How Stuart Forrest built the award-winning Triggerfish

Triggerfish CEO talks Revolting Rhymes, endurance in the animation industry and inspiring empathy in young people.

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Stuart Forrest is the CEO of South African animation studio Triggerfish and producer of the continent’s two most commercially successful animation films, Khumba and Adventures in Zambezia. At first glance, Triggerfish’s rise as the leading animation house in Africa seems meteoric. But, speaking at the Design Indaba Conference 2017, Forrest highlights the hardships he met in the industry which ultimately shaped the company into what it is today.

From lows to highs to lows again, Forrest charted the early projects in his career that marked the shift from stop-motion and claymation filmmaking to computer-generated animation. His company was instrumental in the success of Takalani Sesame, a homegrown rendition of the American perennial Sesame Street.

“Triggerfish added local craft and local talent to the preschool animation repertoire,” said Forrest of the project.

Now, Triggerfish is playing the role of facilitator for young screenwriters and would-be producers in Africa who are keen to develop local animation projects for the international market. A new initiative, Animate Africa will host a series of online seminars where people can experience masterclasses from Forrest and his colleagues based on their experience with major film distributors and their collaboration with the Disney company.

“We are looking at developing a unique African story that has the quality of the international production values, but is connected with the raw talent and storytelling that comes from this continent," he added.

Forrest is optimistic that Triggerfish will play a socially influential role, especially for young people, in reaction to the current political climate. According to Forrest, animation is the perfect vehicle to bring disparate groups together and extend arms through storytelling.   

“We’re at a stage in history where the need for empathy has become a big world problem. The need to connect with other cultures who have a different viewpoint is probably one of the most pressing political problems we have today,” said Forrest, “The time is right – diversity in voice is something that is resonating in the market today and animation is the way that we are going to bring our stories to the world.”

Triggerfish's Roald Dahl-inspired project, Revolting Rhymes, has officially been nominated for a 2018 Emmy Award.

The first of the Design Indaba Conference 2018 speakers will be announced on 1 November.