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WarnerMedia’s Ariane Suveg on Cartoon Network Africa’s Creative Lab and African animation

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE:

A year after announcing Cartoon Network Africa’s Creative Lab winners, WarnerMedia revealed the winning shorts at DISCOP Johannesburg 2019. The initiative, which started in June 2018 as a pan-African call for a pitch competition, not only had the ambition to find African talents and bring to life local story gems through animation, but also to unearth talent from a range of backgrounds. Creators, writers, graphic artists and animators all rose to the occasion to take a chance at bringing innovative content aligned with Cartoon Network’s brief to showcase humour, craziness, randomness and absurdity – and, most importantly, to make African kids laugh out loud.

The three winning Cartoon Network Creative Lab shorts premiered on Cartoon Network on 11 January 2020 as part of a special stunt gathering together innovative, breakthrough animated shorts specially curated for Cartoon Network.

Screen Africa sat down with Ariane Suveg, head of Programming and Acquisitions, WarnerMedia Kids Africa, to talk about Cartoon Network Africa’s Creative Lab success and the role of local creators in African animation.

What are the next steps for the winners of Cartoon Network Africa’s Creative Lab competition? The shorts officially aired on 11 January at 17h15, DStv channel 301 and GOtv channel 67 (Ghana 158/Uganda 356). This initiative has brought talented African creators together, and it has been an exciting process. In 2020, we are willing to strengthen our collaboration with the winning, and very talented, creatives, and are currently exploring how we can enter a development process for a short series.

After the success of CN Lab, will there be another rollout of the competition?

We have not planned to run another edition of CN Lab in 2020, but are seriously on the lookout to find and produce African animation projects. We are partnering with various festivals and professional organisations to ensure we get new pitches in and are identified by talents. The success of the Creative Lab has confirmed our conviction that great animated stories can be found and developed from the African continent.

What are some projects Cartoon Network is developing to further empower African creators?

We are in discussion with some of our partners to further develop and invest in African animation, and this is an ambition for the year to come. We’re also interested in initiatives that help animation skills to grow across the continent and federate various talents.

Do you think that the current players who created the winning shorts have potential to play with bigger players in the industry?

The ambition of CN Lab was to select the best creative ideas and ensure high-class production standards are met to potentially open doors for these local productions to travel. As an international company, and one of the biggest players on the global media market today, we have an opportunity to facilitate international collaborations, giving the talent the opportunity to interact with international production experts. We think that very local African stories, as they are unique and driven by strong values and catchy ingredients, could resonate globally as well.

When will Cartoon Network and Boomerang start investing in making local productions (i.e. a full show) for, and by, African viewers?

Our channels need to be representative of our audience and making local productions is part of this objective. On Cartoon Network, we have created local content productions such as Pop Up Party, a series celebrating having fun and getting together through dance and music, that will now come back for a third season on the channel, and on Boomerang we have WOOALA!, an interactive magic show filmed on the streets of Cape Town, to give a few examples. Animation is now the genre we want to commit to, and it’s a fantastic project as there is a strong demand for more African animated content. We’re currently working on how to start developing projects.

How has the rollout of VOD affected the way you now create content and share it for consumption?

Whether it is for linear or non-linear consumption, we’re always looking for unique stories and characters, in line with the tone, promise and targets of our brands. VOD opens a door for more diversity and freedom in the formats we’re working on, but the fundamentals remain the same. The level of mobile equipment in Africa, the youngness of the population and the diversity of local languages are also guiding the way we need to think about new type of content.

We know WarnerMedia partnered with YES TV in Israel and cartoons will be dubbed – why do you think dubbed content is important in local markets?

We believe that dubbed content can create a stronger relationship with our viewers as it’s a way to celebrate the diversity of African culture and languages. Cultural subtleties can be grasped in a different way through language, and humor is, for example, something that is hard to translate unless you are making references that a local audience can relate to.

One of the themes at DISCOP Johannesburg 2019 was Music as a Cross-Border Accelerator; how have you at Cartoon Network and Boomerang found this to be true?

Music is an important part of our work, and we agree that music has a special way to connect people across cultural borders. This is something we had in mind for our local production, Pop Up Party, which celebrates African culture and kids coming together to have fun and connect through music and dance. Additionally, we also initiated a musical campaign on Boomerang, where we created a series of ten original songs, produced in Africa, called The Boomerang Tunes. The title song, “We Laugh All Day”, is sung by South African/Ugandan young talent, Mila Smith.

What are some challenges in the development phase of animators that WarnerMedia Africa is looking into improving?

The animation industry is not yet well structured in many African territories, compared to other parts of the world. At the same time, African talents, who are often self-taught, have an incomparable energy and so many creative ideas to propose. The challenge is to facilitate and build collaborations between local and international partners to share expertise and make productions that enhance and stay faithful to the very original ideas of the creators.

What is some advice you can give upcoming content creators to monetise on their content in Africa?

African creatives make the most of online video services. This is not the ultimate monetisation guarantee, but it’s an amazing publicity tool to spread and communicate creative work which has the opportunity to be seen by production or content providers.  At the same time, putting too much content on AVOD is a barrier for selling it to networks. There is a balance to find in between, working also on various formats, from shorts to long-form content.

What are some key areas in the African animation industry that you are keen on branching into?

It’s only the beginning of the journey, as there are many areas to explore on the continent. The success of comic books in Nigeria is a source of inspiration: we see a potential for African animated super-heroes and super-heroines.

What are some exciting projects that Cartoon Network will be rolling out that African content creators can look forward to in 2020?

Beside animation, Cartoon Network is also planning to produce live action shorts. Pop Up Party season three is also in the making!

Cartoon Network Creative Lab winners announced

After three exciting months of searching for Africa’s next animation talent, leading network in the kids’ entertainment industry, Cartoon Network, has announced Ridwan Moshood as its winner of the Cartoon Network Creative Lab competition!

Moshood, from Nigeria, is the creator of Garbage Boy and Trash Can – a project which bowled the selection panel over with its graphic style, absurdity, unique and extremely funny characters. The story follows Garbage Boy, a self-proclaimed superhero who believes he has real super powers, along with his sidekick, Trash Can, on their mission to fight for justice.

“Ridwaan’s style is a perfect fit for the channel and shows fantastic graphism that makes the show instantly lovable, unique and full of energy,”  adds Ariane Suveg, Programming Director and Head of Kids Content for Africa. This project is also currently selected among The Annecy International Animation Film Festival’s Animation du Monde pitches.

Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab began its journey in June this year as an African venture designed to bring innovative, local short-form content to the channel, and its digital platforms, while reinforcing the local relevance of the brand. Through the initiative, African creators, writers, graphic artists, animation students and anyone who loves kids’ content were challenged to explore their creative talents. Along with the winner, both runners-up will be given the opportunity to get their project produced as a pilot with Cartoon Network Africa which will then premiere on Cartoon Network Africa and its digital platforms in 2019.

In September, the selection panel short-listed ten projects out of 250 which were then pitched by their creators to Cartoon Network Africa’s content team. “Diverse and original content is what Cartoon Network is all about. Now, more than ever, we are on the lookout for something out of the norm, which challenges the status quo, new, irreverent, smart, truly African and unexpected!” adds Suveg. “We were pleasantly surprised by the wealth of animation talent on the continent and the selection panel had a tough task; the editorial guidelines for the channel were very specific, and yet we received many applications.”

Runner-up, Intergalactic Ice Cream is a project by talented South African Andrew John Phillips. Intergalactic Ice Cream resonated with the panel because of its Cartoon Network typical kind of humour based on crazy situations, worlds and characters. The story follows 13-year-old former cool kid, Makhaya, whose after-school job as a delivery boy for a mysterious ice cream parlour rocket-launches him into the craziest, danger-filled and dairy-fueled adventures this side of the Milky Way!

The additional runner-up, Kenyan Mark Kinuthia’s project, Majitu, which follows the duo, Jasiri and Bokari, on their quest to rid the world of evil and stop an evil witch from opening the gates between earth and the phantom’s universe. Kinuthia, who describes himself as a “complete artist” impressed with a good mix of fun dialogues, action and mystery.

“We are thrilled that the Creative Lab winner and runner-ups reflect the vibrant nature of the continent and look forward to collaborating with each of them. We’re excited to have seen strong African inspiration and captivating proposals all around, with strong human stakes in characters and stories that go straight to the heart,” concludes Suveg.

Girl power reigns supreme in Cartoon Network, Save the Children partnership!

If the number of entries already received for the Powerpuff Girls Awards are anything to go by, then many young girls are quietly playing their roles in society through innovation, creativity and technology.

The PPG Awards were launched in August with the aim to celebrate and empower young African girls between the ages of nine and 14, who are looking for a platform to showcase their super-powers. These girls are ordinary little girls, with superhero skills, who have done extraordinary things to change their world. The three categories represent each of The Powerpuff Girls’ characters, and projects are being submitted in the fields of Technological Innovation (The Buttercup Award), Social Responsibility and Bravery (The Blossom Award); and finally Art and Creativity (The Bubbles Award).

As a vibrant continent, abundant in rich culture and decades of tradition, there is much anticipation around what superpowers young African girls are using to help their communities. International NGO, Save the Children, is at the forefront of saving children’s lives and creating lasting change for children and their families through long-term development programmes. CEO of Save the Children South Africa, Gugu Ndebele, believes that the Cartoon Network PPG Awards partnership has made it possible to harness resources, energy, knowledge and expertise to empower and celebrate the young girls of Africa. “The PPG Awards will help young girls to embrace their unique power and use whatever ‘superpower’ they have to make a positive impact on the world around them. Each and every one of them is able to make a change in the world in their own very special way, no matter how big or small!” says Ndebele.

Watch Gugu in conversation with Africa’s very own Powerpuff Girl, and PPG Award ambassador, Toya Delazy, here.

Equally bursting with excitement, and pride, are teachers such as Dipuo Swelenkomo and Princess Dube, from Gordon Primary School in Alexandra, who are looking forward to seeing young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds being afforded the opportunity to showcase their skills, abilities, personalities and knowledge. Here’s what the teachers had to say!

The PPG Awards selection panel is having fun going through the entries received and thrilled to see that there’s immense potential on the continent. Judging by the inspirational ideas from creative young girls in South Africa and Kenya, the future of Africa is bright, and in the right hands!

Entries close on 15 October 2018; specific guidelines for each category, and the terms and conditions for entry, can be found on the DStv website under the PPG Awards section. Winners will be announced at the end of October and will receive their award at a gala dinner held in Johannesburg in November. Each winner, from each of the three categories, will receive $1 500 to help bring their award-winning entry to life with the help of a dedicated mentor, including Toya Delazy as the artistic mentor.

Nickelodeon’s Alexi Wheeler talks animation in Africa

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The South African and African animation industry as a whole has been booming in recent years, winning numerous awards, travelling further than ever before and expanding every day. Screen Africa chatted to Alexi Wheeler, VP of Animation Production and Development at Nickelodeon to get his input on our industry.

HOW HAS THE LANDSCAPE CHANGED IN THE AFRICAN ANIMATION INDUSTRY IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS?

There is a lot more happening than has been before; the nature of the projects coming out of Africa resonates more globally. South Africa has always had a very creative scene which has allowed us to tap into for content. Local animators are definitely more visible in the international landscape. This is an encouraging trend because there is a need to continuously invest in, grow and develop the skills and talent in this industry.

WHICH TRENDS, IN YOUR OPINION, ARE CURRENTLY DOMINATING THE GLOBAL ANIMATION INDUSTRY? 

Globally the trends for the next five years are: Shows that are grounded more with fundamental principles such as family, friends and that relate more to the environment of home and school. There is a definite rise in local content around the world which is translating to a more glocal audience. 

WHAT ELEMENTS ARE CRUCIAL IN DEVELOPING A SUCCESSFUL ANIMATED SERIES FOR YOUNGER VIEWERS?

We like our projects to contain three main elements: Broad, Simple, and Emotional. Broad meaning that kids all over the word can relate to it and also find it funny. Simple being that the idea is not over complicated, and is accessible and explainable in a one liner. Emotional meaning it provides a firm connection to the viewer giving them someone to root for and care about. 

HOW DO THE SOUTH AFRICAN AND INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCES COMPARE – SIMILARITIES/DIFFERENCES?

Kids today have an altogether different attitude towards entertainment – one that puts a premium on more new content and on-demand viewing. Similar to global markets, family remains the bedrock for kids and is their number one source of happiness. It’s important that our content embodies this value. 

WHAT SETS SOUTH AFRICAN ANIMATORS AND CONTENT APART ON THE GLOBAL STAGE?

The story telling format of the local market is by nature very authentic, clear and honest, creating a distinct voice in the region.  Because of the diversity of the African continent, there is an opportunity to create and share these stories on more global platforms. 

CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF THE EXCITING RECENT PROJECTS COMING OUT OF SA?

Yes, MooseBox is one of two first international short form animated series to come out of Nickelodeon’s annual Global Animated Shorts Programme, designed to identify and develop original comedy-driven content for kids. MooseBox, a 20 x 90-second episode order, was created by Mike Scott from South Africa, with the short form series produced by Johannesburg-based studio Mind’s Eye Creative. The original short was produced by Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation. Moose and CatBox (AKA ‘MooseBox’) are two best friends who need each other as much as they need to play, explore and survive the unpredictable video game world called The Cube.

MooseBox, along with another international short form animation was chosen out of 850 global pitches.

HOW DO YOU SEE SOUTH AFRICA FURTHER DEVELOPING AS A GLOBAL PLAYER IN THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY?

I think South Africa is already highly recognised and already considered a global player in the animation industry with the likes of Triggerfish being nominated in the 2018 Oscars in the animation category for Revolting Rhymes. Sunrise Productions has also already garnered huge success in the Asian market with their popular Jungle Beat animation series. 

HOW DO LOCAL FESTIVALS SUCH AS THE CAPE TOWN INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL BENEFIT THE INDUSTRY?

The Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) provides the opportunity for creatives, industry, broadcasters and government to collaborate and explore ways to work together. Most importantly it allows us to get the message out to students and up and coming creative, exposing them to the incredible talents and opportunities that the market offers.

More importantly, the student awards which we participated in for the third consecutive year at this year’s CTIAF – which took place in March 2018 – sponsors a prize for two students to participate in a two week internship at our Burbank studios in the USA. Our continued commitment to this award is indicative of Nickelodeon’s commitment to creating platforms which contribute to and uplift Africa’s youth and society along with the opportunity to showcase young animators internationally.

This market has tremendous opportunity and Nickelodeon is committed to growing and nurturing the industry. 

Cartoon Network’s PPG Awards empowers young girls in Africa

As part of the Powerpuff Girls’ 20th Anniversary, Cartoon Network Africa places focus on recognising and celebrating young girls, from all walks of life, who want to shape the future with their creativity and innovation.

Once again, Cartoon Network is proving that it is a multi-dimensional channel that not only offers appealing viewing opportunities for children, but also unexpected, smart and creative real-life opportunities for its viewers. The Powerpuff Girls (PPG) awards, launching in August 2018, have been created to celebrate and empower young girls in Africa, between the ages of 9 and 14, who are looking for a platform to showcase their super-powers.

These girls are ordinary little girls with superhero skills who have great ideas to change their world. Split into three categories, each representing The Powerpuff Girls’ characters, entrants will be able to submit projects in the Science and Tech Inventor, Social Helper and Artistic Creator categories.

Cartoon Network is teaming up with the African arm of the international NGO, Save the Children, pioneers for children’s rights, as well as Africa’s very own Powerpuff Girl, Toya Delazy, in their quest to find some of Africa’s young, amazing, girl heroes. They will be creating awareness about the PPG Awards by visiting schools across South Africa and Kenya, disrupting the superhero myth and showing them that young girls can save the world!

Each award category has been built on the inner power and special ability of each of the three super-cute, super-fierce Powerpuff Girls. The Buttercup Award targets little girls who celebrate excellence in science and technology by developing an invention that has raised the bar, turning her vision into a reality. The Bubbles Award will go to a little girl who is always using her imagination to create artistic pieces, in any form, that is original and represents girl’s empowerment. And finally, The Blossom Award will be awarded to the entrant that is smart, positive and has a strong moral compass, someone who makes a remarkable difference for the greater good, teaches awe-inspiring lessons and wishes to take their idea further.

“The PPG Awards celebrates young African girls and their achievements. It aims to empower young girls to express themselves and never give up on their dreams,” says Toya Delazy, South African singer and songwriter. “We hope that the PPG Awards provides a platform to bring out the strength that every young African girl carries within her and allows her to become the amazing little superhero that she really is!”

Entries for the awards open from 15 August to 15 October 2018. Specific guidelines for each category, and the terms and conditions for entry, can be found here from Wednesday, 15 August 2018 when the competition goes live.

Winners will be announced at the end of October and will receive their award at an awards ceremony held in Johannesburg in the beginning of November. Each winner, from each of the three categories, will receive $1 500 to help bring their award-winning entry to life with the help of a dedicated mentor, including Toya Delazy as the artistic creator and mentor.

“Save the Children is a child rights organisation which aims to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats its children. As the African arm of this organisation, we are proud and honoured to partner with Cartoon Network on this event,” says Gugu Ndebele, CEO of Save the Children South Africa. “We cannot think of a better way to inspire change, than to partner with an organisation that celebrates young girls and their achievements. We look forward to engaging with the young girls who rock for Africa!”

Cartoon Network is looking for new animation talent in Africa

Taking advantage of Africans’ humorous streak, and incredible storytelling abilities, Cartoon Network Africa has announced the launch of their brand new initiative, Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab, an African venture designed to bring innovative, local short form content to the channel, and its digital platforms, while reinforcing the local relevance of the brand.

With this ground-breaking move, the leading network in the kids’ entertainment industry, Cartoon Network is taking another bold step in addressing the gap in locally relevant content which offers a viewing experience that resonates with its African audience. The initiative will encourage African talents: creators, writers, graphic artists, animation students … in fact anyone who loves kids’ content, to explore their creative, animation and production talents and have the chance to produce a short-form animated comedy to make Cartoon Network viewers across Africa laugh out loud!

“As sponsors of the DISCOP 2016 Animation Pitching Programme, we were exposed to some really inspiring local animation projects,” says Ariane Suveg, head of Programming and Acquisition Turner Kids Africa. “We were so impressed by Cape Town-based Punch Monkey Studio’s amazing creative energy in the winning entry, Cloud Life, that the project has been traveling through the Turner group and is now in a development process with the Turner Asia Pacific production team! This just reinforces our need to invest in local content and our commitment to further mentoring talent in the African animation industry.”

Entries for the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab opened on 7 June and will close on 31 August 2018 across the continent. African residents, aged 18 and over, or any African-based company, can submit their one-minute to three-minute creative short project which must fall in the comedy genre and fit with Cartoon Network’s values of random, irreverent, smart and contemporary humour. Editorial guidelines can be found on www.CartoonNetworkAfrica.com/CreativeLab.

Ten projects will be short-listed in September, and the local creators will get the opportunity to pitch their work to Cartoon Network Africa’s content programming team. The winner and two runners-up will then be revealed at DISCOP Johannesburg at the end of the year.

The winner and runners-up will be given the opportunity to get their project produced as a pilot with Cartoon Network Africa which will then premiere on Cartoon Network Africa and its digital platforms in 2019.

“We are honoured to be supporting local African animation talent through the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab. We look forward to seeing the entries and hope to see the winners flourish in their career as content creators, following the footsteps of some of Cartoon Network’s greatest talents.” concludes Suveg.

Africa’s Powerpuff Girl, Toya Delazy is back on Cartoon Network Africa

Cartoon Network Africa will give it’s viewers an all-new episode of The Powerpuff Girls, featuring their sister Bliss, this June. In her ongoing partnership with Cartoon Network, South African pop sensation, Toya Delazy, will again voice the fourth Powerpuff Girl for this once-off special episode for the African continent.

In 2017, Cartoon Network introduced Bliss, the all-new member, and long-lost older sister to the beloved super-cute and super-fierce trio of heroines. In the new entertaining and action-packed special Bliss episode, entitled ”Never been Blissed”, she makes an appearance from where she lives in outer space to protect the girls’ school from a space alien called Sporde.

The new Bliss episode follows on the success of the airing of The Powerpuff Girls “Power of Four” special, aired in September 2017, which generated viewership figures of 210,000 among viewers between the ages of four and 14-years-old. *

“I am so happy to be trusted with this awesome mission yet again and build on the relationship I have with Cartoon Network, the leading kids’ channel in South Africa,” says Toya. “We have some super cool projects in the pipeline, which I can’t talk about yet, aimed at shining the spotlight on young girls across the African continent. It is going to be very impactful and game-changing – watch this space!”

Catch The Powerpuff Girls special Bliss episode on Saturday, 16 June 2018 at 13h30 CAT on Cartoon Network.

Adding to the excitement, The Powerpuff Girls are back to save the world before bedtime in the third season of the all-new, reimagined, original, animated comedy series of The Powerpuff Girls. The latest series of The Powerpuff Girls, from Cartoon Network Studios, will premiere on screens across Africa from Saturday, 30 June at 15h40 CAT on Cartoon Network.

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