JOHANNESBURG — African animators arriving at Discop this week to boost their burgeoning industry will get a leg up from Turner Africa, which for the second year running is putting its muscle behind efforts to bolster the pan-African animation biz.
Following on the success of its Discop presence last year, when it held the inaugural Turner Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition and partnered with the African Animation Network (AAN) to host an Animation Lounge, the company will again take part in a busy slate of events, anchored by its sponsorship of the African Animation Village on the floor of the Sandton Convention Center.
At a panel discussion Wednesday morning, Ariane Suveg, head of programming and acquisitions manager of Turner Kids’ Channels in Africa, stressed how such efforts dovetail with the company’s overall strategy to develop and showcase original, compelling animation.
“We are looking for African stories, but stories that are coming from the heart,” said Suveg. “These are the kinds of stories we want to tell.”
As a case study in Turner’s African partnerships, Suveg presented the example of “Cloud Life,” the 2D animated series which won the Turner Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition at Discop in 2016. Joining her were the show’s creators, Howard James Fyvie and Andrew John Phillips, of Cape Town-based Punch Monkey Studios.
The duo credited Turner’s mentorship with helping to turn their rough concept into a viable animated series. “Last year, this was just an idea on our Google Drive,” said Philips. “And that’s where it would still be, if it weren’t for the competition.”
After their prize-winning pitch, Phillips and Fyvie worked with Suveg to develop the series, work-shopping scripts and helping to flesh out their characters. “‘Cloud Life’ last year was pretty rough around the edges,” said Phillips. “Kind of rough around the middle, too. It was rough all over.”
Turner “helped us smooth out the edges,” he said.
The 2016 competition also gave Phillips and Fyvie an opportunity to travel to Annecy and take part in MIFA, allowing them to pitch animation decision-makers from around the world. A year on, the duo say they’re close to an option development deal with a major network.
Turner’s kids’ channels have been a key part of its strategy across Africa, where it broadcasts in 49 countries and consistently ranks at the top of kids’ demographics, thanks to the popularity of the Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and Boing Africa, the kids’ network it launched at Discop in 2015.
This year, the company is also partnering with the AAN and South African theater chain Ster-Kinekor for the inaugural FupiToons Film Festival, a three-day fest offering a slate of original, made-in-Africa animation, where it’s debuting four shorts from its pan-African Imagination Studios competition.
Featuring characters designed by African children, the shorts were written by Punch Monkey and produced in collaboration with South Africa’s My Child TV, Mind’s Eye Creative, and Audio Militia. After debuting at FupiToons, they’ll appear across Africa on the Cartoon Network later this year.
That sort of synergy is at the heart of Turner’s engagement with the continent. “Next year, we are going to continue to develop these kinds of initiatives,” said Suveg. “We want to create a laboratory of local animation.”
Addressing the crowd of African animators at Discop, she added, “We are doing the partnership here to meet you, to listen to your ideas.”