Annecy-Backed AniMela Reveals India Festival Dates, Digital Partner (EXCLUSIVE)

AniMela, India’s first-ever international festival for animation, VFX, XR, gaming and comics (AVGC-XR), has revealed dates for its inaugural edition in 2024.

The festival is backed by India’s Aniverse and Visual Arts Foundation (AVAF) in partnership with Annecy Festival, France. AVAF is a not-for-profit organization founded by Kireet Khurana, Archana Trasy, Anne Doshi, Neha Jain and Tehzeeb Khurana to promote animation and other visual arts in India.

The inaugural edition will take place Jan. 18-21, 2024 in Mumbai. AniMela has also confirmed leading leading South Asian player Hungama as the event’s digital media partner. Hungama offers content in more than 20 South Asian and international languages and boasts some 87 million music and video monthly streaming users.

The AVGC-XR sector has been branded a “sunrise” sector by the Indian government and latest numbers bear this out. The animation segment is currently valued at $462 million and projected to grow to $754 million by 2025, while the VFX industry is currently at $608 million and estimated to reach $1.1 billion by 2025, per numbers from the annual EY report on the Indian industry. Meanwhile, the online gaming segment is currently at $1.2 billion and estimated to reach $3.9 billion by 2025, per latest Indian government numbers.

“While India has been a great service sector, a great service industry for the animation and visual effects industries, our own original Indian stories are hard to come by and are not seeing the light of the day or getting the kind of funding that they deserve, because there is, a lot of talent in India, a lot of it goes out and works for big studios,” Jain told Variety.

“When we look at the emerging talent, when we talk to artists, to animators, it’s a very fluid space, you have artists who are also designing games, and animators who are working on games and comic artists are also getting into animation. We realized that we need to create a platform that celebrates all these different aspects together and promotes and supports and mentors emerging talent,” Jain added.

The festival has the blessing of the Indian government. India is certainly bullish about the sector with a country pavilion at MIFA inaugurated in the presence of Apurva Chandra, secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India and Khurana. The government also has a five-pronged development plan for the sector that factors in infrastructure building, upskilling, providing access to technology and enhancing financial viability, alongside sustainability and diversity goals.

“The important thing to understand is India is on the throes of great economic development in all areas. And therefore the government also wants to focus on the AVGC-XR space,” Khurana told Variety. “The government’s objective is to generate employment, but also take India up the value chain in terms of being able to tell its own stories, and tell them really well and tell them to an international audience. And that’s where we come in because we will connect our talent with the rest of the world.”

The team has ambitious plans for the inaugural edition but are taking baby steps to achieve their goals within five years. A fledgling co-production market and pitching, residences, works-in-progress showcases and knowledge sessions will be highlights of the festival. The event has partnered with India’s Media & Entertainment Skills Council to enhance skills in the sector. There have been monthly events since AniMela was announced in February and these will continue. There is also a strong likelihood of projects triggered at the January AniMela festival to be continued at the Annecy Festival in June.

“For us it’s important to be involved in the projects, putting the spotlight on creators in India,” CEO of Annecy Festival, Mickael Marin, told Variety. “We want to change and to provoke the change of the perception of people in India, it can be the authorities, officials, but change the perception as well of the of the public.”

Annecy is likely to provide some curated programs to AniMela and the French festival’s strong and extensive network will be at AniMela’s disposal, including access to top international talent.

“We will do our best and try to bring top producers and top talent to the event. And the idea is as well for India to say that it can go to the next step. Because India is a big country for services and sometimes they create their own content, but they can do more. And that’s the message that we want to give you,” Marin said. “Let’s create together a new era for the Indian animation industry and Indian talent.”

“We’re really happy that with Annecy’s cooperation and support, we’d be able to tap into that latent potential that we have for the country and take it to the next level,” Khurana added.

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