MUMBAI: Entertaining children on television is not child’s play. Many Indian broadcasters would agree. But Nickelodeon India, owned by Viacom18, has managed to do well through iconic characters such as Motu Patlu, Gattu Battu, Shiva and Rudra among several others. Now the children’s broadcaster is making its biggest gamble: teaming up with its international partner Nickelodeon International to co-produce a new 2D animated series targeting two to 14-year-olds around the world.
Titled Sammy & Raj’s twisted timeline, it is scheduled to roll out on Nickelodeon’s international channels in 2021.
“The UK and the US are two countries that produce a lot of animation content. India is the only region other than these two that has increased its original IP animation production capacity, ”said Anu Sikka, creative head of the Viacom18 content & research Kids TV network. “When the British team approached us, we thought since so many productions take place in India, why not do something from India? The idea was to create an IP and a show that works all over the world. “
And that’s why it took the teams of the two companies, including Sikka and Nickelodeon VP animation Chris Rose, two years to crack the project. Sikka brainstormed with her Indian colleagues to come up with the basic concept, which was then refined and honed together with the Nickelodeon International team. “We’ve incorporated the cultural nuances of India into the show to make it endearing to both Indian and international audiences,” reveals Sikka.
The writers have room for it Sammy & Raj’s twisted timeline is now based in the US under the supervision of lead writer Jordan Gershowitz. Creatives are supervised by both the British and Indian creative teams and the animation is done in Big Animation’s studio in Pune.
The channel uses Frame.io for better connectivity and to clear assets and storyboards. Sikka emphasizes that the entire process has slowed down as a result of the pandemic. According to her, the studio has gradually increased the pace and arranged software and necessary equipment for employees sitting at home. She says, “Fortunately for the kids’ content and animation, we didn’t need shoots, so our work didn’t stop. Yes, initially the challenge was to coordinate with everyone, there were internet connection issues in some places. There were initial hiccups, but now we’re back on track. Pre-production work that includes conceptualization and writing went at a somewhat faster pace. “
Sikka says that while the IP of the new series is with Viacom18, distribution will be done by Nickelodeon International in the territories where it can be sold. Of course, the first broadcast right will be with all Nickelodeon channels. She says her primary focus is to launch the show on a larger scale, and depending on the traction, the channel will look to further distribution and licensing.
She points out that English dubbing will take place in both India and the UK, but the content dubbing in Hindi and other regional languages will be completely domestically. She adds that there could also be a movie franchise in the works – just like Motu Patlu – depending on Sammy & Raj’s twisted timeline popularity.
Animated shows on Indian television are budgeted between Rs 12-25 lakh for a 2D series and Rs 22-35 lakh for a 3D series. Sikka hated to reveal the co-production budget. But industry sources show it might be multiples of what Indian shows can offer.
The news about the co-production has warmed many a veteran in the animation industry. One of them says: “This is so good. There was a time when India was known for outsourcing and not original IPs. But recent efforts such as Mighty little Bheem by Green Gold on Netflix and Vaibhav Studios’ Lamput on Cartoon Network has created a worldwide furor and tells a different story about the animation power of India. “
The hope of most industry professionals is that Sammy & Raj’s twisted timeline will take that animation story further into the next chapter.