Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been in touch with many of our friends in the animation community to find out how they are coping with the new stay-at-home era and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their work and lives in general. We were very pleased to get an update from CEO P. Jayakumar and his team at Toonz Media Group, which just this week announced a new partnership with Keith Chapman, the creator of PAW Patrol and Bob the Builder, to work on his new 52 x 11′ series Paddypaws & Pals. Founded in 1999, Toonz Animation is located in Trivandrum, India and produces over 10,000 minutes of 2D and CG animated projects through its studios in Turkey, New Zealand, Spain and Ireland.
“The Coronavirus pandemic resulting in lockdowns across the world has certainly been challenging for all of us personally and professionally!” writes Jayakumar in an email. “For us it has been a rollercoaster the last few weeks after the coronavirus lockdown. Not only have we had to spring our survival strategy during lockdown — keeping in mind the safety and productivity of teams working from four continents — but also for a workforce of over 500 artists handling animation production on several projects with complex systems, data rooms and software now to be reinstated in their homes.”
He points out that the safety and health of the studio’s employees, partners and clients has always been a priority for everyone: “All our plans have been pragmatic without compromising the safety of our artists and their families, ensuring that panic and uncertainty are overcome with unique solutions to manage virtual functioning. Our admin, system admins and ops teams have been heroes! I am happy to note we are currently not reporting any major delays on our productions. Productivity is reported at about 80%, morale is high and no cases of infection reported from our artists and families. Currently at various stages of production are TV series Zoonicorn, Not the End of the World, Paddypaws & Pals and others.”
Jayakumar points out that the studio’s business strategy is focused on continuity in the short term, while keeping an eye on the long-term goals — focusing on immediate resource requirements and delivery schedules. He adds, “We’ve been using Skype, Zoom Conference, Google Teams, etc. to stay connected with our colleagues and clients all over the world. This has been a good time to experiment with various softwares, using their free and limited period versions. We are having quick and open communication, between the business heads on a daily basis, as well as creative huddles between our development and pre-production teams who have been working collaboratively from their homes in India, Spain and Ireland. Staying at home without the hustle and bustle of an office space and long commutes has been quite productive in terms of the flow of creativity.”
He points out that the human resources strategy has been critical in managing the studio’s artists and other staff working from the safety of their homes and continuing to deliver as efficiently as possible. “The HR team has been constantly communicating through newsletters, intranet, WhatsApp and direct phone calls to ensure everyone’s wellbeing, passing on useful information to keep our teams positive, hopeful and healthy. E.g.: the importance of physical exercise even in confined spaces, not to be stuck in a rut, slumped over our laptops or on a couch for long periods of time. Letting them know that help was always at hand if needed. We recently concluded a company-wide ‘virtual town hall meeting’ hosted by me along with my senior colleagues via Zoom Conference.”
The studio has also taken an active role in giving back to the community at this difficult time. “We’ve been offering free online programs for children at the Toonz Academy and providing a substantial fee discount for all students whose immediate family members are part of the healthcare services and police workforce,” he says. “This is our way of showing deep gratitude for the selfless service they’ve been providing. Helping others and making gratitude a part of our daily lives is a great way to keep ourselves motivated. It gives us a sense of purpose beyond our routine work, thus improving overall productivity.”
“The pandemic and lockdowns have created a strange, paradoxical situation for everyone in the entertainment industry,” Jayakumar concludes. “Because people are at home and in lockdown, there has been an exponential increase in demand, but the creators are locked down as well! Hence, it has been interesting to come up with innovative ways to meet the demand and continuing ‘Business as Usual’ from the comfort of our homes! The upside is that we have been able to spend more than usual quality time with our families, and also attempt at furthering one’s cooking skills— all part of our survival strategy! My mantra is, ‘Be prepared for any eventuality but never stop hoping for the best!’”
You can learn more about Toonz Media Group and all its upcoming projects at toonz.co