Toonz was established at a time when commercial studios for animation in India were unprecedented. Today the company has emerged as a formidable name in the kids’ and family entertainment segment, with studios and offices across the world catering to almost every aspect of the media industry, including animation, Vfx, AR/VR, gaming, live-action and content distribution. They acquired Imira Entertainment, a leading Spanish production and distribution company specialising in kids’ and youth programming, in 2014 with a focus on European, U.S., Latin American, and African markets.
Recently they launched an over-the-top (OTT) platform for children and family entertainment called MyToonz. The platform is considered to be a first-of-its-kind exclusive kids’ OTT platform launched by India.
In conversation with Medianews4u, Toonz Media Group CEO, P Jayakumar spoke about the new platform, content strategies, marketing plans and more.
Speaking about the MyToonz OTT platform, he said, “My Toonz is the brand new OTT platform for kids and family entertainment that Toonz has launched. It is a first-of-its-kind exclusive kid’s OTT platform to be launched by an Indian entertainment company. MyToonz originates from the compelling need to create a safe and engaging entertainment destination for kids and families in the digital landscape. It is a space where the whole family can come together to enjoy world-class content.”
Jayakumar envisages MyToonz as the go-to destination for kids to watch safe, fun and nutritious content, which will be available in multiple global languages.
Speaking on the factors that led to the launch of MyToonz, he said, “ It is primarily because of the evolving business environment where the home entertainment and kids’ entertainment category have seen tremendous growth in the past one year, owing to the pandemic. Also, our need to leverage the most out of and monetise the vast world-class content library of Toonz.”
“MyToonz is essentially a kids and family entertainment destination. All the programming, as well as advertising on MyToonz, is compliant with international safety standards for child viewing,” said Jayakumar while elaborating on the brand’s content strategies.
MyToonz has given a conscious thrust to co-viewing, to encourage families to watch and enjoy together. Their primary target audience ranges from 3-16 years, covering pre-schoolers to teenagers. The MyToonz library has over 1500+ half hours of content, with new content being added every week. The library includes movies and episodic content across different genres. Besides English, there are dedicated playlists in Spanish, Russian and Hindi languages.
“The content on MyToonz is categorised to be targeted at preschoolers, upper preschoolers, early teens and teens, “ he added.
Toonz has inked a deal with Airtel to integrate MyToonz on their app store.
Talking about the deal, he said, “Airtel subscribers in India can now access the MyToonz digital library using the Airtel Xstream app. Airtel is one of India’s largest telecom service providers. They have a huge customer base of 200 million+ subscribers. By roping in Airtel as a launch partner for MyToonz, we had the advantage of directly reaching out to a large customer base from the start.
Also, from Airtel’s perspective, they are looking to strengthen their kids’ content catalogue. Our partnership will ensure that Airtel subscribers have access to safe and engaging kids’ content,”
MyToonz has tied up with U2opia Mobile- a leading global VAS (Value Added Services) aggregator for telecom companies worldwide. to integrate MyToonz on various telecom platforms in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Speaking on the Animation industry’s growth during the pandemic period, Jayakumar said, “During the pandemic content consumption has skyrocketed. The demand for content has never been so pressing before, especially in the kid’s entertainment space. As I said, with kids worldwide 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.”
The kid’s entertainment industry has been mostly immune compared to other sectors that have had to take the pandemic’s brunt. There is no shortage 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.
He continued, “At Toonz, our studios had to be shut for a while following government and health protocols. But, we were able to tackle the situation primarily through meticulous planning and crisis management. The lockdown meant that we could not commute to the office. However, there were production deadlines and other commitments to meet. So, we took up a massive asset transfer operation to shift our artists’ machines from the studios to their homes. Around 500 machines were shifted as part of this, in a matter of two days. Most of these are workstations with high-end software for animation production. “
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality has opened up a whole new world of opportunities in the entertainment industry, observes Jayakumar.
He said, “In the kid’s entertainment industry also there is a lot of demand for interactive, immersive and gamified content that can propel kids to involve in some kind of activity. This kind of non-linear story-telling that infuses exploration, gaming or problem solving into the storyline is now gaining greater acceptance. We have a group company called Tilt Labs which is a gaming company based in Technopark. Our studios work closely with Tiltabs in many interactive, edutainment projects to bring in immersive technologies in kids entertainment. “
According to Jayakumar, Regional content has a lot of growth potential. There is a growing demand for multi-language content and translations of classics. MyToonz already has dedicated playlists in Spanish, Russian and Hindi languages. This will be expanded to French, German and other world languages soon.
“ In terms of regional content from India, the demand for content in Indian regional languages comes not just from within the country but also from the huge diasporas abroad. For example, we have formidable Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Punjabi and Malayali diasporas. We will be creating dedicated playlists in Indian languages also soon,” he added
Speaking about the marketing plans for the brand, he said, “We target the whole spectrum of buyers from telcos to broadcasters to streamers for our content – including original Toonz productions, co-productions as well as licensed content. Pre-sales of our top co-productions is something that we are aggressively pursuing now. We have several exciting projects currently under production at Toonz. Many of them are in collaboration with the world’s top creators and studios. From a larger perspective, the overall strategy for Toonz as a brand would be to create premium, world-class content and to leverage the most out of it by making it available in as many platforms as possible.”
Elaborating plans for 2021, Jayakumar said, “We are collaborating with many renowned creators, like Keith Chapman, with whom we are doing an interactive pre-school series titled 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.”
Toonz’s marquee project is currently under production Sunny-side Billy, which comes from the legendary Olivier Jean-Marie and Jan Van Rijsselberge. We are co-producing this series in association with the French studio Tractor.
Toonz is also partnering with Russia’s oldest and most prestigious studio, Soyuzmult, for a brand-new alien CGI called Aliens in my backpack. This project comes from Rob Lee and James Driscoll, creators of BAFTA-nominated World Award-winning titles like The Shoe People. Apart from that, we also recently signed up with major US girl-centric, STEM-focused toy brand Goldieblox to develop an animated series titled Glodlieblox and Friends.
He further said, “Also in the anvil is an e-learning platform that we will be launching in April this year. This initiative has come directly to the prevailing circumstances, where e-learning has taken centre stage and has redefined education as we know it. Toonz is going to launch an e-learning platform dedicated to creative learning called Ri8Brain. It will be a highly agile online education platform that will carry over Toonz Academy’s legacy, a pioneer in animation training in this part of the world. So basically, we have a lot to look forward to in 2021. The overall strategy would be to put Toonz on the forefront at the global level, as the number one, 360-degree kids and family entertainment company in the world.”