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South African Animators Ride Annecy Success to New Projects

With the eyes of the animation world on the south of France, where the Annecy Intl. Animated Film Festival and Market wrapped June 18, South Africa built on its growing reputation as an emerging hub for dynamic animation.

Triggerfish Animation Studios scooped the Cristal award for best TV production for “Stick Man,” which was produced by Britain’s Oscar-nominated Magic Light Pictures and animated by the Cape Town-based studio, while Naomi van Niekerk’s powder animation, “‘n Gewone Blou Maandagoggend,” won the Jean-Luc Xiberras Award for a First Film.

Animator Clea Mallinson also won a residency at Vendome’s Ciclic Animation, with her animated short concept, “Fairy Wheels,” earning honors during the MIFA Animation Du Monde Pitch sessions.

“This success is a testimony to the caliber of South African studios and the value of our presence at Annecy,” says Joy Mawela, head of production and development at South Africa’s National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF).

It was a busy week for local animators in Annecy, where France’s Folimage and South Africa’s Bugbox Animation also announced the first animation co-production between the two countries, “Musi & Cuckoo,” a 2D children’s TV series.

Interest was reportedly strong as well for “Anansi,” an urban epic fantasy series produced by South Africa’s Diprente, about a young boy who discover he’s the reincarnation of the ancient African spider god. Diprente is working with Copenhagen-based sales agent Ink Global to rep the series and expects to go into production in early 2017.

With South African animators making it clear they belong on the global stage, Diprente’s John Volmink says the challenge now is to establish a steady workflow of projects—an indicator to foreign investors that the industry is thinking big.

“We always have to be in development,” he says. “What’s the next idea?”

According to Wendy Spinks, director of the board of industry group Animation SA and CEO of Zeropoint Studios, South Africa “has the clear potential to establish itself as a top animation territory,” with highly skilled animators able to deliver world-class content at competitive prices. The country also boasts local IP that is, she says, “ripe for investment.

“My hope is now we will look to supporting a production pipeline…to work on creating capacity in SA,” she adds.

As the industry grows, it will also open doors for fresh voices to emerge. One example is “Squeers,” a satirical 2D animated series about two gay squirrels looking for love and happiness in Cape Town, which is currently in development.

For Spinks, who is the series’ creative producer and e.p., the fact that a series like “Squeers” could even be conceived in South Africa is a sign of the industry’s maturity.

“I do think as an industry we are…finding a relevant voice and unique stories, but also telling them in a contemporary, universal way,” she says.

Perhaps a bigger challenge is how to transform what “traditionally has been a very white space,” according to Thandeka Zwana, of the NFVF.

“In terms of  the artistic talent, there are black animators out there,” she says. “What we need is the black ownership…that is going to create the opportunities for the black talent that is out there.

“That’s where we need to start this whole transformation process.”

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