Animation is a unique form of storytelling that has captured the hearts of audiences all over the world. It is a medium that allows for boundless creativity and imagination to come to life, and it is apparent in the work of Delhi-based animation studio Citrus Ink.
Founded by Vrinda Sood, Citrus Ink has quickly become a creative powerhouse in India’s animation industry. Sood’s journey began with a passion for animation that she had nurtured since the age of 13. Despite setbacks and challenges, Sood persevered and pursued her love for animation. After a brief stint at an Advertising agency, she eventually opened Citrus Ink in 2014, which started with a small team of eight to 10 members and has now grown to around 230 talented artists.
Back then there were other studios that had their own niche of working in exhibitions, nursery rhyme content and so on, and Citrus Ink began working in advertisements, corporate films and product windows. The decision to enter the advertisement segment happened with one of the milestone works on an ad film for Paper Boat Drinks which was in collaboration with a production house, where Citrus Ink took the responsibility for its production. This iconic ad film Hope the Boat was one of its kind and it paved the way for branded content and short films. The ad film garnered two million views on YouTube organically without any promotion back in 2016.
“I had worked very briefly in Advertising and that gave me the sense that it needs this kind of work (animation). Because of my experience in Advertising, my MBA and my creative skills, I could put both the knowledge streams together and do something meaningful,” Sood revealed.
Their journey started with a documentary film project titled The Tiger Who Crossed the Line by Krishnendu Bose in 2017, which grabbed the National Award in the Environment section. Sood and team had helped the team to work on some of the CGI shots including drone shots.
In the advertising space, the studio has worked for leading brands such as the Coca Cola Company, Nestle, Minute Maid Juices, the History Channel, Honda, Panasonic, Horlicks and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Since 2021 the studio has started working on episodics and feature films. Four of the feature films that they worked on are at the advanced stage of production.
To keep up with technology, Sood was a part of the second batch of ASIFA India’s Women Creators Program in partnership with Unreal Engine. It was a beautiful experience for her as she realised the potential of Unreal Engine and how much can be done using this software. She shared her learning process with her Citrus Ink team members and their film emerged as one of the top six films during the Women Creators Program.
After this opportunity, they did four projects in Unreal and the pipeline has been perfectly set at their studio. They are working on a show where they are “rigging and animating in Unreal which is something that is not being done by everyone”. They are also coming up with their own IP using Unreal by the end of this year.
Sood believes in growth and expansion, but plans to take everything step by step. “We are hoping to grow to 375 or so by the end of next year. The Delhi studio will not have more seats beyond this. Our plan of growth is very organic and we are not rushing through anything. We do plan to expand to other cities, plans are in place but it is too early to discuss anything.”
Talking about inclusivity, she says that the industry is very small and “the creative work doesn’t need a person to be degree holders or prove one’s mettle as A or B graders. The work speaks for itself.” If one can show good quality work, his or her gender, colour or anything else doesn’t matter.
Also, the Citrus Ink leader believes in constant upgradation and carries on extensive internal training with software like Toon Boom and various other facets of animation. They plan to start a 2D division soon and figure out how AI can help in production or other aspects.
Asked about her views on AI taking away jobs, she referred to Infosys founder Narayan Murthy’s words that “nothing can beat the human brain”. Sood believes that AI may reduce some of the work but to use it also human or creative intervention will be needed.
“Initially, one will have to invest in AI and spend money for that. But once people are trained in using it, AI will help dramatically improve output quality, it will save time and eventually it will bring down the cost of production,” Sood shared.
The young girl who had learnt animation at 13 has gone on to build a successful company and after almost a decade she is one of the very few women leaders in the Indian animation industry. The story of Citrus Ink and Vrinda Sood is a testament to the power of creativity. It shows that with passion, hard work, and a willingness to take risks, anything is possible.