What a year it was, for Indian animation and for me personally as well. A roller-coaster year one may call it. Ups and downs, highs and lows. Memorable moments and some, unfortunately, ‘trying-hard-to-forget’ ones. A year that saw the launch of many new animation training institutes and studios, the formation of strategic partnerships, major acquisitions and tie-ups, a couple of announcements about new animated features/series and also the scrapping of highly-publicised, prestigious ones. A year whose first half saw more jobs than people but ended with the equation reversed – layoffs and yet more layoffs!
2008 was a year of a lot of frenetic activity on the industry front.
AnimationXpress.com held a series of AITF (Animation Industry Technology Forum) and IAI (Industry Academia Interface) sessions, announced a print magazine, a quiz competition and new awards of excellence and also ventured into something never done before – Animation tourism. Its my sincere hope that it does not lose its original vision in this juggernaut of diversification.
CGTantra.com took its LIG (Learn, Inspire, Grow) seminars to several cities across the country. It held the first ever (and I must say, mighty successful) CGT Expo in Mumbai, launched many new features on their website and finally ended the year with a bang by celebrating its 4th anniversary by confering “CGT Community Honours” on people from various sections of the Indian animation industry and community.
TASI – The Animation Society of India – organised valuable seminars and workshops all year around – ranging from Animation for those who cannot Draw, Music for Animation, The Making of taare Zameen Par, Preproduction, Acting for Animation and the gem of the year – A Masterclass with the Master – Ram Mohan Sir himself! And how can I not mention TASI’s Anifest India 2008 – the 3 day festival at IIT, Mumbai, that saw a phenomenal turnout of close to 3000 people who attended over 15 workshops and sessions. The icing on TASI’s cake was a neat write-up that appeared in Times Of India in August about the sincere efforts of TASI members to give something back to the Indian animation community. (Don’t take my word for it, I am a committee member of TASI this year too after all. Just ask any one who has attended the TASI sessions and I am sure they will vouch for us)
ASIFA India celebrated the International Animation Day with great gusto across 13 cities in India this year. I attended the one in Mumbai and for me the 2 highlights of the day were the opportunity to interact with Gitanjali Rao and watch clips from her latest film ‘Girgit’ and the screening of the Pixar Documentary which I had been dying to see. (It is now available for everyone to watch – on the Wall-E DVD – and I recommend all aspiring animators to watch it)
The proof of the potential of India’s animation industry lies in the fact that the Annecy Festival chose India as the country of focus. The ever-popular animation festival held every year in the beautiful town of Annecy in France put India, its animators and their animation in the spotlight. This was the year when one could not afford to miss out on the festival if one had anything to do with Indian animation. Unfortunately, I was unable to go.
Of course a lot else happened in the ‘industry’ – mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, splits, break-aways, law-suits, launches and shutdowns, but I will not discuss those here.
Then there was the formation of NAGFO and BAGS. What’s that you ask? NAGFO aka NASSCOM Animation and Gaming Forum is NASSCOM’s endeavour to brign together India’s animation as well as gaming institutes and studios under one umbrella to further their cause, improve standards and benefit everyone within the industry. BAGS is the Board of Animation and Gaming Standards that is emerging from NAGFO that will set guidelines amongst other things for the betterment of the industry.
Industry events that happened this year included FICCI Frames 2008 which was held in Mumbai (which I attended) and NASSCOM Animation and Gaming India 2008, Hyderabad (which I was unable to attend thanks under unfortunate circumstances).
And then there were the films. The Good, the Bad and the downright UGLY!! Enough has been said already about the UGLY aka Icy n Spicy (refer this blog) and I won’t waste anymore webspace writing about it. Gladly noone seems to remember the movie anyway!! Dashavatar and Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang did not do very well at the box office for different reasons. The effort was sincere but did not show through and both did nothing for the Indian animation industry. Everybody waited with bated breath for Roadside Romeo the first Big Banner Bollywood film – helmed by Jugal Hansraj and produced by Yash Raj Films. The creators did push the envelope quite a bit and I have to credit the animators for doing a good job. The tragedy was that this film too failed to excite Indian audiences enough. Partly the fault of the producers who hardly promoted the film and partly the inexperience of the director who is not an animator to begin with. The hype was limited to within the industry and ultimately, neither the voices of Saif and Kareena nor the sincere efforts of the animation team got their due. The film found its audience neither in kids nor in adults. It was wrong to expect Disney/Pixar quality – we pinned our hopes too high. A toddler must first learn to crawl, then walk, then run. Yet, I reaffirm that Roadside Romeo was a giant leap for Indian animation in more ways than one. (I won’t bring up Jumbo because it is not an Indian animated film to begin with and the only Indian connection, the voice-overs, sounded so awful in the trailers itself that I shall give it a miss!)
Whew! That wraps up this lengthy post. I know I might have missed out a couple of things, if so, you are most welcome to add them in the comments below. I will sign off by wishing all of you a very happy, peaceful, successful, fun-filled and ANIMATED 2009!!!