Benita Chacko

Little Singham, Fukrey Boyzzz- How Warner Bros. Discovery is making Bollywood blockbusters into animated series

With around 600 episodes and over 10 movies, Little Singham recently completed five years. 

As Ajay Devgn shoots for his Singham 3, his iconic character, Bajirao Singham has just turned five in another universe. Inspired by the Bollywood blockbuster, Little Singham was launched in 2018 on Pogo and Discovery Kids. With around 600 episodes and over 10 movies, the popular character has entered its sixth year in 2023.

Singham has a massive fan following among kids and they are drawn to his authoritative and idealistic persona. Moreover, the character is loved nationwide as the movie spans across six Indian languages.

Speaking about the inception of the character, Uttam Pal Singh, head of kids cluster at Warner Bros. Discovery, says, "Little Singham came into being during our quest for a fresh IP. As we scoured for opportunities, both internally and through external pitches, a pivotal discussion emerged with Reliance Entertainment about Rohit Shetty's iconic character, Singham."

Little Singham not only complements but also elevates the main franchise. "While preserving the character's core essence, we embarked on crafting a distinct universe for him. This strategic divergence from the main character allowed us to enrich the narrative by introducing new elements, including formidable supervillains," he says.

In June 2022, the network extended the franchise with the introduction of Baby Little Singham. It portrays the hero’s childhood and narrates his journey to become the mighty cop. Singh emphasises their commitment to innovation, introducing fresh elements to the Little Singham storyline each year. A few years ago, they introduced Little Singham's mother into the storyline, addressing kids' curiosity about his family. They then introduced Little Singham in a 3D universe. The introduction of the baby version has also successfully drawn a new, younger audience to the channel, making it particularly appealing to the youngest viewers.

"We have complemented Baby Little Singham with Mighty Little Bheem. So together they're able to cater to kids as young as 3 to 6 years. A little older kids, maybe over five years, enjoy Little Singham. So it's sort of a bridge," he says.

After Singham, Discovery Kids collaborated with Excel Entertainment to adapt the Hindi film Fukrey into an animated series. Singh acknowledges the challenges they faced in persuading Excel Entertainment, who held a protective stance towards their creation. However, the potential of the project eventually became apparent, leading to its realisation. The show made its debut in 2019, with versions available in six languages.

The network's decision to adapt film characters into children's cartoons was primarily rooted in their relatability to young audiences, recognizing that these characters possessed qualities and experiences that resonated with children.

"The key factor is the character's connection. While the films are crafted for the big screen and a broad audience, our focus lies in ensuring that the character resonates with kids. It's crucial that the character engages, provides a sense of safety, friendliness, and inspiration to children. The Fukrey characters, while not superheroes, possessed beautiful nuances. They represented the 99% of school kids who face challenges, not necessarily the top achievers but uniquely resourceful, known for their "Jugaad" skills. The slice-of-life elements and a touch of magic, exemplified by Choocha's lateral thinking and innocence, made these characters relatable and appealing to a wide range of kids," he explains. 

Beyond being just cartoons, these characters are also influencers. Brands collaborate with them for campaigns, leveraging the characters' popularity to promote their products and initiatives, creating a thriving ecosystem.

"We invest time and marketing dollars in shaping IP characters and their brand identity. As viewership grows and these characters attain critical mass, brands recognise the opportunities they present. This ecosystem benefits from multiple angles, providing added value to brands when they come on board," he says.

Furthermore, Warner Bros. Discovery Kids has partnered with Reliance Games for a robust gaming proposition for Little Singham, serving as a continuous engagement point for fans. 

The films and the shows share a symbiotic relationship. The success of the films is an advantage for the network, and it uses that as a springboard to launch new series around them, thus saving significant marketing effort. For the films, as they bring out sequels, their popularity in these shows helps them to flourish.

"The franchise lives a longer life as it remains in discussions whenever there is a gap," he says.

Warner Bros. Discovery Kids effectively utilises its strong social media presence to promote these shows, sharing engaging clips and songs from its movies to draw kids' attention to the television series.

"WBD Kids' collective social media reach surpasses that of any other kids' channels. This strength plays a pivotal role in our marketing, brand engagement, and promotional efforts. These digital assets enable us to entertain and connect with children while enhancing our marketing strategies significantly. Unlike solely investing millions of dollars, this approach efficiently engages our audience, provides glimpses of our content, and drives them to our television platform for longer-format stories," he explains.

Warner Bros. Discovery Kids, formed through a global merger in 2023, has significantly strengthened its presence in the Indian children's entertainment landscape.

Warner Bros' Pogo and Cartoon Network have been long standing pillars in the kids' network. In fact, Pogo was originally conceived as an Indian-centric channel for young audiences. And now Discovery Kids complements the portfolio.

Pogo is known for showcasing desi heroes like Chhota Bheem, Little Singham, and Titoo.

Cartoon Network, launched in India in 1995, holds a cherished place in the hearts of viewers, with iconic IPs such as Powerpuff Girls and Tom and Jerry. Discovery Kids, positioned as a joyful space, offers a compelling lineup, including Roll No. 21, Mr. Bean, and Triple B

"With these three channels, we've established a commanding market share in children's programming, spanning a diverse range of animation genres catering to various age groups. Our meticulously crafted channel mix allows us to deliver a diverse array of content, making us a standout force in the industry," he says.

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