Tooned in to the season

THE LAST time when Cartoon Network put up a carnival in the city, hundreds of children of different variants thronged Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium. That was a long time ago, so long ago that the children would now say, that was ``once upon a time''.

As their favourite channel returns to the city with its third innings of Toon Cricket (for the first time in Chennai) in February, Hema Govindan, Vice President of Marketing, Turner Entertainment Networks Asia, addressing mediapersons recently, was all geared to field questions (and quite literally geared at that, sporting a cricketer's look).

``Chennai is certainly among the top four markets, after Bombay and Delhi. There's a high level of English awareness among the kids here. And its one of the first markets that we embraced,'' she starts off.

In fact, the channel found an encouraging response to its two hour weekly Tamil programming. Their latest `Toon Cricket' programme to be held in Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor stadium, Hema says is ``very much part of localisation initiatives''.

Their nine hours of weekly Hindi programming has been received well in the North and West of India, she says.

The inspiration behind live events was to bring Cartoon Network and the characters closer to the children. That's the reason why Toon Cricket would be played in a tooned environment.

``Such programmes are intended to blur the lines between the real world and the comic world. Last year, the match was between Dexter's team and Scooby Doo's team. This year, we are letting the kids pick the team captain, almost spoofing Super Selector,'' Hema explains.

Ask her about Indian kids idolising too many western cartoon heroes without having a desi hero of their own, and Hema is quick to quip, ``The characters have no nationality. Scooby Doo is just a dog. His appeal is universal. It's got nothing to do with being western. As long as there are compelling enough stories, characters that are memorable, it doesn't matter where the character emanates from''.

Cartoon Network does not screen ``some shows that are culturally irrelevant to India'', she adds. Not that the channel is opposed to Indian content. Cartoon Network had acquired rights of Pentamedia's `Sinbad' and `Pandavas' and ``they were rated quite well''.

Anyway, the excitement has already started for hundreds of children in the city. For they will now watch Scooby, Tom, Jerry, Popeye and their ilk play cricket, and live!

It was a year and half ago that they had seen the toons in town. Last year, it was Scooby Doo's team that won the match, and Scooby was `Man(!) of the match'!

Who will it be this year?

Stay tuned.

By Sudhish Kamath

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