Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios is developing 3D toonpic “Sea Monster,” about a young marine biologist’s discovery of an ancient sea monster. Pic reteams the producers and co-screenwriter behind “Adventures in Zambezia 3D” and “Khumba,” which screens next week at South Africa’s Durban Film Festival in its Africa Focus.

Screenwriter Raffaella Delle Donne, who co-penned “Zambezia” and “Khumba,” is working on a first-draft screenplay.

“Sea Monster” turns on an obsessive-compulsive science geek who discovers a primordial sea monster off the coast of South Africa, and has to overcome his fear of the ocean before the creature is captured by an unscrupulous professor, changing the face of the planet forever.

For Delle Donne, “In the context of this story, the sea monster represents the relationship between humans and nature, and what is at stake if knowledge falls into the wrong hands or revealed when the world is not quite ready for it.”

She added: “In discovering the sea monster, the hero, goes on a journey of self-discovery in which he comes to realize that our fears of the unknown, of taking risks and opening ourselves up to possibilities can sometimes prevent us from immersing fully in life.”

“Sea Monster” producer Stuart Forrest called it an “adventure-comedy in the spirit of ‘How to Train Your Dragon,’ with the heart of a beloved classic, ‘E.T.’”

Set in a small town on the untamed west coast of South Africa, pic will recreate the seaboard’s distinctive features and architecture (see concept art).

“Khumba” was financed by a mix of pre-sales, inked by Ed Noeltner’s L.A.-based Cinema Management Group, a government rebate, private gap finance and South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation.

The sea monster project forms part of a five animated-feature development slate at Triggerfish, Forrest said. Triggerfish is in talks with investors to finance the slate, with backers cross-collateralizing investment.

Forrest said South Africa animation costs are 25% of those in the U.S.

“Our strategy for the next five films is to produce five stories for the price of one. That means we can take a little more of a chance on each one, and hope they cross over into the mainstream.”