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Anime, community building, animation writing: Here are the topics explored on Day 1 of AM Summit 2023

Arjun Nohwar

With an aim to explore every facet of animation, AnimationXpress’ Animation & More (AM) Summit, raised the curtains with a gathering of industry stalwarts for an exciting event on 12 and 13 September 2023 at The Lalit Mumbai. First day of this rebranded edition of the Kids, Animation & More (KAM) Summit, witnessed a trail of sessions encapsulating the required discussions that would interest all stakeholders.

The summit kicked off with the ceremonial lamp lighting with all dignitaries and a welcome note by AnimationXpress founder, chairman, editor-in-chief Anil NM Wanvari where he set the tone of the event, touching upon the key topics of the agenda. This year, the summit aimed to venture into new trends, technologies and collaborations that pushes boundaries and ignites global success. 

To enunciate this year’s theme, ‘Breaking Boundaries: Mission World,’ Warner Bros. Discovery South Asia general manager Arjun Nohwar delivered the keynote address. 

The summit moved ahead with an engaging panel discussion titled The Resurgence of Anime in India: A Cultural Shift to understand the growing influence of anime in the Indian entertainment landscape. Moderated by Hungama Digital Media Entertainment senior vice president Soumini Sridhara Paul, the panel included Cinépolis India film programming and distribution head Mayank Shroff, Warner Bros. Discovery kids cluster – South Asia head Uttam Pal Singh, Crunchyroll India marketing director Akshat Sahu and Sony YAY! head of marketing, OAP, communications, licensing and merchandising Sujoy Roy Bardhan.

L to R: Soumini Sridhara Paul, Mayank Shroff, Uttam Pal Singh, Akshat Sahu, Sujoy Roy Bardhan

The discussion kick-started with growing anime consumption in India. Singh said, “Linear channels have the footprints and the opportunity to create a larger impact of anime with the audience.” And dubbed content helps take anime to a wider audience in India, Crunchyroll believes. “Audience likes to watch content in their preferred language,” Sahu said.

Shroff highlighted that during the pandemic, people started watching different types of content, and in multiple languages. This content watching pattern also opened a door for exploring anime for Indian cinema. “We see Jujutsu Kaisen and Suzume making records in India. Jujutsu was released in India at the same time as one of the Minions films which already has a huge fan base. But Jujutsu did very well,” he said. “For anime content, the audience is very involved. They are very mature so they are far more critical than other audiences,” Bardhan pointed out.

Texturing with AI, the next session of the AM Summit 2023 was an informative one by Zebu Animation Studios founder/creative director Veerendra Patil and CG supervisor Krishna Babu (Unni).

Veerendra Patil and Krishna Babu (Unni)

Moving forward, the audience witnessed this year’s highlight session Empowering Indian Creators. This year at AM Summit, AnimationXpress in collaboration with the partners 88 Pictures and Zebu Animation, initiated the Animation Creators Pitch with the intention to bridge creators with industry professionals who have the means and expertise to bring animated projects to fruition. This session designed to elaborate their insights on how to empower Indian creators had 88 Pictures founder & CEO Milind D Shinde and Zebu Animation Studios’ Patil in conversation with Wanvari.

AM Summit 2023 showcased the success story of a young woman, Neeraja Raj. Raj is a talented film director, writer, and animator who has journeyed from India to working with some of the world’s top animation companies like Disney Animation and Aardman Animations. Presently a film director and writer Nexus Studios, she mesmerised the audience during her session From Dreams to Animation Stardom: Neeraja Raj’s Journey and Insights for Aspiring Animators. Raj explained that her motive is to entertain, educate and create an impact that brings about change through her films. She stressed on the need for narrative based films to touch people’s hearts and spread empathy and care. 

L to R: Milind D. Shinde, Anil NM Wanvari, Veerendra Patil

She urged the upcoming talents to nurture their soft skills which plays a major role in career progress, keep honing their skills using BFI Academy, NFTS Access, etc and most importantly attend more and more film festivals to watch different films and meet industry people.

To highlight the dynamic transformation of animation studios in India, the panel discussion Animation Studio Expansion: From VFX to Global Reach brought great minds under one roof. The speakers for this panel were Assemblage Entertainment chief executive officer Arjun Madhavan, M2 Animation India creative director Mahesh Holla, Green Gold Animation founder & CEO Rajiv Chilaka and Hornbill Studios CEO Srinivas Raju. Cosmos Maya International Division chief operating officer Adi Shayan moderated the session.

According to Madhavan, India will play a major role in the world’s animation and VFX ecosystem based on diversity in terms of people, age demographic and huge demand for content. Even Holla pointed out that international studios wanting to collaborate with an Indian studio, and coming to India is not an option, but a necessity.

“Content consumption has increased due to multiple platforms. There is an existing ecosystem in India, hence international studios are coming to India. Apart from the ecosystem, talent is the key.” said Raju. He elaborated saying India has talent, hence the potential. So international studios coming to India is a mutual benefit.

Green Gold Animation founder-CEO and creator-director of iconic Chhota Bheem Rajiv Chilaka shared his journey of getting into VFX. His motivation was to make big VFX-heavy films. “I realised that without VFX, we cannot get there. We are implementing the learning of all these years by getting into live action now.”

The first day of the summit also witnessed a masterclass on Making of the Bandits of Golak: Art of Look & Animation where 88 Pictures look supervisor Ravi Kajipuram took attendees through interesting behind the scenes of the amazing short that was a part of the historical Star Wars narrative. Kajipuram shared how they create characters based on briefs like age, skin tone, facial features and so on.

Moving further, the avid story readers were treated with a dynamic fireside chat on Animating India’s Heritage where Applause Entertainment and Amar Chitra Katha discuss their foray into animation, reimagining India’s rich storytelling heritage. This session witnessed ACK president & CEO Preeti Vyas and Applause Entertainment chief business officer Prasoon Garg in conversation with  Indusverse CCO cum Cosmos Maya creative consultant Alok Sharma.

In another masterclass for the day on Animation Writing Decoded!, the AM Summit 2023 attendees got to know about some tips and tricks of writing from Yash Thakur. Thakur has worked on 35 plus shows across various channels and wrote over 1000 scripts as a content writer for children. “People who minimise loss from an idea to paper, are the best writers,” he stated.

The final session for the day hosted a seasoned filmmaker and VFX, animation and virtual production enthusiast who has made it big globally. The special talk on Community Building and Women Empowerment in the AVGC Industry by DancingAtoms CEO – creative director Saraswathi Vani Balgam added the layer of inclusivity to the event. Every sector must provide equal opportunities to all aspirants and talents.

With a diverse range of topics, the first day of the summit concluded on a high note. Apart from the sessions, the attendees got an opportunity to interact with experts, industry professionals and artists, and eagerly waited for a second day full of exciting sessions and the Ann Awards 2023.