Mr. Anjan Cariappa is an independent Animation Consultant, who has tremendous experience in the animation industry having played various roles in the past. These include being creative director at Pentamedia Graphics Ltd, Image Infotainment Pvt Ltd and Dawsen Infotech. He was also creative consultant at Accel Animation and RedOctane Technologies Private Limited.
CG Today : Mr. Anjan, thank you for joining us today and we are sure, our readers will be excited to hear more about your experiences and insights in the animation industry.
Anjan : You are welcome. It is indeed a pleasure for me to speak to an audience that I relate well to.
CG Today : Your career is extremely impressive with a treasure of experience built over the several years. As an animation specialist you need to be on top of several aspects including commercial development of new products, communication with other creative artists and the management and also understanding the soul of an animation and visual effects project. What is your mantra for dealing with this?
Anjan : Thank you. You are absolutely right about being on top of several aspects. Constant exposure through live interactions with other professionals and the media keeps me up to date with current and emerging technologies. However, everything boils down to skill. I always believe and profess the fact that the core factor to all these pursuits is the talent and skill of the individual and everything else are just tools. A person with good talent can create wonders even with basic tools which another may not be able to come close to with the best and most advanced of tools. It’s the person behind the system that matters. If seen in this light everything falls into place. Constant improvement in products just makes the work easier.
CG Today : You were creative director at Image Infotainment Pvt Ltd prior to moving to your latest avatar. Does it involve a significant change or were you able to carry any specific skills of your past role as creative director into your current position? What are the challenges involved in being an animation specialist?
Anjan : The designation “Animation Specialist” is a rather broad term. I have been an Animation Specialist first. Creative direction would be a stream that would come under this umbrella. I have had the opportunity to start with traditional cel animation which according to me is the basic ground work for good animation. This experience has helped me handle all aspects of an animation production which includes everything from pre-production to post production. I personally design all the characters, sets and story sketches and story boards for my production. Directing an animation production takes special skills unlike that of live action production.
CG Today : Can you tell us how you started your career in animation?
Anjan : I started my career while still in college doing odd jobs at ad agencies. But heart of hearts it was animation that I wanted to explore. I remember of me even as a child wanting to be an animator one day. When all the kids around would be saying that they would grow up to be a pilot, doctor or an engineer like all kids even today do, I was sure what I wanted to become (laughs). All my text books would all be flip books and note books filled with cartoons. In fact all my friends in class would await the release of my regular hand drawn comic books and “flicks”. There were no animation studios that we knew of then. Then one fine day I heard from someone about a large animation studio setting up shop in Chennai and immediately went for an interview. We were shown demo-reels of the company and we were floored! Each and every animated commercial that we ever got to see on TV were done by them. I was quickly selected to join work by the next week.
Something strange happened after that. The next day I heard from a man who wanted to set up an animation studio also. Mr.Phani Tetali, a veteran animator who had worked with stalwarts such as Ram Mohan was starting “Animatix”. I politely told him that he was late! I however reluctantly agreed to meet him that day. What I saw there was an empty 1000 sq/ft apartment with just enough furniture for us both to sit on. He then spoke about some project that he was going to get and all that. Any sane person would have just walked out! On one side was this famous studio where any aspiring animator would do anything to work and here was this gentle spoken man sitting in a vacant flat in a residential neighborhood asking me to join him and that too with no project in hand. Call me insane, but I listened to my heart and joined Animatix. I never ever regretted that decision. What I am today is because of Mr.Phani, who for me was a guru of sorts. He gave me complete freedom and trusted my skills. I went on to design most of the characters and drew all the 13 episodes’ storyboards for the very first 2D animated series “Tara ki Duniya”. I got to work on all aspects of production. We were a very small but dedicated team and we churned out unbelievable amount of footage. This became the strong foundation for my complete career.
I then worked on various animation projects as a freelancer. My big break came when I was chosen to direct a 3D feature film Alibaba for Pentamedia. I was selected from among 70 prospective candidates. My storyboarding skills won me the post. I am indebted to veterans and visionaries such as Mr.Sujatha Rangarajan and Mr.V.Chandrashekar of Pentamedia for giving such an opportunity. I was given a young and fabulous team. Everyone was new and I had the good fortune to mould many of them and I am very proud of their achievements today. We were a small team and I personally did most of the pre-production including character design and storyboards. Alibaba went on to be selected for Oscar nominations and we could repeat the same with our next 2D animated feature “The Legend of Buddha” for which I was the creative director.
CG Today : Image infotainment Pvt Ltd, your previous employer has been around for almost two decades now, having won many awards through its involvement in various projects including 2D and 3D animation, Can you share with us the working ambience and your role responsibilities at Image Infotainment?
Anjan : I have had a long and very personal relationship with Image Infotainment. I was just out of college then and was working on various animated commercials. I got the opportunity to direct one of Image Infotainment’s pioneering projects way back in 1998. It was a 2D animated interactive CD title in English called “Ramayana”. It was a commendable project for its time. Mr.Kumar of Image Infotainment has been a source of inspiration and a mentor for me from then and to this day I have learned many a things from him. The project was well accepted and went on to be released in French too. After that I went on to become the creative director of Pentamedia and after a six year career span, was back at Image Infotainment as its creative director.
At Image Infotainment we worked on various projects, the main being the award winning 3D animated series “Banzi and the tales from Kaziranga”. It was a pet project of sorts since the concept itself was by me and I was involved in all its aspects including character design, script, screenplay and direction. We also went on to develop a full-length feature script and I am still active on that project.
CG Today : Our readers will find it incredible that you had won the 1st NASSCOM Super Pitch for Best 3D animated series as well, while you were a creative director at Image Infotainment Ltd. You had won this prestigious award for Banzi which was selected for its local relevance of the characters, freshness of the storyline, witty dialogue, “Bang On” character development and use of vivid palette. Can you talk us through a bit more about this project?
Anjan : “Banzi and the tales from kaziranga” is a story about a colony of bats in the forests of Kaziranga in Assam and their adventures. The design and story has a global appeal. The characters are unique and the concept original. What got us the award is this uniqueness and originality. At the “Super pitch”, we had relevant presentation material ready such that all concepts from pre-production to merchandise were prototyped. Every detail was thought out in the commercial sense too during this presentation. We are in plans to produce the same as a full length feature and are looking at prospective co-production partners.
CG Today : You were also a creative consultant and animation series director at Accel Animation which offers end-to-end services in animation, motion capture, VFX and gaming content. It is also one of the pioneers of performance capture with projects like Ali Baba aur 41 chor. How was your experience working for a company known as a trailblazer of sorts?
Anjan : Accel Animation is a very professional animation facility and it was wonderful working there. Having worked with very large teams before, I already knew most of the team members at Accel who had earlier worked on my other projects. In fact it was Muralidharan, the now CTO of Accel who had also worked with me before who put me on the project. At Accel, I was involved with the production of “Raju the Rickshaw” and handled all pre-production including character design and directed the first few episodes. Raju the Rickshaw went on to win the NASSCOM super pitch award that year, becoming the second consecutive win for me.
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