From LA to Goa, Director-writer scripts Alien Invasion for Kids via Animation

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(Original Article on Filmfestivals.com)

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Sitting at his beach-side home in Goa "metres away from the sea", Greg Acuna (45) is working to invade the planet’s children with animation that appeals to kids across different cultures… with a message. An American, he shifted home from the US to the tiny beach-village of Anjuna, some 14 kms from the state-capital of Panjim.

He wants to steer the kid in a very entertaining way towards environmentally sustainable behaviour, and at the same time teach them the power of collaborative — rather than ruthlessly competitive — values in real life.

"I love Goa. I came to Goa to write a novel. It has a beautiful international crowd, and I live near the beach. I’m now quoted as being a big supporter of Goa, which is true," Acuna told this correspondent, in an interview conducted during the International Film Festival of India, underway here.

His animation series, ‘Earthlings’ is based on four aliens meeting children from all across the world — and has large doses of song, dance, games and even Yoga thrown in.

"It’s edutainment, with a very heavy emphasis on entertainment," says he. Every 22-minute episode will have the "children on their feet" for 60-70% of the time, doing something different. The planned animation series — being worked on — will link to a kids’ social-networking website.

"India, that’s where the most exciting things are happening (in animation)," says Acuna. He concedes that tiny Goa is a bit isolated from it all, but he says the creative potential here compensates.

"India’s transition from being an outsourcing hub to being a place for original work in animation will be a bumpy ride for the next few years," says Acuna. "But there is tremendous talent, many artists and story tellers too."

He concedes some problem area too: Indian TV is currently not paying enough to encourage the growth of quality animation.

"There’s a limited set up for key production. There are only a few good character designers here yet," says Acuna.

"Yet the stuff happening in India is amazing," he says. Pune-based animation studio Anirights Infomedia is doing some great projects, he says.

Besides there are also other impressive firms like DQ Entertainment (claiming to have emerged largest in the world for animation outsourcing and co-production), Crest Animation Studios, Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics, and Paprikas Animation Studios, among others, says Acuna.

Acuna notes that the market is growing, and says there are even trade magazines focussed entirely on the sector — like ‘Animation Reporter’ (animationreporter.com ) or Animation Today.

"The biggest hubs are Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. Chennai, Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram also have important companies there," he says. "Kolkata has a few too."

Acuna says one of India’s disadvantage though could be the scattered nature of the industry. "In the US, 80% is in Los Angeles, and another 10% in Northern California itself," he told this correspondent.

Acuna is enthusiastic about Goa. "I’ve never been more creative. It’s a clean, quite, friendly, simple place," says he. Acuna is a screen-writer from Los Angeles, who stresses the need to "understand story-telling".

He took part in the IFFI-linked seminar organised by trade body FICCI on "360 degree" animation, aimed at creating content "that can go everywhere".

His own animation series ‘Earthlings’ will be accessible via TV, mobiles and games, he says. Currently the characters for the serial have just been finished and they’re into starting promotional animation. Choreography for two songs have been done in Los Angeles too.

"There is a big debate on how different India is from the US or the UK (in terms of tastes in animation). The jury is still out on that. But I think kids across the globe are far less different than what their parents were," he said.

His firm is named Pala Flicks, after the fictional Buddhist island in Aldous Huxley’s utopia.

Frederick Noronha http://fn.goa-india.org Ph +91-832-2409490

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