The state-of-the-art studio of Toonz Animation on the Technopark campus here is humming with activity.

Last week, employees were working day and night giving final touches to ‘Gaturro,' a 90-minute 3D-animation feature film slated for global release on September 15.

Three other major projects are in different stages of production at the sprawling 18,000 sq ft studio. Directors Priyadarshan and Shyamaprasad are directing two films.

It is often a race against time to meet deadlines but then it is passion that drives the workforce here, CEO P. Jayakumar said. “The credits that appear on the screen are the greatest reward for the employees.”

Based on a famous Argentine comic strip created by Christian Dzwonik, ‘Gaturro' chronicles the fun love story of two cats, Gaturro, the protagonist, and Agatha. The co-production deal with the South American Illusion Studios is worth Rs.45 crore.

“Gaturro is slated to hit theatres in India by December. Except voice, music and post-production, everything else, including character design, has been done in the Thiruvananthapuram studio,” Mr. Jayakumar said.

Asked about the major challenge in converting a comic strip hero to an animated character for the global audience, he said, “Storytelling holds the key. The story should be simple; it should be sensitive to cultural nuances.”

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan will be featured as a twin character in Twinergy, another ambitious project taken up by Toonz Animation in association with Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd.

The first animation work to be directed by Priyadarshan, the Rs.20-crore film tells the story of two cities, one on earth and the other in the sky, united by an energy field. The plot revolves around two superheroes with complementary powers, who set about fighting evil forces to save the two kingdoms from mutual destruction.

“Priyadarshan has come up with a fantastic screenplay for Twinergy. Amitabh Bachchan lends his voice. We expect the film to be ready for release by Diwali next year,” Mr. Jayakumar said.

“The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus' is a 3D-animated feature film to be produced by Toonz in collaboration with G7 Animation of the U.S. and distributed by Hyde Park Entertainment, an Ashok Amritraj Enterprise. “We expect it to reach theatres worldwide by Christmas 2011.”

Based on the classic book by L. Frank Baum, creator of The Wizard of Oz, the movie chronicles the life of Santa Claus from an infant to an adult.

“This is the first time a movie will feature the origin of Santa and all Christmas traditions. We believe that this will be well received by audiences across the globe,” Mr. Jayakumar said.

The fourth 3D animation work lined up by Toonz is a film on the Taj Mahal, to be directed by Shyamaprasad. The company has tied up with Al Jazeera television for the project and is hoping to close a deal with a Pakistani studio based in Karachi. “It is a Valentine theme, a love story. The project, estimated to cost $4 million, will be completed in two years,” Mr. Jayakumar said.

Giving an update on the ongoing pre-production works, he said his team was working on a slew of TV series for the international market. These include the Little Kalari Warriors, Siva-2 and Hanuman Immortal-2.

Keywords: 3D animationcinema