Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Everyone is painfully aware of the gravity of the crisis in the Desi Pop Culture industry. Right from the Kings to the Cleaners are in a state of panic over a line up of content, especially tent pole feature films, that all are desperate to see release. There is a damning conundrum about being forced to cut losses & release on OTT for fear of content becoming dated. What is worse is that at a point production came to a heartbreaking standstill jeopardising the livelihood of an entire industry.
The precautionary guidelines add a new set of challenges to creating new content. This seriously perturbs long-format storytelling. The audience is saturated and fatigued with the amount of cringe marketing paid media strategies deployed to promote arguably mediocre content. Amidst the chaos of the mudslinging between the supposed haves & have-nots of the industry, there is an anguished yearning for a messianic light at the end of the tunnel.
The question therefore is, can animation be the saviour of the Desi Pop Culture industry Post COVID?
A whole new sector for the industry
The supporting arguments would seem to have been staring us right in the face all along. Safety norms would be much easier to follow since production does not necessarily require physical interaction at all. This could allow for so much more content to be produced & most of it can be done remotely. It would invigorate a whole new sector of the industry creating jobs and opportunities despite this slowdown.
Bridging the Cultural & Linguistic Divide
Animation Films can easily transcend the language and cultural barrier by employing syncretised universal paralinguistic communication. This may be far more challenging in live-action storytelling. Moreover, this allows celebrities from multiple regions to explore and monetise their voice talent, opening up the content to a wider market. Consider what Netflix did with the strategic casting of Mowgli in India, or what Dangal did similarly in China. It also deepens the ties of fandom across the linguistic divide and gives wings to take good stories to hearts across the world.
Longer Content Shelf Life
If done correctly, an animation film's shelf-life can be way longer than it's live-action counterparts. This adds tremendously to the lifetime value of the IP. It also eliminates the technological visual effects limitations or screenplay grammar limitations for that matter. As groundbreaking as motion capture may be, animated animals can have far more anthropomorphic expressions than live-action ones.
It Gets Merch Louder!!
Animation Movies open up the floodgates of revenue from merchandise sales. This point deserves an article of its own. We will go into detail to discuss why Bollywood needs to up its merchandise game and how it can do so quickly and effectively. Just for perspective, in India, licensing alone is worth $1.26 billion as per the 2018 WTR Forrester Report. Of this, $406 million comes from entertainment industry licensing. These figures constitute 5-7% of the global licensing and merchandising market. Let's also not forget that Amazon is not only an OTT platform it's also an E-commerce platform. Having a two pronged proposition of content plus merchandise could be more enticing as a pitch.
Not Just for the Kids
While in India content creators often mistake that animation is only for children, there is ample amount of data to prove otherwise. The array of stupendously successful international animated shows for adults has been on the rise ever since The Simpsons debuted in 1989. VOD has made programmed content redundant and soon might do the same to theatrical distributors. This facilitates a scenario where homegrown animation companies can bank on and thrive on IPs that they create internally rather than being forced into offering services that compromise their bandwidth to create new content.
Indrajeet Rise of the Valiant
One of he best examples of Desi Pop Culture animation for young adults is Indrajeet Rise of the Valiant by Thought Cloud Studio. With 1M views and counting, there is so much to be said about this project that there will be a dedicated article about it soon. We reached out to Mr Ganesh Papanna for an enlightening interview that will be out soon. This project ticks so many boxes: Originality, design, research, style, narrative, characters, plot, screenplay, direction etc.
It is a testament to quality content creation. Just to google the names in the credits to understand why.
The big players are already in:
While there are IPs like Golmaal Jr., Roll No. 21, Chhoti Anandi, Krish Trish and Batliboy, Krishna, Shiva, Super Bheem, Kumbhakaran, Rudra, Pakdam Pakdai, Aryan, My Bhoot Friends, KickO & Super Speedo, Sab Jholmaal Hai, Dabang Girls, Honey Bunny, Kalari Kids, Keymon Ache, Andy Pirki, Mighty Raju, Gattu Battu, Oye Golu etc in the running, Top contenders like Reliance Entertainment, Green Gold & Viacom have already been gearing up to make the most of this opportunity. They have been investing in IPs like Little Singham, Chota Bheem and Motu Patlu.
Amazon Prime Video has a plethora of animated content in their catalogue. They have 5 seasons of an animated series called Bahubali - The Lost Legends. We reached out to Movie Marketing Expert - Kabeer Ghosh & Book to Screen deal cracking wizard - Sidharth Jain from The Story Ink, both of whom had some insightful questions about merchandising but seemed very promisingly keen on exploring this space. So it seems like this is not just a pipe-dream it could very well be the next step in the evolution of Desi Pop Culture. What Kabeer and Sidharth both agree on is, all that is needed is one success story!