Animation is not the first thought that comes to mind when you think of the film industry in India. In fact, until fairly recently, animated films weren’t something you thought about at all in the Indian context. Indeed, even for most millennials, animated movies while growing up were “imports” more than anything else (i.e. made abroad and distributed through various media here). Little do Indians know that we were making animated films as early as 1934!
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Here’s an overview of the rich history of animation in the country, from its humble beginnings as black and white animations to the burgeoning industry it has become today.
The First Animations in India
The Banyan Deer (1957) has often been cited as India’s first animated film but it did have predecessors. Pune-based Prabhat Film Company’s Jambu Kaka was released in Bombay on 15 November 1934. The short features a jackal and was animated by Raghunath K. Kelkar. Dadasaheb Phalke, Gunamoy Banerjee, K.S. Gupte and G.K. Gokhle were all pioneers of early animations in India. Most early animators in India were self-taught drawing their inspiration from cartoons made abroad. Phalke made a stop motion animated film in 1917 called Agkadyanchi Mouj (Matchsticks’ Fun). The Pea Brothers in 1934 by Gunamoy Banerjee was the first animated film shown in a theatre in India. The first animated film with a soundtrack, called On a Moonlit Night, was made by B.N. Sircar of the New Theatres of Bengal in 1934 as well.
A pivotal moment in Indian animation was when Clair Weeks visited the Films Division of India. As a Disney animator who had worked on Disney successes like Bambi and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, he helped establish the first animation studio in India and trained a group of Indian animators. They went on to make The Banyan Deer in 1957 which was India’s first animated movie in colour.
Indian Animation Over the Years
The shortage of film stock during World War II was a key contributing factor towards the development of the animation industry in India, as filmmakers turned towards animation to tell their stories.
Some notable animated works include:
Animation, even in the early years, was considered to be a valuable tool for educating children about the world around them. A landmark animated film from Films Division is Ek Anek Aur Ekta, a short traditionally animated educational film released in 1974 which aired frequently on Doordarshan. It was meant to teach children the value of unity. The first animated series was Ghayab Aya which aired on Doordarshan in 1986 which was about Ghyab, a friendly ghost.
The Indian animation industry came to a standstill in the 1980s without much initiative being taken to develop the industry. There were some attempts made in Bollywood without much success. Roadside Romeo (2008) was India’s first 3D animated film made as a joint venture between Yash Raj Films and the Indian division of the Walt Disney Company.
Animation and Advertisements
While commercial animated films in India stagnated, the advertising industry jumped on board. Some animated characters (made way back in the 1960s and thereafter) are still going strong today and are firmly etched in Indian hearts.
A few notable characters include:
The Present and the Future of the Animation Industry in India
Walt Disney style animation has proven that it does not work well as an Indian form of storytelling. India, with its myriad of art forms, may yet derive an animation style that is uniquely its own.
While India is yet to produce a commercially ground-breaking animated movie of its own, India has grown as an outsourcing hub for animation studios based abroad. There’s good reason for this, too! Indian studios today boast of state-of-the-art setups, highly skilled artists and cost-efficient services. Take a look at the story behind Toolbox Studio’s own animated movie The Delightful Story Behind the Delightful Story of GUSTER or watch it here and you’ll know what we mean!
With the amazing amount of talent in the country, the future of animation in India looks bright indeed!