Bringing Objects to Life with ‘Objectify’ – India’s first hybrid animation series
The Indian animation industry is a sea of opportunities and yet, it hasn’t been explored much beyond the set patterns and simple rules that were laid in its initial stages. As a result, the industry is constantly battling the mediocrity that is being produced and served to the audience in order to make easy money. And in such a scenario, passion invariably suffers.
Of all things in the world, art is perhaps the only one that is fueled by passion more than money to achieve excellence. While the mainstream art forms go by simple, risk-free formulaic execution, it’s the independent art’s affinity towards the constant search for freshness and novelty that opens up many doors and, Objectify – India’s first hybrid animation series exemplifies that.
Three wise men namely Harpreet Singh, Aniruddha Khanwilkar and Ritesh Varma set out on a mission to create something that would break the mould and engage the audience in equal measures. With Objectify, they’ve put everything in their capacity & power to achieve and realise this mission. The series is a joint venture between Hapreet’s Magicy Bunny and Curious Men Films. Aniruddha & Ritesh (who belong to Curious Men Films), have worked in tandem with Avijit Khanwilkar over the direction while Harpreet has co-produced the series.
In an exclusive interview with Pandolin, Aniruddha (Writer – Director), Ritesh (Animation expert – Director – Editor) and Harpreet (Creative Producer) spoke about their upcoming series, which goes online in August 2017.
How was Magicy Bunny formed and what objectives does it have in terms of content creation?
Harpeet: Magicy was my brainchild. Being a multi-talented guy, since I could write, design and create, it gave me the idea to collaborate with people. Hence, it started with the idea that other people could also showcase their talents at Magicy Bunny. Our main objective is to be creative and to entertain at the same time. We want to create good content rather great content that people and the industry would like to see. We want to grow financially and business-wise and want other people to collaborate with us.
How would you define hybrid animation?
Ritesh: Hybrid animation consists of two or more different kinds of animation amalgamated into one. It could well deploy stop motion, live-action or other filmmaking/ animation techniques in order to generate the desired end product.
We want to convey that animation can be viewed by adults. It can be consumed by everyone and has a lot of potential even in India
Talking about Objectify, what was the thought process behind conceptualizing an idea around everyday objects?
Aniruddha: We were looking at making something which had to be new to the Indian market and at the same time relevant to the people because at the end of the day, we all want content that connects with the audience. And since Ritesh comes from an animation background, he was quite adamant about creating something in animation, which could cater to all types of audience because right now in India, animation is considered to be cartoonish. On the other hand, films like Sausage Party are not being shown all over India so, people don’t know much about it.
Ritesh: As a part of our creative process, we used to imagine how a particular object would think in a way and how it would process the emotions of happiness, rejection etc. So, we started building upon it and when Aniruddha came up with the script, things started falling into place.
Harpreet: So, we have covered themes like unemployment, getting dumped, suicide etc. It’s basically a satire, that’s the reason we have named it Objectify.
What was the need that drove you to bring objects to life?
Ritesh: In Toy Story or Sausage Party, the makers have used things that are related to people in the West but, they do not connect with the Indian audience because those toys or things portrayed are only present in the US or Europe. We thought, ‘Why not use some basic things like a tea cup or a toothbrush’, objects we use in our daily lives so that the audience could easily relate to it. That was the whole idea behind bringing objects to life in the series. Right now we have kept it indoors but, for season two we will be moving outdoors as well.
Aniruddha: Let me give you a sneak peak into some of the things (in Objectify). We have used an old mobile handset which is not relevant in today’s time so, he (the phone) feels forcefully retired and is fighting that, ‘What was the need to retire me when I was too good?’ Things like this have been integrated into the narrative.
Is there a larger message that you wish to convey through the series?
Harpeet: More than a message we would like to call it a funny take on life. It’s cute humour and very entertaining. Imagine, what if objects were actually talking and living a life? What if they had names and a personality of their own?
The day when all filmmakers decide that animation should not just be restricted to kids, that is when animated films will also earn a lot of money
What Target Audience does the series cater to?
Harpeet: Currently, all web series are centred on the audience of 20 to 35 years of age and the issues that they are dealing with. We questioned ourselves about what different could we do as Curious Men and Magicy Bunny. That’s when we thought, “What if the objects that we use, have voices and the power to think?” So, we created something that caters to the masses, which will also make the industry take notice about something new, creative and funny.
Aniruddha: The Indian audience is quite large and we don’t want to be typecast. It (Objectify) will have something for everyone. It has intelligent writing and themes which are quite relevant to the youth as well as people who are above 40 years of age. We want to convey that animation can be viewed by adults. It can be consumed by everyone and has a lot of potential even in India.
How many episodes will the series have in its first run?
Aniruddha: It was Ritesh’s idea to explore the world of objects. Hence, we brainstormed and came up with it. We decided to make four episodes and each episode will be a complete package within itself. And, you can connect the dots between each episode. So, if someone starts watching this series from the third episode, they won’t feel lost but will feel the need to watch the first and second episode.
Ritesh, since you handled the animation department, were there other animators or agencies involved? If so, then what brief was given to them – in terms of look and feel for the objects?
I was basically supervising the animation with three animators working under me. Even now, for the promotions etc., we are doing it independently. No agencies are or were involved because we thought that since this is our first series, we should put all our efforts and intelligence in it.
We used to imagine how a particular object would think and how it would process the emotions of happiness, rejection etc
Being the first ones in the hybrid animation genre would have unlocked a whole new set of opportunities & improvisations. Please share some of those that helped you push the envelope.
Harpreet: There were different challenges each time. The first was in the script, on how to go about connecting the dots, character selection, their relationships and how the characters would be defined. Then later came the animation and it just evolved our style of art and now, it looks very premium.
Aniruddha: We shot the first episode in February and when we shot the last episode in April, we realized that we’d came a long way, with regards to the quality. And, to put the quality in the same bracket and to maintain the uniformity, we had to reshoot the first episode.
What is the approach to the marketing for the series?
Harpreet: We are short on budgets for promotions and after the whole creative process, we realized that it’s very hard to pitch your product to the audience. We are primarily using our contacts. We haven’t put much money on the trailer because we want the trailer to be seen by the industry more than the general public. Once the first episode is out, we will scale up our promotions.
Ritesh: We are also playing very smartly, the trailer needs to gather attention and for that, we are eyeing mainly social media platforms and online publications because they are also in need of good content. For example, one of our short films that released in February got promoted on its own. All we did was mail it to certain publications and they picked it up. From that experience we learnt that if we make a quality product, it will get promoted organically. To add to that, it’s a blessing for filmmakers to be born in this era because of the internet.
Harpreet: Yes, basically YouTube is our distributor ‘mama’ (maternal uncle), as we like to call it. And, other than that, we are in constant talks with other platforms as well. It’s one of the major reasons that we are contemplating the release date.
Our main objective is to be creative and to entertain at the same time
What are your views on animation in India and do you see the web as a medium helping in exploring animation?
Harpreet: We feel the script should be the star. In India, our animation content is pretty limited to mythology or something that fascinates kids. The day when all filmmakers decide that animation should not just be restricted to kids, that is when animated films will also earn a lot of money. I hope that if filmmakers come up with bold statements, there will be a positive change in the years to come.
Which other upcoming projects are parked in the bay?
Anirudha: We have a short film in mind. We are also in talks with other production houses along with Magicy Bunny to create another web series that will be in the zone of live-action and not hybrid animation. So, a short film and a web series is in the pipeline and we will be doing advertisements for which we are meeting with some brands. Right now we are doing an advertisement for ‘Bullstop’ which is our sponsor for Objectify. We will do more films for the web. And, in the future, we would definitely love to go for a full-length film, but we aim to reach there slowly and steadily.