Four Important "MUST HAVES" for Being a Global CGI Animation Producer

By AMRITA VALECHA | 11 January, 2011 - 15:43


 A K Madhavan

The subject of 'The Four important must haves for being a global CGI Animation Producer' was discussed by A.K Madhavan from Crest Animation who recently produced full length 3D stereoscopic film, Alpha & Omega which released in over 60 countries. Madhavan took the audience through his journey of how he scaled Crest Animation and what were the challenges that he faced in between.

Started as a TV commercial house and doing services for other animation producers, Crest Animation wanted to start creating their own IP. But of course the decision was not easy. Madhavan shared, "We understood film making, we understood technicalities because we were the pioneers in graphics, but what we did not understand was the creative sensibilities. There are plenty of folktales but we don't know how to design those characters like Winnie or Donald Duck."

So the first most important step for the CGI producer is to have a 'Creative pipeline'. "The only way for us to have a successful creative pipeline was to get into Hollywood. We acquired a small company called Rich Animation. It was owned by Rich, who worked with Disney for 14 years and had a lot of experience."

The second step is to have a "Production Pipeline", which can produce good animation. Giving his own example, Madhavan shared that between 2000-2002, he walked into 50-60 studios in Europe and got thrown out because he did not have a reel to show them. He also went to a lot of markets but he never got a positive response. "In 2002, I went to NAB3 and met Mike Young and wanted to spend 5 mins with him. I started taking about Cricket and got a chance to take him for dinner. They were 17 of them and I was in the impression that I would get to speak to him exclusively. We all spoke about everything but Crest Animation. But later on Mike came up to me and asked me to come to his office tomorrow. He asked me to do a test for him. We did the test extremely well."

Mike then asked Madhavan how many CGI seats do they have and if they could produce a series. He said yes, but did not know how to do it. The name of the show was 'The Adventures Of Piggley Winks' and it was nominated for Annecy film festival. In 2004, it won Emmys and BAFTA as well.

"We delivered high quality at low cost and that was the time a lot of outsource companies were coming up. We did another 24 episodes series called Pet Alien. Our key was that we never said no to whatever work we got. We figured ways to get it done but never said no and hence we formed a complete end to end production pipeline. Between 2002 and 2006, we had delivered over a couple of 100 shows."

Once Crest knew that they could produce high end quality animation, they built their own robust production pipeline to take care of multiple projects at the studio.





"We then wanted to create or co-own our own property. Why are IBM and Microsoft global players? Because they have channel partners that is called distribution. The 3rd important step is to have a strong distribution relationship."

"I was lucky to bump into a gentleman from Lionsgate and we got drunk together. I said you should get into animation, they said why and I gave examples of Disney and their successful properties. We should excite the distributor to put in the money in the production. Only Pixar and Disney do that."

Crest then got into a 3 picture deal with Lionsgate. Alpha and Omega was released in September 2010 and currently they are working on the 2nd feature.

Madhavan shared, "When we got into the deal with Lionsgate, they got 50% but we did not have 50%. So we went to this company - DE SHAW who took a stake in the movie and funded part of the money. People were scared if we would be able to deliver in quality, time etc. Then they asked if it could be done in stereo and I said why not. Crest was the first one to deliver stereo movie out of Asia."

So the 4th important step for the CGI Producer is to get his finances. He shared that the Finances will come in place once you have the above three - Creative Pipeline, Production Pipeline and Strong Distribution. Madhavan concluded, "Don't loose hope, there is no short cut and you need to be persistent.