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Log on to animation, and to a fortune

Calcutta, Nov. 26: Remember the magic of Hakuna Matata or the wonder of watching Eddie Murphy change into a bulging baggy in The Nutty Professor'

Enter the world of animation, where Indians can log on for huge opportunities in offshore production.

The global animation industry is pegged at $35 billion and is expected to grow to $77 billion by 2005.

“For the last 30 years, US companies have outsourced 2D animation production to studios in Asia,” says P. Jayakumar, chief operating officer of Toonz Animation India, a Kerala-based leading production house. “For 3D animation, Canada and the UK were preferred destinations. But now more work is flowing to India.”

A Nasscom study reveals that while a half-hour TV animation programme would cost anywhere between $250,000 to $400,000 in the US and Canada, the production rates come down to merely $60,000 in India.

Nasscom puts the country’s animation and digital media industry at $600 million and predicts that it will reach $5 billion by 2008. Industry sources say that animation revenues account for less that $100 million, but expect a five-fold growth in the next five years.

Currently, only 3,000 animators work across various studios in the country. Industry estimates suggest that there is an immediate demand for 10,000 animators.

Global industry analysts feel that Indian companies are favourably placed because of their proficiency in operating systems. But the lack of trained manpower, especially in 3D animation software, is a major stumbling block in meeting rising global demands. Areas that require training are use of digital technology and the script development process.

A step in this direction will be taken with the opening of the Toonz Webel Animation Academy in May 2004. Bill Matthews, a consultant with Walt Disney, is preparing the curriculum for the courses — a six-month certificate and one-year diploma course. The course will be monitored by Toonz’s counterparts in the US. The academy will be the first of its kind and will train students keeping industry demands in mind.

“We are also in talks with other states for similar set ups,” said Jayakumar. Sixty per cent of the company’s investment has gone into training.

Some of the big names on the Indian scene like Mumbai-based UTV Toons have invested Rs 1.5 million in training in basic drawing and animation skills. Bangalore-based Jadooworks is training in 3D animation and upgradation of various hardware and software platforms. Pentamedia Graphics, ranked as the leading animation company last year, is conducting training in all areas of animation.

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