The search for talented African animators begins

Triggerfish Animation Studio’s new Story Lab could have a far-reaching impact on the animation industry in Africa.

Move over Simba and Khumba, the next animated African character the world falls in love with may not be from the Serengeti. Triggerfish, the South African studio behind recent animated hits Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba, has launched a search for Africa’s most talented storytellers whose writing can be translated into blockbuster animations.

The Cape Town-based studio has committed itself to nurturing the continent’s next generation of filmmakers through its new Story Lab, an ambitious programme that could have a far-reaching impact on the animation industry in Africa. Triggerfish is investing up to R44 million over the next three years and has the backing of The Walt Disney Company and the Department of Trade and Industry.

“We’re not only looking for talking animals,” says Anthony Silverston, head of development at Triggerfish. But the emphasis is very much on what will have populist appeal: original, character-driven stories with universal draw and heart-warming impact.

It’s all about bringing a fresh voice to the world, Silverston adds. “We believe there is extraordinary talent in Africa and the Story Lab is the perfect way to partner with them.”

Twenty filmmakers will be shortlisted from applications to attend two weeks of script-writing workshops with leading Hollywood script consultants Karl Iglesis and Pilar Alessandra. A final six from this shortlist will be selected to go through the Story Lab, which will include two weeks of mentoring with key studio and TV executives at Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California.

The group of scripts will then go through development with the ultimate aim being an animated feature film or TV series for the global market. But as all filmmakers know, this can be a long and rocky path. There will be two nine-month stages taking script outlines to completion, and for every stage along the way the writer will be remunerated. Visual development will be part of the script-writing process.

For the very best of the best, there’s the opportunity of going into full production and getting their African tale made into a feature film or TV show, earning the writer a cool R1 million along the way.

The initial entries will be judged by a local and international panel: Peter Lord, British director of Chicken Run; Jonathan Roberts, writer of The Lion King; South African oral storyteller and author Gcina Mhlope; local comedian David Kau; development executives from Disney and Triggerfish’s development team – Silverston, Wayne Thornley and Raffaella Delle Donne.

Triggerfish’s CEO, Stuart Forrest, says the studio is hoping to make a long-term difference to the development of African talent – but also to the depiction of the continent on the big screen. “The world is stuck with one story – that of poverty and neediness,” he says. “It’s important that we tell our stories. It matters that the world sees pictures coming out of Africa that aren’t just what the news media portrays.”

Applications for the Triggerfish Story Lab are open to writers or directors who are citizens or permanent residents of any African country. Applications close 31 August, 2015.

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