Los Angeles: The Indian film business — pegged at Rs.126.4 billion in 2014 as per a Ficci-KPMG report — is an important market to participate in, says Andy Bird, chairman of Walt Disney International, adding that there is “strategy and plan” to establish the global entertainment conglomerate as a “brand” in the country.
“India is about three things — movies, TV and cricket. So, if we want to create an Indian Walt Disney company, we need to participate in the Indian movie business. In India, about 94 to 96 percent of box office comprises of local movies or Bollywood. It is very important for us as a company to participate in Indian movie business,” Bird said at the Walt Disney Studio Lot in Burbank on Thursday.
The path to enter the Indian entertainment industry first began when Disney acquired production company UTV in 2012.
Elaborating on the future plans to expand the business in the nation, he added: “Few years ago we acquired a company, UTV (production house), and have also started developing projects under the brand name. We have about 10 to 12 films on the slate that will be branded by Disney.
“The idea is to get an Indian mother to say to her children – ‘Let’s go and watch a Disney film’. Just as Disney has established in Hollywood, we want Disney as a brand to establish itself in Indian film industry.”
The company has already found prominence by backing films like Sonam Kapoor and Fawad Khan starrer “Khoobsurat” and “ABCD 2”, which is the second film in the dance-based film franchise “ABCD”. The future slate is also promising — Aamir Khan starrer “Dangal”, Ranbir Kapoor’s “Jagga Jasoos” and Hrithik Roshan’s “Mohenjo Daro”.
With different genres and actors as talented as these, hopes are high from the banner.
Setting foot in the Indian market is a long-term process, and Bird acknowledges the fact by saying “it is going to take some time”
“We are patient, have strategy and a plan to get to where we want to,” he said.
Bird, who joined The Walt Disney Company — known for creating a mystical world full of fairies and cartoon characters — in 2004 was also gripped by the “Bollywood fever”. He shared his admiration for Bollywood’s young heartthrob Ranbir.
“Ranbir is my favourite. I loved him in ‘Barfi!’,” Bird candidly admitted to a group of Indian reporters, including this IANS correspondent, here.
To enhance the Disney experience in India, the entertainment giant is also bringing the Broadway experience with the “Beauty and the Beast” musical, and they hope to add to the retail sector with it. The show will be staged in Mumbai and Delhi in October.
“It is a Broadway show done with Indian cast. We believe that the immersive entertainment live on stage will help Indian consumers get a deeper understanding about what is Disney and will develop retail environment,” Bird said.
That’s not the only centre of attention, Bird notes that they are also looking at the Indian small screen.
“Other than Disney channels, we have Indian children’s channels like Hungama and bindass. So, the focus is on TV, film, and consumer products are also happening,” he said.
Bird adds that the brand works towards transforming the “Walt Disney office in places like India, China and Brazil to not be just offices representing the brand”.
“What we strive to do is that ask how to make Walt Disney India as Indian Walt Disney company. And as you ask this question, you come up with individual set of answers.”