Interview with Anish Patel, Founder of HopMotion Animation

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Mumbai-based Hopmotion Animation is a leading production house founded by Anish Patel, who is a film maker, writer, director, an editor and an animator. With many years of experience in the media and entertainment space was a co-creator of an Indian animation series Chhoti Anandi which debuted on General Entertainment Channel (GEC) Colors this year.

Chhoti Anandi centers on the character of Anandi, the protagonist of Balika Vadhu. The series captures the adventures of Anandi’s playful childhood.

Recently, Sphereorigins Multivision and HopMotion’s Chhoti Anandi also bagged the New Animation Entrant award at BAF 2016.

In an exclusive interview with Animation Digital Digest’s Leo Oommen, HopMotion Animation Founder Anish Patel tells about his journey in the animation industry so far.

Could you please tell us about how you started your career in Animation?

I have graduated from film school in the US and when I came back to India, I started working in television as a creative director and then later as a writer for Films. After working in Television for about four to five years, I joined a film company funded by Mr Manmohan Shetty and that’s where I met my wife. We wrote and developed a lot of films over the course of our stint at the company. My wife is also the co-founder of HopMotion. One of the films that we wrote and were going to direct was an animated sequel of the cult hit Andaz Apna Apna, that is what initially started my journey towards animation.

anish-patel-carmen-zainabadi-2What inspired you to start HopMotion Animation?

I was always interested in animation, even in my film course I took up a lot of animation related classes even though the focus was on live-action. Then, the project of Andaz Apna Apna got stalled and simultaneously we got writing offers for animated television shows. So, my wife and I wrote the Kid Krrish series, other shows for Toonz like Jil Jil Genie, few episodes of Pakdam Pakdai, Bunty aur Billy. At that time we started as a small animation studio to create web content and that is how Hopmotion was born. Chhoti Anandi was one of the shows, the idea for which we developed along with the producers of Balika Vadhu.

You being a filmmaker, writer, director, editor and animator, among all these roles which do you like the most?

There are challenges in each of those roles so I actually like the whole overall picture. What’s exciting is, when you have an idea, you see the entire idea being executed. This is where my background and training in Film from University of California,Santa Cruz came in, as there we were made to do everything from writing to directing to editing.

How does it feel to change the face of animation industry with much more Indian Content?

I think the animation industry in India itself has a long way to go. There is huge potential in the Indian market. We are a huge market; Canada has 26 million people and we have 500 million kids but the amount of animation which Canada produce is way more than we do. The problem is that Indian channels for some reason are not producing and investing in original Indian content as much as they should be when compared to the size of market. Animation can experiment with lot of things which is still not happening in India. Shows like The Simpsons, The Family Guy cater to teens and young adults. Indian channels only think of animation for kids. So the day when we have very successful animated show for everyone, that’s when I would say, we have changed the face of animation industry.

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Why did you choose animation as a medium of storytelling instead of the traditional storytelling art form?

I love all the mediums of storytelling from live-action to animation. Each has its own space and when it comes to animation you can do a lot more than you could do in live action with that kind of budget. When you make a cartoon show you can show a man fly across, show him jumping from planet to planet and all this with a lesser budget. Whatever you can imagine, you can definitely do. The kind of imagination it needs is very different from what you would have in live-action as it follows certain rules and sticks to the reality we know. In animation there are no boundaries, you can define your own boundaries, the possibilities are limitless.

How did the idea of producing Chhoti Anandi, an animated series inspired by Balika Vadhu come up?

Live-action is dominant on General Entertainment Channels (GEC) and there is very little experimentation with animation. Whereas earlier Doordarshan (DD) always had a slot for animated series take Jungle Book, He-man for instance. Now kids watch cartoon shows on Cartoon Network and other such animation channels. We wanted to create something which is animated that everyone can watch.

Along with Sunjoy Waddhwa, CMD, Sphereorigins, producer of Balika Vadhu, that if we created a show based on something which already had a connect with the audiences then it would work. Anandi as a character, especially when she was a young girl, was very popular and lent itself to a perfect animation series. Chhoti Anandi was an organic and natural outcome of that thinking. Since it already had a built in viewership, we were confident it would appeal to the older and the new generation alike. And that is how we crafted it as well.

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What has been the most challenging aspect of creating 2D Indian Animation Content?

We are a creatively driven studio and not a strictly business driven one, however being an entrepreneur I have to manage both the sides of it. As an entrepreneur my decisions would be completely different from that as creative person, balancing the commercial side and creative side is the biggest challenge. Another huge challenge when it comes to animation is the funding when creating your own shows.

There is huge pool of talent when it comes to animation in India. How well do you think Indian animation studios can channelize it?

Yes, we have a huge population but skilled talent is not that much. We focus on 2D animation and that needs traditional skills and basic fundamentals of animation. Suddenly everyone thinks it is a booming sector and there is lot of jobs. People just do one course in animation and feel they could get job but it doesn’t work like that. Maybe to an extent it may work in 3D animation. Traditionally, 2D animators were always there in India which now we find less and less because people are not investing and training them in traditional ways.

How would you describe your journey in the Animation Industry so far?

It’s been fun and challenging at the same time. The industry itself is in a very new phase, it’s not a new industry per say but we have already gone through one cycle and now we are evolving into next cycle which is even bigger and better and a lot more focus on our market. Hope the journey takes us all to a place where we work, animate and create, our own new content and have buyers for that.

What advice would you give to someone who would want to break into animation industry?

One piece of advice would be is to be persistent because you need to have thick skin and you cannot give up. You have to create a niche for yourself because it is a very challenging field. One animator can give you only two or three seconds per day, so you need a lot of patience. Over a period of time with patience your projects will build up. If someone is impatient and wants instant success or money this is probably not the place for them. You can only do it if you have the passion for it and if you ask yourself would you do it even if you are not getting paid, and if the answer to that is yes, then go for it.