fallon agency in London, the commercial has stimulated great interest, partly because it does not feature the product until the very end. (Guardian)