Almost everyone has seen the Lion King, but not everyone knows there was a Nepali involved in its animation. Among the many who worked on bringing Simba to life was Kathmandu native, Kiran Joshi (pictured, below) a visual effects supervisor at the US entertainment giant, Walt Disney.
With a background in computer software, Joshi first entered the animation field more than 15 years ago, working as a graphics software developer for Disney. He also was on the team that developed the animation system used for Beauty and the Beast, which went on to be nominated for Best Picture at the 1992 Academy Awards.
At Disney, Joshi's interests evolved from software engineering to animation. Working with all those artists and animators, he couldn't help but join in. Soon he found he had a knack for it, and subsequently worked on the animation of films including the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Atlantis: the Lost Empire, and most recently, Rapunzel.
As a world-class animator, Joshi was soon looking to branch out. He set up his own animation company called Pink Slip Productions, and is now looking to tap animation talent in his hometown of Kathmandu. With outfits like Pentasoft, Transcube and the Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics teaching animation software such as 3ds Max, the animation scene in Nepal is growing.
South Asia has great animation potential. India and the Philippines are already starting to animate for Disney and Dreamworks. Artists and animators are less expensive to hire, and outsourcing is gathering momentum. The Philippines has now become a major source of Japanese animation, especially of the popular manga-influenced 'anim?' output.
"And why not?" says Joshi. "Most of those interested are young and talented, and willing to work for much less than those in the west."
"There is a lot of talent here," Joshi says, "but most work individually, animating here and there for a few rupees. What we need to do is get them together so we can make animation of an international standard."
And that is exactly what Joshi's Incessant Rain studios will do. Incessant Rain, on the top floor of the Ace Bank in Naxal, already has a team of 16 animators, most of them young and highly talented. The company is on the lookout for more animators, and plans to have about 25-40 people by December to produce world-class animation within a year.
"The problem here will be getting everyone to work in a team," he says, "animation is a collaborative effort, there is no one person who takes all the credit."
Joshi will share his time between Pink Slip Productions in the US, which will handle the creative content, and Incessant Rain in Nepal, which will handle all animation.
"I'm counting on my contacts in the industry to get us quality work, and I'm betting all I've got on Nepal," Joshi confides. "With any luck, we should be able to see Nepali animation on the big screen in the coming three or four years."
Pranaya SJB Rana