Cape Town Animation Festival Director Wants Fest to ‘Act as the Gateway to the Continent’

Animators and top toons from around the world will head south this week, as the fifth Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) kicks off on Thursday in South Africa.

Formerly known as Kunjanimation, the fest is the country’s biggest animation showcase, with this year’s expanded focus underscoring director Dianne Makings’ hopes that the festival will become a regular fixture on the global animation circuit, and ultimately “act as the gateway to the continent.”

The four-day fest will bring together award-winning toons from a host of countries, including France, Brazil, Australia, Ireland and the host nation. Among the programming highlights will be the African premiere of “Stick Man,” which was produced by the U.K.’s Oscar-nominated Magic Light Pictures and animated by South Africa’s Triggerfish Studios. Local bizzers will also get a chance to rub shoulders with animation veterans from around the globe, with a series of workshops led by industry leaders.

For South Africa, the festival reflects the growing stakes for an industry that has put itself on the global animation map in recent years. Triggerfish — the country’s largest studio — has broken domestic box office records with its two feature films, “The Adventures of Zambezia” and “Khumba,” which combined have been distributed in more than 150 territories. Other success stories include Sunrise Productions, which has inked a deal for the fifth and sixth seasons of “Jungle Beat,” an animated series that’s being distributed in more than 120 countries.

“The landscape is shifting from only service work (still a valuable bread and butter component to the industry) to the development of individual IP, and that’s really encouraging for all our members,” says Makings.

Triggerfish is leading the pack. Building on their successful partnership for “Stick Man,” the studio is currently in production with Magic Light Pictures Berlin on two 25-minute holiday specials for the BBC, based on Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake’s classic children’s book “Revolting Rhymes.”

The studio is also working on its next feature film, “Seal Team,” and has four features and four TV series in development, following on the heels of their ambitious Story Lab project, an Africa-wide toon talent search backed by South Africa’s Dept. of Trade and Industry and the Walt Disney Co.

According to animator Daniel Snaddon, the company’s full slate highlights its efforts to develop “a new robust studio pipeline … that will be able to accommodate more large-scale collaborative projects.”

That effort only underscores the broader challenges vexing the industry, according to Wendy Spinks, of Zeropoint Studios.

“One of our core weaknesses is [building the] capacity to engage and produce on an international level and be competitive in pricing, while not losing jobs or talent at the end of every production,” says Spinks, whose studio is currently developing three TV series through co-productions with partners in Canada and Ireland, as well as a short film in development with a French studio.

Spinks is part of an industry-wide effort to create an animation, audiovisual and digital arts cluster geared toward maintaining a “base of three developed and viable series in co-production for global export,” she says.

The goal is to ensure a steady pipeline of projects that allow South African animation to “thrive commercially on an international stage,” by tapping into opportunities with various co-production partners, and across multiple platforms.

In the mean time, industry stakeholders are lobbying for government to do its part, pushing for changes to South Africa’s current incentive scheme that would “make it more applicable, accessible and effectual for animation projects,” according to Nick Cloete, chairperson of industry body Animation SA.

The group is also engaging with private and public broadcasters to devote more of their budgets to locally produced animated content, and lobbying for the government to introduce local-content quotas for animation.

For their part, CTIAF organizers have forged ties with their counterparts at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and at the London International Animation Festival, while a new partnership will be launched next year with Cartoons on the Bay, the Italian toon fest sponsored by RAI.

Those pairings, alongside the growing number of international co-productions inked through South Africa’s nine co-production treaties, only emphasize “the changing landscape of the industry, and how we are no longer an inward-facing industry, but rather a global exporter,” according to Makings.

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