28 December, 2009 - 28 December, 2009 -Mr Little Thrompon, carrying a basket on his back, goes around the city and popular picnic spots picking litter and talking to people on waste disposal.
He is the main character of a short animated programme that has been frequently broadcast on the BBSC channel in recent months.
Ap Naka, another animated character, also got his share of time on air in the wake of the recent earthquakes that hit eastern Bhutan. Ap Naka is targeted at creating awareness on safe construction practices and earthquake safety tips.
Globally animation is associated with blockbuster movies and televised series aimed at a universal audience. In Bhutan the emerging animation industry is taking off in the form of public awareness campaigns.
Since ‘Oye Penjor’, an information and communication bureau’s (ICB) awareness campaign on HIV/AIDS was first broadcast on BBSC in 2005, various government agencies, as well as NGOs, have turned to animation as a means to inform and educate the people.
In Bhutan, it is being used to create awareness on ozone depletion, garbage disposal and littering, and teenage pregnancy.
Having real people acting out for awareness campaigns isn’t as attractive as using animated characters, says Chand Bhattaria, an artist working with Green Dragon media (former KLK anImagine). “Children as well as older people are curious when they see the characters wearing Bhutanese attire and speaking the national language.”
Clients and animators also said that it was more effective than pamphlets and brochures, which only reached the literate masses.
“While posters and brochures are still used for public awareness, animation gets the attention,” said Tenzin Choden, assistant program officer working with department of disaster management.
The department invested in one of the two segments of Ap Naka to raise awareness on earthquake safety tips. The other segment was on safe construction practices developed by Druk Vision studio for standard and quality control authority.
“Even small kids get the message quickly,” she said. “The characters speak in Dzongkha and there are English subtitles too.”
Tenzin Choden said that the animation awareness programmes were also screened during trainings, mock drills in schools, and during conference tea breaks.
But producing these segments is extremely time-consuming, say animators. “To work on a few seconds takes about a week and a two-minute segment takes about three months,” said Pema Tshering, proprietor of Druk Vision studio.
“Initially clients weren’t aware of this, but they’re beginning to understand and are now willing to pay more,” he said. “And financially, if we look from first project till now, the scope has increased.”
Druk Vision studio was the first to produce animated videos. The first animation Pema Tshering worked on was that of a Beetle dance. His first awareness campaign video was Oye Penjor.
The cost of production varied from project to project, depending on the scripting, number of characters and subject creation like flying creatures or four-legged animals.
Druk Vision studio produces computer animation, where the pictures, including characters and background and motion, are developed on computer to produce 3D animation.
The other type of animation technique used by Bhutanese animators is cel animation, where the pictures are first drawn by hand on paper and then uploaded to the computer to produce motion. Green Dragon media normally uses cel animation.
Green Dragon media has produced about 20 2D and 3D animation features.
Animators say they need a lot of patience and dedication to bring fluidity to body movements and facial expression. A single second of animation requires about 24 frames, each frame slightly different from the other to give the subject continuity and motion. “Consistency is the key,” said Pema Tshering.
Pema Tshering was not into animation as a child. “I was living in the east and there was no television,” he said. But, after he started his architecture course after Class XI,I he got acquainted with software, which could handle 3D visuals. “I learnt the possibilities and capabilities of the software,” he said.
Now he usually watches animated movies like Shrek and Ice Age, does online research and reads books on animation. Pema Tshering said he’s now become more observant of how people walk, talk, their facial expressions, which were all important for animators.
“The most fascinating thing about animation is that you can bring out and give life to something you imagine on a computer,” he said.
Chand Bhattarai, an artist working with Green Dragon media, was interested in animated movies since childhood, but has had little exposure to animation techniques. The most difficult part of animation was giving life to his drawings.
“For animation you should know the anatomy and physics, which includes how subjects walk or move and how gravity works,” he said. “Initially I found it difficult, because there were no consistency between frames.” It took Chand about a year to finish one of the first projects he worked on. It was a HIV/AIDS awareness project, which was about 15 minutes long.
The proprietor of Green Dragon media, Kinga Sithupm said that while they were interested and had the capacity to make animated series of Bhutanese folk tales for children, but there were no sponsors. “Moreover animation is more expensive than conventional movie making,” he said.
While animation in Bhutan is yet to be firmly established, neighbouring countries like India have also stepped into mainstream animation industry, producing animated series like Little Krishna, Chota Bheem, and The New Adventures of Hanuman, and movies like Roadside Romeo (co-produced with Walt Disney pictures) in 2008, featuring Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan’s voice.
Bhutanese animators are at the moment unsure of the future of Bhutanese animation.
By Kinley Wangmo