Hard cel works for the Indian toon biz

Surge of outsourcing by o'seas producers boosts country's animation sector

NEW DELHI — Jack Frost, Ali Baba, Clootie and Dumpling, Piggley Winks, Cyber Dodo, FrogSkool, King Kong — the world is tooning into Indian-made animated television programs as its reputation spreads as the “back office” of the world.

Animation business in India, which hit $300 million in 2004, is expected to grow by about 20% this year due to a surge of outsourcing by overseas producers, the National Assn. of Software and Services Cos. (Nasscom), says in a report on the industry.

Analysts cite India’s cutting-edge IT skills, its large pool of highly educated English-speakers and its lower manpower costs as reasons for the outsourcing boom.

 In the past year, Nasscom says, about a dozen animated television serials aimed at the U.S. and European markets were in various stages of production in India, with 3-D animation work now outstripping the old-style two-dimensional cartoons.

In September, New York-based BKN New Media inked a $10 million deal outsourcing animation production to India’s UTV Toonz, a division of UTV Software Communications.

The deal covers two 26-episode 3-D series, “Kong: The Next Generation” and another yet-to-be announced skein.

UTV had earlier in the year announced four animation production and two co-production deals with overseas companies worth a total of $4 million.

UTV has also tied up with Cinegroupe of Canada to work on CGI series “Tripping the Rift,” airing on the Sci Fi channel in the U.S.

Major media group Zee Telefilms signed a $14 million contract with Italian independent producer-distributor Mondo TV in 2004 to co-produce four new animated series. Zee’s animation arm Padmalaya Telefilms went on to ink partnership deals with British animation companies Mallard Media and Ealing Animation for “Clootie &Dumpling,” the animated adventures of two Scottish Highland bulls.

India’s biggest drawcard, according to to Nasscom, is the lower cost of production. A typical half-hour 3-D animation TV episode costs between $70,000 and $100,000 to produce here compared with $170,000 to $250,000 in the U.S.

India, which joined the animation race about five years ago, is playing catch-up with its Asian neighbors, particularly the Philippines and South Korea.

“We always felt India was underplayed in the field of animation and once it gets its opportunity there is no holding back for this great country,” Mondo TV’s Rick Corradi says.

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