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Plot a Tom and Jerry fight, pen in hand

“Sometimes a script itself is so beautiful, it’s like a novel. Like in Casablanca.” The broad-shouldered speaker turned from the white board to ask how many among his audience had written a script. Only one hesitant hand went up. But that did not matter, for what the gathering at the workshop in Calcutta Club lacked in experience, it made up for in enthusiasm.

“We tried to make the session a mix of information and entertainment. Everyone was ready to listen and learn,” Ariel Prendergast, the speaker, said at the end of the evening. Ariel, along with his colleague at Toonz Animation, Thiruvananthapuram, Atul Rao, were in town to conduct a workshop for animation writers. The workshop, organised by Tara International, in collaboration with the India chapter of the Association of International Film Animation (Asifa), marked a small scene in the city’s nascent animation act.

“We need to hold such events regularly to take animation forward in the city and keep local enthusiasts in touch with the trends and with each other,” said Tara S. Ganguli, the prime mover behind the workshop, who has also started a Cartoon Club for the purpose.

Canada-born Atul, who has done development work for Warner Brothers, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, shared animation writing tricks with the audience. “If there is a moral in the story, you can put it in a straight-forward way in a show for children. But the ‘tweens’ (eight-to-12-year-olds) don’t like morals. So you’ve got to sneak it in,” he said.

Soon, the participants — ranging from a retired teacher of economics to a student of mass communication — were speaking set-up, plot-point and climax. “Technical terms can be boring at first, but once we discussed cartoons within the structure, that exposed the system to the audience and livened them up,” said Ariel, who used one of his animation shows, Poochini, on a dog with an Italian accent, to explain the basics of story structure. Later, Atul’s work Swaroop and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s show Futurama were screened to illustrate the points further.

The two were in the city for a few hours, but made the best of it in their own way. Ariel went for a stroll down Chowringhee Road, tracking the Planetarium (“the building with a dome”), a statue of Indira Gandhi (“I have spent enough months in India to know how she looks. She is everywhere”), a raquet ball club and a Ho Chi Minh bust.

“There was a financial building further up, in front of which I got my shoe shined,” beamed the history graduate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who liked the city so much that he plans to return to see more. Atul, however, used the break to sleep it off, till it was time to get animated at the workshop.

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