Chhota Bheem - the laddoo munching nine-year-old superboy from the fictional city of Dholakpur - was first seen on television half a decade ago. His popularity has been rising ever since. The animated series from the Secunderabad-based Green Gold Animation and co-produced by Turner International, has been airing from 2008 on the Pogo channel and is immensely popular. It also won the Best Intellectual Property award in the 'India Fiction, Cartoon Character & Show' category at the inaugural World Children Expo's Kidzooka awards in Delhi held on Friday.
The success of the Chhota Bheem series led to all kinds of merchandising of the character - he was seen on toys, notebooks, games and even towels. Green Gold Animation's revenues were around Rs 20 crore in 2012.
But the first animated feature film on Chhota Bheem - Chhota Bheem and The Curse of Damyaan - released in May last year had a modest net collection of Rs 4.92 crore. This is peanuts compared to the amount earned by action super hero movies like Krrish with actors actually performing in them, which collected more than Rs 110 crore globally.
The second Chhota Bheem feature film Chhota Bheem and the Throne of Bali released earlier this month in over 500 screens in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu has done even worse. According to BoxofficeIndia.com, it had a "dull opening".
For an animated film in India, its collections are not bad; the first week saw earnings of Rs 1.61 crore. But compared to a Hollywood counterpart such as Epic - released last weekend and grossing Rs 2.52 crore in India - it is low.
It is a mystery why Chhota Bheem has not been able to repeat its television success on the big screen.