SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: South Africa’s award-winning animation industry continues to grow with the launch of Diprente Films’ very own animation division, Diprente Junior.
Isaac Mogajane is the managing director of Diprente Junior, the newly established animation division of the Johannesburg-based production company, Diprente Films.
“Animation has always been a medium that’s close to my heart, so as soon as I got the opportunity, I began researching the space and seeing how Diprente could become a meaningful player in the industry. Happily, the journey seems to be going well, and I’m very proud of the young talented development team we have built in the animation division,” Mogajane says.
Diprente Films is no stranger to the South African film and television production industry having first opened its doors in 2009; the award-winning company is well-known for its comedy sketches that include The Bantu Hour, Blits Patrollie, and Late Night News with Loyiso Gola which went on to be nominated for two International Emmy awards. In 2017 the company produced its first feature film, the well-received romantic-comedy Catching Feelings, starring co-founder of Diprente Films and popular South African comedian Kagiso Lediga.
Diprente Films is now expanding its horizons with the official launch of its animation division, which took place in August of this year. Mogajane and his team, however, have been working on a few animation projects for some time now leading up to the launch – some which have recently been gaining much international recognition.
During the 2018 Annecy International Animated Film Festival and Market (MIFA) in France, Diprente pitched their new series at the Annecy animation series competition and won.
“The entire Annecy experience was extremely exciting for the whole team that travelled there with me including our technical art director, Judd Simantov and two of our concept artists, Terence Maluleke and Simanga Sibaya. I really wasn’t expecting to win and was just excited about the opportunity to showcase our project to some of the top broadcasters and sales companies in the world, so the win was a really special surprise for us,” Mogajane expressed.
Their winning project, Junk Pilots is a comedy action series aimed at kids between the ages of six and nine. Junk Pilots is described as a series about a future world where technology has mysteriously disappeared, and the people living in it are slowly rediscovering technology by digging up gadgets and machineries that are used today.
The series kicks off with a female character, Za, who discovers an underground city of tech enthusiasts called Junk City. She then learns about the city’s biggest sporting event, the JunkBot Fight League, whereby participants build their own robots and compete for the title of The Best Junk Pilot.
The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has praised Diprente for its worthy efforts in joining the South African animation industry and given the company support in creating job opportunities for young black, previously disadvantaged people under Diprente’s transformation and skills development programme.
Minister Rob Davies, dti, comments: “It’s encouraging to see black animators entering the space which is still white dominated. The Department of Trade and Industry is committed in ensuring that transformation takes place in sectors that are regarded as specialised. This success builds on that achieved by fellow South African company Triggerfish Animation Studios who, over the last two years, have won the top prize for TV production at Annecy, and are in competition for the same prize this year with their work on the BBC1 Christmas special, Highway Rat.”
Ever since the company’s win at Annecy, the Diprente team has been in talks with several broadcasters, studios and investors regarding promoting and furthering the reach of the winning series globally.
Mogajane and his team have been working on another animation series titled Anansi. The Anansi project has also created more job opportunities. At present, the company is recruiting and accepting applications from interested individuals to be part of the project and the new division.
“For Anansi, we will be partnering with a Canadian studio for production. On our side, we will be handling scripting, storyboarding, concept art, modelling and rigging, while the Canadian studio will be running all the animation and lighting and rendering on their side,” shares Mogajane.
The Diprente Junior team will be utilising animation software including Storyboard Pro, ZBrush and Maya, as well as Unreal Engine which allows for real-time rendering. “The technology has been around in the gaming industry for many years, but has only recently been introduced into the long-form space, so I’m looking forward to getting closely acquainted with the engine and unlocking all the benefits that come with it,” Mogajane says.
Anansi was first developed in 2014 and is an action adventure series about a street kid who learns that he is connected to the African trickster and spider god, Anansi. This connection gives the boy the ability to manipulate and move his shadow and it isn’t long before he is plunged head first into the rich and secret world of African folklore, myths and legends.
In 2016, Mogajane signed a deal with a sales company from Denmark called Ink Brands, which has since pre-sold the series across multiple territories and helped finance the show. Furthermore, the series has secured broadcast deals in the UK, Turkey, Italy, Canada and France.