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Toonz Media Group

Programming Profile

New year, new slate for India’s Toonz


Increased demand for kids’ content kept Toonz Media Group busy during 2020. This year, the Indian company has a slate of new titles to showcase to global buyers via its suite on C21 Digital Screenings.


India’s Toonz Media Group has a long history of producing and distributing children’s TV content, predominately on the animation side but also in the live-action space.


Like its peers in the industry, Trivandrum-based Toonz had to navigate a challenging year in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, CEO P Jayakumar notes that the company has largely been immune to the negative effects thanks to increased demand for children’s programming and the ability of its employees to continue animation production at home.


“Businesses in general are in a state of flux,” Jayakumar says. “With respect to the content and animation industry in particular, 2020 was a rather eventful year. Content consumption has skyrocketed and the demand for content has never been so pressing. Especially in the kids’ entertainment space, with kids all over the world staying home, there has been an urgent need to keep them positively engaged. And content is now being seen as a source of not just entertainment but also education and inspiration.


P Jayakumar, Toonz Media Group

“We can safely say that, because of this demand, the kids’ entertainment industry has been largely immune compared to other industries that have had to bear the brunt of the pandemic. We definitely have no dearth of work or business. But, that said, it is also important to note that developing and creating content in these restrictive circumstances is a real challenge.


“We are striving hard to ensure none of our projects are affected by the situation. We have a well-formulated business continuity plan in place, so we are prepared to meet any further unforeseen disruption. So far, we haven’t had any major challenges with meeting deadlines.”


With children out of school during the lockdown periods, Toonz and its Madrid-based distribution arm Imira Entertainment have seen increased demand for educational programming, according to Jayakumar, in addition to interactive content and programmes suitable for co-viewing.


Darwin & Newts
Darwin & Newts

“There is a lot of emphasis currently on edutainment, particularly in the area of social and emotional learning,” he says. “This is one area that kids completely missed out on during lockdown with the schools remaining shut. Peer group interaction is very important for kids, especially smaller kids. So there is a lot of demand for content that focuses on this.”


There is also a lot of demand from buyers for interactive, immersive and gamified content that can drive kids to get involved in some kind of activity, according to Jayakumar. This kind of non-linear storytelling, which incorporates exploration, gaming or problem-solving into the storyline, is particularly suited for VoD platforms, he adds.


“The pandemic has also created a lot of interest in content suitable for co-viewing – programming that the whole family can sit together and enjoy, as well as programmes that parents can watch with their kids and get involved actively,” Jayakumar says.


Charlie, the Interviewer of Things
Charlie, the Interviewer of Things

“For example, shows that promote DIY, where the experience goes beyond the screens and kids and parents spend time together not just watching the show but also building and creating something based on the cues given in the show,” he says.


Overall, Jayakumar says there continues to be a focus on “value-oriented shows with a global appeal” that have multicultural characters and universal values, while IP-based well-known brands with strong toyco or merchandising scope are always in demand among buyers.


With these trends in mind, Toonz has selected 10 titles for its C21 Digital Screenings playlist. Catering to the demand for educational programming is preschool series Darwin & Newts (40×11’), which helps four- to seven-year-olds learn, discover and experiment with early science and engineering principles.


Badamanu Zoo
Badamanu Zoo

Also within the edutainment space is Charlie, the Interviewer of Things (52×11’), a fun-filled and informative chatshow for preschoolers that fosters a critical and curious mindset by creating excitement to learn about new things.


Mixing edutainment with the demand for interactive content is Badamanu Zoo (52×15’), developed in partnership with the Zoological Society of East Anglia in the UK, which teaches two- to seven-year-olds the wonders of the animal world.

Also in Toonz’s playlist is a series of comedy shows, including 52×11’ preschool comedy adventure series Paddypaws & Pals, about a bunch of adventurous kittens, and Sunny-side Billy (52×11’), a coproduction with Spanish broadcaster TVE’s children’s channel Clan in association with French studio Tractor. The show is aimed at 6-9s and centres on a witty, happy-go-lucky fried egg and his friends.


Aliens in My Backpack
Aliens in My Backpack

CGI action-comedy Aliens in My Backpack (52×11’), meanwhile, is aimed at four- to seven-year-olds and is coproduced with Russian studio Soyuzmult. It is joined by comedy adventure Mondo Yan (52×12’), which is aimed at 6-9s and follows three young apprentice misfits chosen by three eccentric elders to protect their peaceful and idyllic world from evil powers. Mondo Yan is a copro with Television of Catalonia.


Aimed at girls aged five to 11 is Best Furry Friends, a 52×11’ comedy adventure about the friendships of cuddly pets, while Zombie Town is a horror comedy movie aimed at tweens and families, based on the literary works of children’s horror author RL Stine.


Completing Toonz’s line-up is 52×11’ non-dialogue adventure series Briko, which is coproduced with Turkish studio Fauna. Aimed at 4-7s, the show is a CGI and live-action hybrid focusing on the values of conservation and recycling, including a DIY element.


Best Furry Friends
Best Furry Friends

Five of Toonz’s playlist titles – Charlie the Interviewer of Things, Best Furry Friends, Badanamu Zoo, Mondo Yan and Darwin & Newts – are available to buy immediately, according to Jayakumar, while the remaining five – Paddypaws & Pals, Sunny-side Billy, Aliens in My Backpack, Zombie Town and Briko – are still in production and are scheduled to become available in time for this year’s Mipcom event in October.


The exec adds that while each of the shows could work on any platform or broadcaster, some are more suited to VoD than others, particularly those with interactive elements.


“We target the whole spectrum of buyers, from telcos to broadcasters to streamers,” he says. “Some of the shows are very well suited to non-linear platforms like SVoDs. For example, Badanamu Zoo is an interactive title that has a separate module for VoD platforms that allows the audience to engage more deeply with the storyline and characters.


Zombie Town
Zombie Town

“Charlie, the Interviewer of Things also has a special module for streamers that is more interactive than the broadcast version. But in general, all of these shows are flexible and can be aired on any platform.”


Now that we’re in 2021, Toonz will continue with its aim of creating content with universal values, according to Jayakumar, through which it will tackle issues relating to diversity and multiculturalism.


“We have in our pipeline several exciting projects and are proud to say all of them have extremely diverse and relevant content that upholds universal values,” Jayakumar says. “We are collaborating with many renowned creators like Keith Chapman [Bob the Builder, Paw Patrol], with whom we are developing Paddypaws & Pals.


“Another one is a value-oriented show called JG & the BC Kids in partnership with veteran American actress Janet Hubert. The show, which inspires kids to embrace differences, is also entirely driven by a multicultural team.”