A New Chapter for The Jungle Book

DQ Entertainment sets up a robust animation pipeline for its upcoming new CG-animated series.

While Disney’s 1967 feature adaptation of The Jungle Book will always be associated with Rudyard Kipling’s literary masterpiece, a big multi-national production is taking another stab at adapting this beloved classic. This time, however Mowgli, Baloo and Shere Khan will be having their adventures in 11-minute-long, CG-animated episodes.

India’s DQ Entertainment is playing a major role in updating Kipling’s universe for a new generation of fans. Joining forces with ZDF-Germany, TF1-France, NBC Universal, ABC Australia and MoonScoop in France, the artists and technicians at the Hyderabad-based studio are working at full speed to deliver 20 episodes of the show by fall of 2010. The goal is to deliver the complete series (52 x 11), plus a 60-minute TV feature, by March of 2011. The total estimated production budget for The Jungle Book is 9.2 million euros.

‘The property was resurrected by our in-house team of artists and received a very encouraging response from our partners across the world,’ says DQ’s CEO Tapaas Chakravarti. ‘This is the beginning of our efforts at DQE to engage in the entire production vertically from concept development to post-production.’

Since The Jungle Book is being produced in High Def with realistic broadcast quality output, the project involves high-end configuration with hardware and software to handle massive environments and vfx simulations, which demands extensive computational working time. Chakravarti points out that the series features many exotic animals, set against the lush jungles and the ruins of beautiful Indian royal forts. ‘The setting’s background and main characters’ designs require graphically superior, high-end workstations and humongous storage space and powerful rendering capabilities,’ he notes. ‘Since the development work is being carried out from our development centers across the globe, a strong and robust pipeline is in place to make the production seamless.’

Chakravarti says the producers have been able to birfurcate the vital stages of production across the various development centers around the world to ensure a seamless workflow. ‘The inter-dependency of one development center on the other and effective real time data sharing is critical in order to meet the hard production deadlines,’ he adds.

Currently, a full-time staff of 200 (creative, tech, production and support) are working on the project, but Chakravarti says the number will increase as they get closer to delivery time. The production team uses top-of-the-line hardware and software to develop tools with higher efficiency and output. ‘Since we use a Maya-based pipeline, we have extensively mastered various features of the software and have a strong scripting team, which design the process and automate whenever and wherever possible,’ he claims. ‘Internally we have developed many plug-ins and project-specific UI controls, which help us to do more in a given time. We are also using some very sophisticated software for fluid & particle simulation, which is of a paramount importance in The Jungle Book.’

Because DQ has built an effective network of international partners throughout the years, the studio is able to rely on teams in the U.K. (developing script, music, voice-over) and France (post-production) for support. In addition, major portions of the creative and development phases of the series are being carried out in India and Ireland.

Chakravarti credits the rapid infrastructural development of the Information Technology sector in India with the current boom in the country’s gaming and animation sector. He notes, ‘The world-class technological practices in conjunction with a strong R&D in computer graphics, image processing and visual computing has truly helped us follow the highest level of technological standards.’

According to Chakravarti, DQ is able to work on 20 different TV shows as well as games and movies simultaneously. Just recently, the studio announced plans to co-produce a new animated series based on Classic Media’s Lassie in partnership with M6-France and ZDK-Germany. Other projects include Twisted Whiskers, Pinky & Perky, Casper’s Scare School, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, The Little Prince and Little Nicolas.

To help deliver all these shows, the studio has fine-tuned specific production pipelines that are designed to handle parallel processes within production and can therefore accommodate modification or changes at any given point in time without disturbing the ongoing production. ‘Now that we are handling end-to-end production from creative to final post-production, we appreciate automation of various tasks even better than before,’ says Chakravarti. ‘Our sophisticated pipeline, which was primarily focused on production, is now far more robust since the added responsibilities of pre-production and post-production also lie with us. With our rich experience in handling various high-end 3D productions, we have developed a robust pipeline to handle complex processes and artist-friendly high-end sets. We have developed systems to support the reusability of assets and animations for producing these long-format productions.’

In-house developed enterprise solutions and business process management systems have helped smoothen the production process and enabled the team to adhere to the tight deadlines. ‘These dynamic intelligent systems meticulously plan out our projects right from scratch and effectively distribute work according to the complexity of each task. This saves us from repetitive efforts and also facilitates the distribution of tasks.’

After all is said and done, Chakravarti says he knows there is a huge elevel of expectation surrounding this project. ‘What one observes on the screen is the virtual reality of complicated characters having a diverse anatomy, varied characteristics and expressions. The main challenge is to bring all of this alive in animation in harmony with reality. The Jungle Book involves lot of interaction between humans, animals and environments, which needs a plethora of high-end visual effects and complicated static and dynamic simulations. We are confident that our skilled animators will be able to surpass expectations by several degrees!’

For more info, visit www.dqentertainment.com.