There is a string that connects Bollywood superstars Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh, and it is an animated one. These stars have all entered the small screen in animated avatars of their popular characters, just to entertain the kids.
Adapting popular Bollywood franchises into kids' animated content is not a new trend, but re-interpreting Bollywood stars as toons is a developing trend. The latest addition to this space is Ranveer's popular character Simmba through "Smashing Simmba".
"This trend has been there for quite some time. In earlier days, there was Chhota Bheem, then there were a lot of Hollywood animated characters like Spider-Man and Batman. So, they have been there in our culture for quite some time. In India, there was ‘Krrish'," trade analyst Girish Johar told IANS.
"It is all about building your brand. If they come up with a movie in a couple of years, the kids who grew up watching, they are aware about the franchise. It is a smart move for your future. It gives you a 360-degree marketing and advertising plan, and further consolidates your brand and franchise," he added.
If we talk about the reception to the content, Bollywood inspired content is emerging as a winner. It was reported that soon after "Little Singham" went on air in April in 2018 Discovery Kids saw a 400 per cent jump in viewership. It was also stated that ad revenues grew by more than 500 per cent. This shows how the Bollywood popularity has a trickle down effect on the small screen.
"Within the diverse genres of homegrown animation, Bollywood has emerged as a theme widely appreciated by young fans. When Indian cinema's most popular characters are presented in animated universes with relatable stories, kids absolutely love it," said Abhishek Dutta, South Asia Network Head for Cartoon Network and POGO, while announcing "Smashing Simmba".
Earlier this year, Cosmos Maya and Arbaaz Khan Productions united to adapt the blockbuster franchise "Dabangg" into an animated series, which will feature animated avatars of all of the franchise characters. Targeted at kids and family audiences, season one is expected to be launched in 2021.
"The medium (animation space) offers unparalleled creative freedom with storytelling, and we can focus on shorter standalone stories in lieu of longer, linear narratives. Chulbul's persona is larger than life, and in animation his adventures will be showcased as never seen before," said Salman's brother Arbaaz Khan, producer of the original "Dabangg" series, while sharing the thought behind making an animated version.
If there is "Little Singham" with new adventures, then there is Rohit Shetty's "Golmaal" gang in "Golmaal Junior" recreating the magic of the popular films with tailormade animation to appeal to children.
"It started with 'Little Singham'. It was like an experiment whether the kids will like it or not... It did so well that it gave us confidence to make 'Golmaal' into an animated franchise," Shetty had told IANS while talking about his decision to enter the animated space with his movies.
There is also "Fukrey Boyzzz" bringing back the characters from the "Fukrey" franchise, and "Baahubali: The Lost Legends" series.
The marriage of popular Bollywood characters with kids' animation has a long way to go in India, though
"The Indian animation space for kids is evolving rapidly along with its viewers, and there's not been a better time for us to experiment with stories, characters, and backdrops. Cinema-inspired IPs, featuring characters who are loved for their memorable personalities and nuances, have massive potential to become popular properties," said Tejonidhi Bhandare from Reliance Animation.