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Annecy: Triggerfish Set to Make a Splash With ‘Seal Team’

South African toon powerhouse begins production on third feature

South Africa’s Triggerfish Animation Studios has begun production on its third animated feature, “Seal Team,” which the toon powerhouse will announce as part of a packed slate at the Annecy Int’l. Animation Film Festival, where it has a TV film in competition and will screen a short, “Belly Flop,” during the fest’s closing ceremony.

Blazing on the red-hot heels of its latest award-winning collaboration with the U.K.’s Magic Light Pictures, the Cape Town-based studio is going back to the successful feature-length formula that turned its first two films, “Adventures in Zambezia” (2012) and “Khumba” (2013), into two of the five top-grossing South African movies of all time.

“We’re delighted to be returning to our own IP after honing our skills on Magic Light Pictures’ BBC Christmas specials, like the Oscar-nominated ‘Revolting Rhymes,’” says Triggerfish’s head of development, Anthony Silverston.

The action-comedy “Seal Team” is the story of an orphan seal, Quinn, who’s spent his whole life dodging sharks off the South African coast. When he loses his best friend to a great white attack, Quinn puts together a ragtag special-ops unit to fight back.

Writer-director Greig Cameron will make his feature debut, working from an original story and screenplay by Brian and Jason Cleveland and Wayne Thornley (“Zambezia”), with Silverston (“Khumba”) as head of development. An industry veteran, Cameron has written and directed 45 episodes of the hit series “Supa Strikas,” broadcast on Disney XD in over 130 territories. His writing credits include Mike Scott’s “Moosebox,” currently in production with Nickelodeon, and Sunrise Productions’ “Munki & Trunk,” which airs on Nicktoons.

The film is being financed by South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation, the Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Cinema Management Group (CMG), which is again handling worldwide sales, as it did on “Zambezia” and “Khumba.” “Seal Team” has already pre-sold in over a dozen international territories, where it hopes to follow the spectacular success of those two films, which have been licensed to around 160 countries and been translated into more than 25 languages.

Five years after “Khumba” world premiered in Annecy, Triggerfish is moving from strength to strength. Its collaborations with Magic Light have produced three multi-award-winning BBC Christmas adaptations: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s “Stick Man” (2015) and “The Highway Rat” (2017), and Roald Dahl’s “Revolting Rhymes” (2016), which won over 15 international awards, including the International Emmy Awards Kids: Animation prize. Both “Stick Man” and “Rhymes” won Annecy’s Grand Cristal Award for TV, while “Rat” is in the running for Best TV Film this year. A fourth BBC Christmas collaboration, the Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler adaptation “Zog,” will air later this year.

The studio is also developing projects that stemmed from its ambitious 2015 pan-African talent search, the Story Lab, which was backed by the DTI and the Walt Disney Co. Two of the four projects selected from nearly 1,400 entries have signed worldwide distribution agreements — a groundbreaking achievement for animated series made and set in Africa.

Said Silverston: “The Story Lab showed us just how many untold stories Africa has, and we’re ready to get back to sharing them with the world.”

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