If you have a date to go to the movies with a child this week, chances are good that part of the movie you'll see was made in India. Both The Golden Compass and Alvin and the Chipmunks used digital animation that was created in Mumbai.
India is rapidly becoming a player in the global cultural marketplace, and animation is no exception. Los Angeles-based animation company Rhythm & Hues worked on the films from their Hollywood offices — and from the offices that they have opened in India. Employees stay in contact through daily video conferencing, bridging 12 time zones and 13,000 miles.
John Peskavich, sequence supervisor on The Golden Compass says that images are sent back and forth as revisions are made.
"It's tricky because you can't sit with the individual artist," Peskavich says. "But we can look at the shots together in real time."
Preshant Buyyala, managing director of Rhythm & Hues India, says the Indian office is not supposed to be an impersonal outsourcing center. He says that Rhythm & Hues opened its Mumbai office because the company was facing increased competition from abroad as countries such as Canada and Great Britain were giving tax breaks to their own animation firms.
"A lot of the work that we were working on was going away to the U.K. and we were finding it very, very difficult to compete," says Buyyala, who is of Indian descent. He says he suggested India as an attractive location for a new office because it is an English-speaking country with a competitive cost of living.
As faster Internet makes it easier to move large files quickly across the globe, Rhythm & Hues hopes to be part of the growing Indian animation industry. The Indian film industry is already huge, but it's almost exclusively live-action movies.
The animation business in India is expected to grow into a billion-dollar industry in the next few years, according to Pixel, a market research firm. Rhythm & Hues now has 200 employees in Mumbai and is opening another office in Hyderabad.
Animator Payal Danil says that working on Alvin and the Chipmunks has provided her with skills she hopes to someday bring to Indian films.
When work finished for Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Mumbai and Los Angeles staff used the video conference system to have an intercontinental wrap party.
But the animation crew in Mumbai has their work cut out for them — new films, including Mummy 3 and The Incredible Hulk, are already lined up for production.