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Cape Town Animation Festival Lays Out Global Ambitions for African Industry

The sixth edition of the Cape Town Intl. Animation Festival (CTIAF) kicks off Friday, March 3, in South Africa, with the host nation offering a three-day showcase of some of the top toons and animators from around the world.

Along with screenings and a full slate of workshops and professional events, the festival hopes to shine a spotlight on the growing strength of the South African industry, including among the programming highlights the African premiere of “Revolting Rhymes,” the second collaboration between the U.K.’s Oscar-nominated Magic Light Pictures and South Africa’s Triggerfish Animation Studios.

Coming on the heels of its BBC One premiere last Christmas, the animated special points to an industry that has already “taken the next step” on the global stage, says fest director Dianne Makings.

South African animators have been enjoying increasing recognition abroad. Last year at the Annecy Intl. Animated Film Festival, the country came away with a host of honors, including the prestigious Cristal award for best TV production for Triggerfish and Magic Light’s 2015 collaboration, “Stick Man.” Meanwhile, France’s Folimage and South Africa’s Bugbox Animation announced the first animation co-production between the two countries, “Musi & Cuckoo.”

According to Makings, the industry’s success in Annecy has “given everyone the confidence to know that we can compete,” adding, “and not only that we can compete: We can win.”

Boosting capacity is now the biggest challenge for South African animators eager to establish a pipeline of large-scale projects. With a robust industry program at this year’s festival, organizers in Cape Town are calling on some of the leading names in global animation “to help us with the discussion of how to create a sustainable business,” says Makings.

Special guests will include Farnaz Esnaashari-Charmatz, creator of Nickelodeon’s “Shimmer and Shine”; producer Ivan Rouveure of France’s Les Armateurs; Shuzo John Shiota, president and CEO of Japan’s Polygon Pictures; and Firdaus Kharas, the celebrated humanitarian and founder of Canada’s award-winning production house, Chocolate Moose Media.

Toon Boom, the Montreal-based animation software company, will also be offering an advanced master class to select participants.

While the festival’s roster reflects the global ambitions of local bizzers, many South African animators are just as eager to reach out to their neighbors across the continent, with the country increasingly positioning itself as a bridge between African animators and the rest of the world.

Two years ago, Triggerfish launched an ambitious pan-African initiative, the Story Lab, backed by South Africa’s Dept. of Trade and Industry and the Walt Disney Co., which netted four projects currently negotiating international deals. Last fall, Turner joined forces with industry body Animation SA to help find and promote the continent’s top toon talent.

The latest effort comes in the form of the African Animation Network, what Nick Wilson, outgoing chair of the export missions committee of Animation SA, describes as “an open platform for African animation professionals” that will help animation industries across the continent to develop skills, boost capacity, seek out investment opportunities, and find ways to reach new audiences.

Already the network has announced a major success with the coming launch of a mobile VOD platform offering the best of African animation via an exclusive deal with MTN, Africa’s largest cell phone provider. On Friday in Cape Town, Veronique Encrenaz, head of special projects at Annecy, confirmed the festival’s support for the network through 2018.

Buoyed by what he describes as “significant investment” in animation across the continent, such as the announcement last fall that Toon Boom will train 3,000 animators in Nigeria, Wilson sees a bright future for an industry coming into its own.

“I think within a five- to 10-year timeframe, we’ll be having a very different conversation,” he says.

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