How Cosmos-Maya integrates technology and storytelling

Cosmos-Maya has positioned itself as one of the pioneers in the field of animation in India

Cosmos-Maya has positioned itself as one of the pioneers in the field of animation in India   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

With the animation industry growing at a rapid rate, how does Cosmos-Maya come up with interesting concepts, without compromising on the quality of content?

A nine-year-old Ankush’s life changes when he meets a mysterious character called Bajrangi, modelled after the Indian God Hanuman. Bajrangi not only helps Ankush deal with his inner fears, but also teaches him life lessons. This is the premise of the animated series Selfie with Bajrangi, whose quintessential ‘Indianness’ may look preposterous on paper, but has achieved popularity among children. The show runners are Cosmos-Maya, best known for creating the animated sitcom Motu Patlu, the Indian Laurel and Hardy.

What started as a service studio in 1996 has grown into becoming one of the leading animators in the country. Since 2012, Cosmos-Maya became an Intellectual Property (IP) creation company with over 14 shows and 2,000-plus episodes. What explains the company’s longevity? Over an email interview, Anish Mehta, CEO of Cosmos-Maya, attributes the success to the evolving business model.

Anish Mehta, CEO of Cosmos-Maya

Anish Mehta, CEO of Cosmos-Maya   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“Fresh content is a great contributory factor here. Novelty and relatability are two aspects you will find in all our IPs. Our shows air in more than 150 countries worldwide. The latest and biggest evolutionary leap is our entry into third-party distribution, which we are aggressively pursuing.”

Secrets of an illusionist
  • Anish Mehta believes that “international co-productions are the way forward”. Cosmos-Maya currently has four Italian co-productions including Leo Da Vinci, Berry Bees, an Italian-Australian-Irish co-production, OPS and Atchoo!.
  • The company has tied up with Studio 100 France for the upcoming Galactic Agency.
  • WowKidz, according to Anish, has registered over 12 billion views, giving us a picture about the company’s digital penetration.

From a business perspective, what determines the success of series like Selfie with Bajrangior Guddu? Is it the programming strategy or the numbers with which they gauge their target audience? The secret sauce, according to Anish, is “the ability to speak to viewers in the universal language of relatability”. He goes on to add: “In a world where success is determined by rating points, I believe that success depends on the impact that the show leaves on the audience.” In terms of the investment for an average animated series, Anish says that the scale is much lesser in India compared to other Asian markets like Korea and China. Without getting into actual numbers, he adds that the cost is anywhere between US$1.5- 2.5 million for 52 X 11 episodes.

Lack of creativity

The Indian animation industry operates in a restricted environment (read: kid-friendly content) and the market is plagued by its need to cater to children — arguably the reason why we are light years away from producing a high-concept animated series like Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, which has a reasonably good fan following among Indian millennials. Anish says that Cosmos-Maya has managed to identify this alarming gap and senses a potential opportunity, thanks to the influence of Hollywood movies, the opening of digital market and the audience’s maturity.

A still from Inspector Chingum

A still from Inspector Chingum   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

There are several untapped markets in the country, he agrees. One such being cinema. Scores of independent VFX companies have been working closely with major studios in Hollywood. Yet, Indian cinema hasn’t produced a single memorable animated feature which indicates the lack of fresh content in Indian cinema. It is also partly because the animation industry continues to depend on mythology for formidable narratives. In fact, Cosmos-Maya’s feature film Motu Patlu: King of Kings did not do well unlike as opposed to its cartoon series. If this poses a threat to the animation industry, how do they overcome it? Anish says, “Storytelling is evolving and Baahubali has proved it. It’s a matter of time for animation to get there.”

Paper to pixels

Cosmos-Maya gained a strong digital presence with WowKidz, an umbrella channel consisting of over 30 animated programmes with over 25 million subscriptions so far. Anish Mehta observes that there is a significant change in the consumption pattern of the audience, thanks to the emerging popularity of large-scale, video-on-demand services. With regards to the rising production quality on streaming services he elaborates, “This bodes well for content creators as there will be more touchpoints for the final consumer to reach our library... People are now more open to linear kind of stories and the length of the show is not that big a restriction.”

Cosmos-Maya also has plans to exploit the potential of Virtual Reality, which is gradually seeping into the animation industry. But right now, Anish Mehta is optimistic about its future impact, “We will be foraying into VR soon. The business for VR in India is being analysed and the current trends paint a good picture.”

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2020 3:46:55 AM |

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