With the Hollywood animation film “Alpha & Omega” releasing tomorrow, A. K. Madhavan, CEO of the Indian company that produced it, has reasons to smile. Harshikaa Udasi has the details.

A. K. Madhavan, CEO, Crest Animation Studios, is a happy man. Even though his animation film “Alpha & Omega” releases in India on February 4, months after its U.S. release, the work his 250-strong animating team has done hasn't gone unnoticed. “Alpha & Omega” had been short-listed for nominations to the Oscars this year. ‘Had' because it hasn't got the Oscar nod. But that's not disturbing Madhavan.

“There were going to be just three nominations this year and the contenders to our film were ‘How To Train Your Dragon', ‘Despicable Me' and ‘Toy Story 3'. We had never expected it for our very first venture. But it was a proud feeling nonetheless,” he says.

Several firsts

There are a lot of firsts Madhavan has reason to feel proud of. “This is the first time a Hollywood animation film has been produced by an Indian company and got this close to the Oscars. It is the first time we have used 3D stereoscopic animation. It is a first for us to have a co-production with a Hollywood studio and a first too that it has a Hollywood distributor (both Lionsgate Inc). The best part of it is when we see the title which reads Crest Animation and Lionsgate presents ‘Alpha & Omega' and the rolling credits with the name of each and every animator in my team. That's 250 names! None of the Hollywood animation films has done this before,” says Madhavan, obviously excited. Crest now has a three-film deal with Lionsgate of which “Alpha & Omega” was the first. It took three years from script to screen and the design was done by Crest's LA office while the entire production was done in India.

“Alpha & Omega” is a story about two young wolves Kate and Humphrey who are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Humphrey is an Omega wolf, while Kate is an Alpha. When they are thrown together in a foreign land and need each other to return home, Cupid strikes.

Crest had to deal with a long gap between the international and India releases as it was scouting for a distributor in India. Fox Star Studios is set to release the film this week (February 4). Earlier, the Hollywood studio had successfully distributed films such as “Avatar”, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs”, and “X Men Origins: Wolverine”.

Cost and quality

Madhavan says it was a combination of cost and quality that helped them bag the international project. Madhavan says that while “Toy Story” was made for $250 million and “Tangled” for $260 million, Crest wrapped up “Alpha & Omega” for less than $25 million. “Four years ago, Hollywood was sceptical about the animation coming out of India. But the story has changed now. Remember that it was our show ‘Jakers' on BBS that won the Emmy and BAFTA in 2003. Since then internationally, a lot of companies showed interest in our production house. That was when we decided to develop IP and acquired Rich Animation.” Point out that some of the reviews internationally haven't been flattering, especially some that criticise the film for being totally “non-Pixar”, and Madhavan laughs, “I am so happy they at least compared us to a Pixar. Not to movies like ‘Igor' or ‘Space Chimp'!” Till date, “Alpha & Omega” has reportedly grossed $42 million approximately at the box office.

Madhavan says his company is already working on new projects, emphasising that they are “non-mythological”. Their second movie with Lionsgate is under way. Titled “Norm of the North”, it is about a polar bear that gets into New York City. Besides, that is the company's Indian animated feature. “This one is based on the theme that every father nurses a dream that his son should perform better than him. We will release it in the next six months,” he signs off.

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