Writing for animation with Svani Parekh

Writing for animation with Svani Parekh
I recently chanced upon the series Ghee Happy and in the initial writing credits read Svani’s name. Almost immediately I searched for her online and here we are discussing her fascinating journey.
Svani Parekh is a children’s TV writer and has written for Netflix, Ghee Happy, Cartoon Network, Sesame Street, BBC, and Disney. Her short prose has appeared in Jellyfish Review, The Punch, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Tinkle Children’s Magazine. She's also written children's books with Oxford Press.
PS: Can you share a bit about your journey from studying Chartered Accountancy and Commerce to becoming a scriptwriter for animated shows?
I think most of us can relate to getting one “stable career” under our belts before running away to what we truly love! I’ve always loved writing. I remember, as a kid, reading and imitating super-dramatic plays, and writing angsty poetry and even a random blog (it was the 90s; blogging was cool). My friends and I even founded a doomed school paper and it was so much FUN. So later, when it became obvious that the world of finance was not for me – I’d begun to write terrible poetry in the margins of my Excel sheets – writing was an equally obvious choice. Luckily, my family supported my decision to switch careers – an incredible privilege I’ll always be thankful for. So, after I finished CA, I interned at an animation studio, learning both on the job and by reading craft books and, well, I’m happy to still be here, and still learning!
Some of my favourite Craft Books
PS: (Follow up question ) What inspired you to move into the creative field, particularly scriptwriting for animated content?
Animation combines a ton of things I love – gorgeous art, impossible movements, music, fun dialogue, and bags of heart. It’s just such a moving, thrilling spectacle.
When I was a kid, I pretty much lived off children’s stories. I’d moved from Nigeria to India and struggled to belong here, there or anywhere, really. I felt odd, and stories helped me cope. It was the golden era of Cartoon Network, Nancy Drews, and many murder mysteries I was definitely too young to read! But all these stories said one thing: everyone’s weird and has secrets, and it all works out in the end. It was such a lovely thing to hear.
Now, I’d love if an Indian child today had the chance to watch something like that and feel good about themselves. Especially if the characters on screen could look like them and talk about their real, current lives and feelings. (I’d love that even as an adult! Could we please get Indian adult animation started, anyone?)
PS: Can you tell us about your experience writing for popular shows like Chhota Bheem on Pogo and BBC Classmate Spell Bee? (How did these opportunities come about?
Chhota Bheem was one of the first animated shows I worked on. I responded to Green Gold Animation’s ad in Animation Express, sent them a sample script, and was soon eyeballs-deep in their magical universe. I’m grateful for this experience – it taught me how to write action, come up with plots and scripts fast, and threw open a lot of doors in the industry. Soon after that, one of my lovely colleagues from Cartoon Network referred me to the BBC. BBC’s Classmate Spell Bee was my first reality show, and I loved working closely with the creative and production teams, researching language and word trivia, and being on set for the shoot.
PS: Writing for an Indian live-action version of Sesame Street (Galli Galli Sim Sim) must have been a unique challenge. Can you share some insights into your approach to writing for educational and entertaining content simultaneously?
I love this question! Personally, I’m a huge “edutainment” fan. As a kid, I adored sci-fi adventures. If a story featured someone miniaturised, shot into a blood stream, and then battling bacteria there – that was my jam! So, I think that if you look at learning from an actual child’s point of view, all of life is a constant discovery. Every person they meet, every object they see, every interaction they have, the wonders of science and art – it’s all something new and marvellous to be discovered and navigated. So, when I write edutainment, I just try to make sure that that discovery is as fun, safe and exciting as I would’ve liked!
Promo Art for Galli Galli Sim Sim, Sesame Street India
PS: - Do you work on a single project at a time or multiple projects at various stages of development?, how do you manage juggling multiple projects at the same time? Do let us know some insights into your workings.
I normally work on multiple projects. It’s good to be able to step back and take a break from one, focus on something else, and then dive back with a fresh perspective. (As a full-time writer, economics and timelines also usually require taking up multiple projects, including ads, documentaries etc.) I love to plan (maybe too much?), and I schedule my writing time according to various deadlines. The only time I prefer to focus on one project is right before its deadline: I then like to concentrate on the last few rounds of revision and polishing before I finally send it off and am FREE. (Until feedback, of course!)
PS: - Your book "Ghanphibian and the Port Side Bay Mystery" with Oxford showcases your versatility. How did your experience as a scriptwriter influence your approach to writing a book?
Thank you for your kind words. While writing books, I enjoy adapting some cinematic techniques to them. Things like: fun ways to quickly establish characters, cut scenes, structure stories, and write crisp dialogue – some of the hallmarks of screenwriting. It works for me because, in general, I enjoy pacey, high-concept stories, where these techniques transition well. The actual switch to writing books was challenging, of course, but also incredibly rewarding. I got to focus on what a book’s strengths are compared to a script – what readers enjoy about the experience of reading a book (my first big love), compared to watching a movie – and to play with my writing style to play to those strengths. It’s good fun!
Cover of the book Granphibian and the Portside Bay Mystery, written by Svani Parekh and illustrated by Mike Phillips
PS: - The "Ghee Happy Series" is a beautifully crafted animated show about Indian Mythological beings. How did you approach the scriptwriting for this series, considering its cultural context, the platform advantages / limitations and the target audience of kids?
Ghee Happy was simply one of my best writing experiences. Sanjay Patel’s vision for the show was breathtaking, and it was wonderful to be part of a team that cares deeply about crafting different, rich stories. Every episode went through multiple layers of research, brainstorming and cultural checks. Scott Sonneborn, the show’s Story Editor, is a brilliant and generous writer, and we’d discuss ideas in detail before scripting began. At my end, I was careful to write sensitively and do my best to keep it simple and fun while respecting the complex mythology behind the show.
PS: - What were the key challenges you faced while working on the script for the "Ghee Happy Series," and how did you overcome them?
Ghee Happy was the first show I wrote that targeted primarily a U.S. audience. So, in a way, I had to step outside what I knew about mythology and India, and think of the script from the view of a child coming in fresh. I also believe that humour, voice, and storytelling varies slightly across countries. So, to write for Ghee Happy, I paid special attention to popular American TV shows and books, scribbled a lot of (enthusiastic, incoherent) notes, and then immersed myself in the show’s specific voice and style – so I could finally contribute with my version of it.
Promo Art for the Annie-nominated show Ghee Happy
PS: - Can you elaborate on the process of collaborating with Sanjay Patel for the series? How did the creative collaboration enhance the storytelling?
I’ve admired Sanjay Patel for years and working with him was an absolute dream come true! Ghee Happy is very much his dazzling brainchild, and throughout the writing process – from initial brainstorming to feedback – I learned a lot from his thoughts on and dedication to both the story and stunning art.
PS: - Given the diverse projects you've worked on, how do you adapt your writing style to suit different genres and age groups?
To learn about a different format, genre, or age-group, I first read and watch a lot in that space. (One of the best things about a career in writing is that reading and watching TV can be passed off as “research”! 🙂 I also study that format/genre’s specific craft by taking up a course or reading craft books. That way, I get the hang of what makes stories in that space tick, what’s been done to death, and what’s especially cool about that genre or format. Then I combine all of that with my own ideas – to hopefully make something that both has a market and is mine.
PS: - As a scriptwriter, how do you incorporate feedback from producers, directors, and other team members into your work?
Ah, the loaded question. So, one thing I genuinely love about filmmaking is how collaborative it is. But that also means that the final product is not the script, it’s the film. And if you’re a hired writer (i.e. it’s not your show) many visions will trump yours – that’s the reality of the job. Having said that, honestly I’ve almost always found that feedback from a different perspective (animator, director, voice artist, composer etc) enriches the story. And if I do happen to feel deeply about any feedback, I bring it up with the team. In good teams, everyone wants to create a great story. So there’s usually a discussion leading to a decision that everyone’s fairly happy with. Basically, a good team doesn’t mean everyone always agrees, it just means everyone keeps an open mind!
PS: - Can you share any memorable or challenging experiences you've encountered while working on the script for an animated project?
To me, the Indian animated Sesame Street (Chamki ki Duniya) was an especially challenging and lovely project. The scripts had to be grounded in that soft, goofy “Sesame” humour that appeals to both kids and adults, while balancing the high physical comedy of animation, and also giving very specific educational info. The creative team on the show was fantastic and we’d spend hours discussing fun stories and lyrics. It was particularly interesting to adapt Sesame Street’s global messages for an Indian audience. For example, we discussed whether or not the kids on our show would wear bike helmets (something kids in India do not do in general but is a Sesame safety standard). Or, how to explain to a child that it’s totally okay to say that they’re uncomfortable sharing a room with a visiting relative, while acknowledging that many families in India may share spaces out of necessity.
Cartoon Network’s Indian animated Sesame Street
The other show that meant a lot to me was YOM, created with Graphiti Multimedia and Disney. It was the first show that I co-created alongside a brilliant team and was such a MIND-BOGGLING THRILL!
Promo Art for YOM, the Yoga Action Hero
Honestly, though, every project I’ve done has had its challenges and taught me something cool, and several have given me wonderful friends! In that sense, they’re all memorable and valuable to me.
PS: - What process do you follow for new ideas. How do you come up with fresh and engaging concepts for animated content?
To me “ideas” are actually the easy bit? I think most writers have heaps of ideas gasping for life. It’s a rather introspective career, involving a lot of life-mining and noting things down as you read and go about your day: ideas you find interesting or issues you care deeply about. The tricky – but fun – part is then making these ideas work.
To do that, VERY simplistically, at some point I usually wind up with these three broad lists:
a) Things I’m passionate about (characters/ genres/ fun ideas/themes or issues)
b) Things that matters to kids today
c) What’s happening in the market (what’s popular, what’s been done, maybe what could be revived etc.
Then I check for overlap between these three lists, and take it from there. Never a guarantee, but it does *sometimes* work…!
PS: - How has your background in Chartered Accountancy and Commerce influenced your perspective on the creative aspects of scriptwriting and content development?
Ha! What a fun question. I think all experiences ultimately feed into writing in some way. At a super basic level, a lot of my initial writing projects were explainer ads that simplified and made financial information fun. (Or as fun as possible.) My academic background also prepped me to, well, study – and research and learning is a huge nerdy part of my writing process now. Also, after stumbling through Excel in college, I’m now fairly comfortable dealing with pretty important project management details like budgets, market research and timelines – all of which have a huge impact on professional writers and creators.
PS: - Are there specific themes or topics that you are particularly passionate about exploring in your future projects?
I’m very interested in identity and the constant tug-of-war between being your own person and belonging to a community. (Something I believe a lot of Indians struggle with.) I love writing stories that empower kids to find themselves and their place in the world – whether it’s by discovering joy in the world or in their own weird side, navigating a tough situation, or even changing the world by changing minds. I’m especially excited to explore these themes using lesser-known Indian culture and folklore.
PS: - What advice would you give to aspiring scriptwriters who are looking to enter the field of animation and children's content creation?
Pay attention to the things that you enjoy reading and watching – it’s such a fun way to learn. Find a community of peers – they will help and save you in ways you cannot imagine. Please, for heaven’s sake, do NOT write down to kids. WRITE THAT SCRIPT. AND THE NEXT ONE. And the next one. And, of course, shoot your shot: take those lovely, mad swings. Most important of all: tell the stories of your heart – and have fun doing it! Good luck!
And with that we thank Svani for her time and wish her the very best for the future.
Hoping to see lots and lots more amazing things from her and team in the near future.
You can reach her on the links below.

I’ve gotten a lot of generous advice on my journey and am always happy to pass it on. If you have any specific questions or would like to get in touch please use the contact form on my website: svaniparekh.com

One request: please do NOT send screenplays or requests for referrals, I’m unable to help with those at the moment.
Svani Parekh