Indian animation, gaming booms

Industry grew to $325 mil in 2007, up 27% from 2006

NEW DELHI -- India's animation, gaming and visual FX industry grew by almost 27%, from $256 million in 2006 to $325 million in 2007, according to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers India and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. The report predicts that this business will reach $1 billion in 2012, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 25%.

This growth reflects the success of homegrown animation features such as "Return of Hanuman" as well as India's strength as an emerging visual FX player. Upcoming domestic

animation features include UTV's "The Dream Blanket" by "Ice Age" (2002) animator Simi Nallaseth. The Mumbai-based visual FX company Prime Focus recently acquired studios in the U.K. and U.S.

International players are also raising the stakes. Bangalore-based Virgin Comics -- founded by Richard Branson, last year's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" director Shekhar Kapur and author Deepak Chopra -- is planning animation features spawned from its comic titles. Turner International recently announced plans to set up an affiliate to produce at least two animation features a year, along with TV content.

So far, the most high-profile project comes from Disney's exclusive animation partnership with leading Bollywood banner Yash Raj Films. Their first collaboration is the upcoming "Roadside Romeo," voiced by Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. "What Disney has brought is an international sensibility, apart from ensuring excellence in the actual animation output," says Sanjeev Kohli, director and CEO of Yash Raj. "'Romeo' has been created to appeal to all age groups. It has all the trappings of a commercial

Indian live-action film, with songs and dances, with drama and a story line, which appeals to a wide spectrum of film viewers."