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Focusing on local animation, Disney moves away from live-action shows

MUMBAI: Betting big on local animation shows, Disney India’s flagship kids channel Disney Channel has moved away from live-action shows that once formed a key pillar of its content strategy.

Beginning January, the channel has stopped airing live-action shows since local animation shows are driving viewership for kids broadcasters in India.

With the strategy of having 40–50% local animated content on the channel in the next three years, Disney is slated to launch its second local animated series named ‘Gajju Bhai’ on 18 April. Its first local animation property ‘Arjun: Prince of Bali’ was launched in 2014 in partnership with Green Gold Animation.

Vijay Subramaniam, VP and Head – Content and Communication, Media Networks – Disney India“Over the next three years, our goal is to have 40–50% local animation. We will make significant investment in local animation. Our investments are not going up we are just channelling it in other direction,” said Disney India Media Networks VP content and communication Vijay Subramaniam.

The channel will roll out two more local animation shows during the summer. “Through the summer, we are going to launch one new show. One after four weeks and then after four weeks another one,” he noted.

The new series comprising 52 episodes is a co-production with Toonz Animation. Airing every Monday at 6 pm, the show will have multiple repeats throughout the week.

‘Gajju Bhai’, he said, has all the ingredients to become a long-running show. He further added that the series will also have a made-for-TV feature film during the middle of the season.

Animation, Subramaniam said, is growing and that local animation is growing rapidly. “Hence, we doubled down our focus on local animation,” he said.

With local animation being the focus, local live actions have to take a backseat. Live action, Subramaniam had earlier stated, is a great bridge for kids and adults to be entertained together.

“We did weekend live action for a year and now we have decided to focus all our energies on local animation. We don’t have live action on our channel for a while now since January. Local live action was one thread that we had to serve kids and families, but now we feel that local animation serves us better,” Subramaniam said.

Earlier, the channel had two key local live-action shows, namely ‘Best of Luck Nikki’ and ‘The Suite Life of Karan and Kabir’. Later, it launched five family-oriented live-action shows during weekend primetime to bring family audiences to the channel. The channel experimented with the weekend live-action strategy for a year before doing away with live action altogether.

“Our ethos has always been to be locally relevant whether it’s the way we present our content, the language in which we do that and the way we introduce our characters. When we did live action, we added local flavour to it and the same goes for local animation,” Subramaniam stated.

Kids in the 4–14 age group are consuming more of local animated characters, which is palpable from the success of ‘Chhota Bheem’ on Pogo and ‘Motu and Patlu’ on Nick. Disney’s ‘Arjun’ is in its third season.

“Our focus is to serve kids in locally relevant manner. Having said that, we are not pursuing the regular formula of mythology. We believe there are many interesting stories from India to be told,” he averred.