Toonz Media Group: Scaling New Heights

Interview

Toonz Media Group: Scaling New Heights

P. Jayakumar

CEO of Toonz Media Group

Toonz Media Group is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In the last two decades Toonz has been rated as one of top ten animation studios globally, which is a remarkable achievement for an Indian studio. Toonz Academy which is the education service segment of Toonz is offering quality training in animation, visual effects and gaming. Toonz Academy is slowly is extending its reach in India and establishing its credentials.
The onus of the remarkable success of Toonz as a global animation company can be attributed to P. Jayakumar, CEO of Toonz Media Group and his team. In an exclusive interview to Broadcast & Film , Jayakumar reveals the future plans of Toonz Media Group and the strategy ahead.

Q 1.How do you look at the growth of the animation industry globally and in India?

The past two decades have seen an enormous growth in the animation industry, both globally and in India. The rise and consolidation of internet enabling new accesses to entertainment, huge advances in digital technology, CGI production and related softwares enhancing quality and the viewer experience, and the global convergence of audiences, has spurred both the animation industry growth beyond imagination.

Entertainment Industry is in a very healthy and expansive situation, with more people consuming entertainment across the planet than ever before, and on and across more personal devices and mediums, and across all target age groups, with young kids now controlling technologies as well as deciding what they want to want… and they share and live brands, IPs and their hero characters more than ever before. . The advances and spread of technology have resulted in a much higher demand for content and this has a direct knock-on effect to studios such as Toonz.

Indian studios, who one or two decades ago mainly positioned themselves as servicing studios, and gained respect and recognition from US studios and producers across the globe as quality, talented and competitive alternatives to producing at home; begun to develop into original IP production outfits, and this has led to a surge in new studios emerging across the Asia Pacific rim in markets such as Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore, and of course India. This growth within the whole region means more collaboration and co-production possibilities between studios, resulting in more win-win opportunities all round.

Q2. Toonz has pioneered and set new standards in animation. What do you think has been the key contributions made by Toonz to advance the animation revolution?

This year is Toonz’s 20th Anniversary, and we have come a long way over these past decades. It’s been a fascinating journey of trials and triumphs, and like every success story it has not been easy.

Toonz began working on some high-end animated series such as Marvel’s X-Men, Speed Racer, Dragonlance and lots more. Today, Toonz has come a long way and is proud of its extended team strength of around 5000 artists within its ecosystem of 85 Indian and 20 international partner studios. Today, Toonz can cater to an ever-growing panorama of productions, co-productions and numerous service projects worldwide – a feat which has been possible only because its crew believed strongly and whole-heartedly in its vision to ENTERTAIN THE WORLD.

Toonz’s commitment, contribution and success has a lot to do with its vision, purpose and its core values that has been, through the years developed and breathed by the leadership of the company. The 7 core values of creativity, passion, collaboration, innovation, humility, integrity and being people centric helped Toonz to create strong relationships with the customers and partners across the globe. Toonz has both helped put India on the global animation map and been very proactive in nurturing talent and building the industry at home, in India, through its regional and national partnerships, networks and desire to put India at the forefront of animation excellence and recognition.

Toonz’s pioneering growth has been a good blend of multiple strategic routes and decisions - from producing and co-producing numerous animation series with the world’s largest partners such as Sony, Marvel, Paramount, Google, BBC, Kika, Rai Tv, Amazon, 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Turner, HBO, Universal, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Disney, Nick, Sony etc, to commencing studio operations in New Zealand and Turkey and also acquiring a leading distribution firm in Europe (Imira Entertainment).

Q3.Toonz Academy – the education arm of Toonz Media Group has been making significant strides in the education segment. Please tell us on how you see the animation education sector in India. How do you see Toonz Academy making a critical difference in this segment?

 

Toonz Academy was begun with intention of giving back to the creative community. It is an educational venture that produces the country’s best talents who eventually become the strong creative workforce that Toonz studios as well as other studios need and appreciate. For the past 16 years, Toonz has acted as a bridge between education and the entertainment industry, creating an industry-worthy workforce.

Toonz Media Group was conceived at a time when animation as an industry was unheard of in India. Finding trained talent was a cumbersome task. With the big idea of training and moulding a young batch of artists, we brought in experts from all corners of the world who provided top quality training to the brightest young talent we could discover; and this mind set, and culture stands strong today. Many of the talent that has passed through the academy have worked and continue to do so at Toonz or have gone on to work at other prestigious animation studios across India and abroad.

At Toonz, we don’t just provide creative education; we give them a holistic realization of their creative potential and a thorough awareness about the industry they are going to function in. Through this holistic empowerment, they will be equipped to explore their fullest potential with the perfect balance of the creative passion and the industry acumen.

Q4.What are the key initiatives of Toonz Media Group and Toonz Academy which will set a new strategic growth for Toonz?

Toonz provides, through its Academy career and sponsorship-led initiatives, young talent to take their creations to the market and fulfil their dreams in the animation and special effects industry and is whole-heartedly committed and focused on supporting and empowering future generations of artists and creative talent.

An important initiative Toonz has to share knowledge and empower the talent in its studio is its Annual Animation Masters Summit, which brings together industry professionals from across the animation and SFX industry to share their knowledge, learnings and visions on the present and future of the industry with those working in the industry who attend the event. This year over 500 talent were present to form part of this inspiring interactive initiative.

For many years Toonz held its annual Flying Elephant Competition which was a huge success getting entries from across India and the Asia Pacific region in particular, and this has evolved into the Cocoon Concept Lab which enables storytellers to present their original projects and see them developed at Toonz and taken out to the international marketplace. Its first winner and runners-up were announced at Toonz’s Animation Masters Summit this past May in Trivandrum.

Toonz Academy believes that there is a direct relationship between our academy infrastructure and student performance, we have the production-oriented infrastructure approach within the academy. We also have the ATC status of the leading software’s like Nuke, Unity, Toon Boom. This tie-ups with leading production-oriented software’s enables us to deliver the best over 5,000/- sq. ft of creative learning space, contributing to the creative student engagement and all this blends towards a real productive transformation to our students making them "production ready creative professionals"

Q5.How has the business been for Toonz in the last financial year. And where do you see Toonz if you have to chart out a five year plan?

These past 5 years have seen Toonz scale up its footprint across the globe, opening offices and production, financing and distribution hubs in strategic cities and territories to develop our international partnerships and seek out new opportunities within this expanding industry.

We are experiencing 30-40% Year-on-year growth for the past 3 years; and this has enabled us to strengthen and grow all the business divisions in the group.

Recent years have seen a huge rise in our digital broadcast activities and we are now a Toonz digital now is a world leader in Slapstick/ chase comedy YouTube channels with Chotoonz TV, which has over 5 million subscribers with a swiftly expanding viewer base for their other channels like Chotoonz Turkey, Carica Toonz, Baby Toonz, Baam Superheroes, and more.

We are growing our gaming development and consumer products divisions, precisely to capitalise on the trends in the global marketplace and to extend our IPs across all kids and family entertainment mediums and channels.

Q6. Does Toonz have any plans to enter into animation feature film production like Green Gold did recently? What are the IPs that Toonz is planning in the near future?

Toonz has co-produced 20 feature films over the pas two decades. Animation films such as international CGI titles "Bunyan and Bade", "The Hero of Color City" or Gaturro, or the iconic classic, "Speed Generation"; as well as live action in the form of "Magic Beyond Words", the real-life story of J.K. Rowling. Toonz's recent acquisition of the prestigious Emmy-winning production house Telegael, which has large live action facilities will surely see exciting new titles come out of Toonz in the feature film as well as series space.

Toonz has many new and exciting IPs coming out of our Trivandrum studio, and in conjunction with other leading producers across the globe, as well as adding more seasons to its current IPs that are broadcasting across India and the internationally.

As well as the dozen or so titles currently in development and financing stages, Toonz currently has in in production we have a comedy adventure CGI series called Mondo Yan, a 52x12' Toonz co-production partnering with Telegael, Spanish broadcaster TV3 from Catalunya and Imira Entertainment; the delightful preschool magical adventure series "Dee Dee the Little Sorceress" (52x11') co-produced with Neon Creation; and kids' storybook series "The Story of Bookworm Gogo" (104x4') co-produced with Xrisp; and this year we will be announcing the production of many other new titles, with universal appeal and created for the international marketplace.



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