Indian animation industry amid the pandemic: The good, the bad and the unknown

The coronavirus pandemic is escalating, with many industries being shut for more a couple of months. Various media sectors are hampering badly and live-action production seems to be the most affected of them all. With the many challenges faced by all the industry sectors during the covid-19 lockdown, one that has managed to keep the lights on for the most part is animation!

The production is going on properly with many companies following various techniques to keep the work pipeline intact. Studios like Reliance Animation amongst others are managing to provide fresh episodes to broadcasters even during this lockdown with the help of a co-operative team and proper management.

Talking about the quality of the projects delivered, Reliance Animation COO Tejonidhi Bhandare mentioned, “ The artists are used to working in groups which helps them at various levels, may it be technical or creative, and breaking that work culture and working in isolation is a new system for which the artists may need some to adopt.”

Some platforms used by animators have pitched in the efforts to keep the industry going with software companies offering free or discounted licenses to artists for a month or so.

Amid a wave of Covid related layoffs, companies like 88 Pictures, philmCGI and others are actually hiring.

philmCGI MD Anand Bhanushali thinks that work from home is more productive and may think of following the same pattern even after lockdown. “We no longer need big infrastructure now. The WFX (Work Flow Extender) pipeline is working very well for us as we can work with anybody anywhere in the world,” added he.

There is too much scope for independent animators to pitch their content to digital platforms if not television, as digital media is the new normal. And with the growing viewership and hunger for fresh content, there is definitely a shining future for many.

Bhanushali also feels that this is the right time for all to work on their own IP and pitch it directly to the digital platforms. “The next few years are going to be great for producing homegrown content. Studios will go IP driven,” he mentioned.

“Our industry is blessed, we can still work. Every studio will find their own balance of working from home and delivering projects and we can grow. There are few challenges but those can be managed.”

This is the situation at considerably big studios. But is the case same with indie animators or a boutique studio? The answer is yes and no. Vaanarsena Studio founder Vivek Ram thinks that this is a good time for the animation industry in India, considering the difficulty faced during live shoots. “I’ve noticed more interest in animated shows than before by various investors.” Ram also finds the current situation cost effective as everyone is working from home, remotely.

But a few animators and small studio founders are not really fond of remote working. Few stated that though animation is currently the only production which is on, it will survive. But cannot say there will be a sudden boom. An indie animator stated that the lockdown has hampered his projects as remotely working doesn’t help. “Animation is a collaborative job. It cannot happen remotely for me. Being a small team, I can still maintain my staff, but cannot assure quality work.”

Bhandare had different views about the situation. “While there is some more time for our industry to move from unorganised sector to organised sector, I am sure people will love to work in isolation and be more accountable and responsible towards their own and company objectives,” added he. Work from home scenario is helping the team spend more time with family as travel time is saved, he felt.

Varied reactions, different approaches and very different way of thinking create different scenarios for different people. With a little bit of positivity, you can get the work done.

Assemblage Entertainment CEO and industry veteran AK Madhavan is brimming with positivity and thinks that this is the time to become a remarkable nation in the animation industry and make a mrk on this globe. “The magic word at our space is to ‘enjoy’ and we are following the same even now. So the work is going on amazingly at Assemblage.”

With a supportive team and a friendly and approachable management committee, the environment in Assemblage is very normal. There are no layoffs and no unnecessary furloughs. “India is bouncing back with work. I am very positive about the upcoming months and years. We are going way forward,” added Madhavan. Assemblage also managed to provide the work to their clients as promised.

Though the situation for many studios looks positive, it if hard to say anything certainly at this very moment, as we all are unsure when this difficult time will end and what further it will bring.

Survival is the only option for now. Be it as a human or a business! Looking forward, the animation industry may definitely see a bright future, with the local content being a priority. Let’s hope that there will be new homegrown content flowing, fresh IPs produced, productive working patterns and a well knitted animation society formed in India. That’s not just a dream but a reality that the indie and big studios can create together!