By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Sep 1, Bommi and her pals, Remba, Yip, Taco, Maya and Boris, are likely to take two city-based young entrepreneurs, R. Mathiseelan and K.R. Senthil Kumar, places in 2011.
No, Bommi and company are not venture capitalists or angel investors, but animation characters in Bommi and Friends, a serial created by Image Ventures, an animation company, promoted by the two, who are brothers.
“In January 2011, the 13-episode serial will be aired by the fourth largest children’s television channel in the world, KidsCo. Bommi will be the first Indian animation comic character that will go international. We hold the intellectual property rights (IPR) for Bommi and Friends,” Image Managing Director Mathiseelan told IANS.
KidsCo is expected to start operation in India next year.
“Indian children are exposed to Japanese content. The other genre of kids serial is the super man/woman/kid series trying to attract the boys or girls segment. Image Ventures decided to target the girls segment with Bommi,” said A.P. Sivayogen, Director (Technical).
The trio, Mathiseelan, Kumar and Sivayogen, wanted to prove that an Indian comic character can appeal to kids worldwide and in the process create a 360 degree business model, including television serials, feature films, online, comic books, merchandising and others.
A small creative team in the company churned out many characters out of which three stood out -Yip the dog, Remba the giraffe and Boris the elephant.
As there was a need for a human character, Bommi was created with inputs from story tellers – Jeeva Raghunath and Nandini Sridhar. Taco, the monkey, and Maya, the crow, joined the troupe.
At the MIPCOM television content market in Cannes, France, the idea of Indian animation serial was received well but suggestions were made to make Bommi an international cartoon character.
“We had to change the characters, story line, dialogues and give a voice for the serial to appeal to all children globally. Like any other Indian girl, Bommi had the bindi on her forehead. But in the international market it is seen as a religious symbol and so it had to be removed,” Kumar said.
According to him, removing the bindi on Bommi’s forehead was more difficult than putting it there.
For the animations, Raghunath had to act out all the characters so that the animators could bring out the necessary emotions.
“We have changed the general perception about the characters. For instance, Bommi is an ordinary girl who would err sometimes in her decisions. Taco is a cautious comic coward monkey and not the normal adventurous one,” Raghunath told IANS.
Raghunath said the making of Bommi and Friends was a huge learning experience as she was able to understand the challenges faced by animators in creating the characters.
Image Ventures raised Rs.8 crore ($1.7 million) with a mix of debt and equity as each episode cost it around Rs.7 million ($149,331).
The company has retained the distribution rights for SAARC and ASEAN regions. For other markets, it has given the distribution rights to the Canadian company Octapixx.
According to Sivayogen, the company would be able to make money only if the serial is distributed to the global audience.
“Indian channels get the content for their kids channels at dirt cheap rates and it is very difficult to match their rates,” he said.
Added Mathiseelan: “Overseas the animation industry is strictly protected and there are strict regulations that force animation producers to get certain percentage of work done locally. In India there are no such regulations. As a result channels find it cheap to source foreign content.”
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)