With a slew of initiatives, The Walt Disney Company is looking to consolidate itself in the South.
‘One step at a time' seems to be Disney's cautious approach to expansion since its entry to India in July 2004. Four of its five lines of businesses (except amusement and theme parks) are not just fully functional but have also met with considerable success in the recent years.
Mahesh Samat, managing director, The Walt Disney Company, was in Chennai recently to share the Company's plans for the South.
The announcements included a strategic alliance with Sun Distribution Services for distribution of Disney Channel, Disney XD and Hungama TV, launch of Tamil and Telugu feeds for Hungama TV in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, and acquisition of ‘Ek Tha Jungle' — an animated series based on the Thirukkural, from Accel Animation Studios.
There's also its entry into film business with a partnership with K. Raghavendra Rao, for a yet-to-be-titled Telugu fantasy film directed by Prakash Rao Kovelamudi, starring Siddharth and Shruti Haasan. “Our focus is on the South now,” says Samat. “We're still in the process of tying up with creative talent in the country and we've just started our journey here.”
Disney's first film in India “Roadside Romeo”, a collaboration with YashRaj, he said, had met with reasonable success. “It was a good partnership for us. It won us a National Award,” he smiles.
The company dropped Bharath Bala's “The 19th Step” in the development stage, and “Zokkomon”, directed by Satyajit Bhatkal, starring Darsheel Safary, is under post-production. “We will announce a release date soon,” adds Samat. The company's first venture in the South with Siddharth and Shruti will be ready for release by January, and will be dubbed in Tamil as well.
The right content
However, the company is still looking out for partnerships with filmmakers in Chennai.
“Tamil is a different market from Hindi cinema. We are still looking for the right kind of content. India has a robust live-action culture, and we want to do a few live action films to build a franchise. Globally, we make live action and animation films, and that's how we want to be seen here too. We recently launched the platinum edition of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. Eighty year-old content is still resonating. We want to build content that has the same kind of reaction.”
“Our strategy has been a mix of getting the right reach — TV channels have been the primary drivers; relevance — getting global properties and dubbing them in regional languages; and experience — live entertainment, retail and theatrical experience. We believe in creating great content in as many platforms as possible and creating characters that can become a franchise,” he explains.
“Which other country has such a robust TV media?” asks Samat, underlining the company's priority in media and entertainment.