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Triggerfish Animation Studios Press

Triggerfish Animation is Africa's leading character animation studio & the producers of 'Adventures in Zambezia' & 'Khumba'.

Behind the scenes on Triggerfish-animated Zog


UK-based production company Magic Light Pictures recently released a film adaptation of the much-loved 2010 picture book, Zog, animated in South Africa by Triggerfish.

Zog is based on the book by the Gruffalo team, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and is about a young dragon that is at Dragon School, learning to fly, breath fire and basically become a holy terror!” explains Daniel Snaddon, co-director of the short film.

However, student life comes with a lot of challenges for the keen but accident-prone dragon: “He’s super enthusiastic, but has no talent and ends up hurting himself every time he tries his hand at something new. The book is about how an unusual friendship changes his life and his dream for the better,” says Snaddon. 

Triggerfish Animation Studios has an ongoing relationship with publishing duo Donaldson and Scheffler and the Gruffalo team, which is managed by Magic Light Pictures. This partnership has produced award-winning film adaptations of other popular children’s books including Stick Man, Revolting Rhymes and The Highway Rat.

“My directing partner Max Lang pitched Zog to Magic Light Pictures in 2012. Of all the more recent books by Donaldson and Scheffler, he thought it would make a great film, as the characters and their journeys were very clear and relatable,” says Snaddon.

According to Snaddon, the concept for the film started taking shape in mid-2017, with he and Lang working together on the storyboards. The pair then sought various artists from South Africa and the UK to work on the project. “Our art director was Sarah-Jane Williams who was key in bringing the hand-made feel to the design and surfaces of Zog’s world. Daniel Clarke, Caroline Vos and Stephen Howard-Tripp were the concept artists. Andrew Wilkins oversaw modelling, while Darren Hing and Roxanne Joyner oversaw surfacing,” he says.

Zog took just over a year and a half to produce, with animation director Jac Hamman overseeing the 17 animators that brought the characters to life. Samantha Cutler was the lead character modeller and Malcolm van Aardnt managed the rigging of over 30 characters for the film.

Zog was produced using Maya, Arnold and Nuke, with additional VFX work done through a plugin called Phoenix FD – which was used to generate fire and smoke effects in some scenes. Kane Croudace, Faghrie Coenraad and James Bihl were the technical leads and Sue Mari-Sauer headed up VFX. “Everything was then brought together by Sarah Scrimgeour and her superb compositing team,” says Snaddon.

“Kaya Kuhn was our line producer, and though she was new to animation, she did an amazing job of planning and executing the production at Triggerfish,” adds Snaddon. “Aninka Jonk, Laura Irvine and Clare Savage did a great job of running the team on the ground.”

Zog has since travelled to a number of international festivals including the Shanghai International TV Festival, where it won the Best Animation Award, and the New York International Children’s Film Festival, where it earned the Audience Award.

The film recently bagged an International Emmy nomination in the Best Kids’ Animation category and will compete against films from France, Brazil and India. The winning film will be announced on 31 March 2020 at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Speaking about the nomination, Snaddon says: “We are thrilled, and hope that we win! I’m also really happy and proud of our team, as on Zog we had fewer resources than we did on previous projects and we still managed to pull off something really world class.”

The film had its television premiere on BBC 1 for UK viewers, and is now streaming on South African streaming service Showmax. Zog can also be ordered on DVD through Amazon.

Snaddon and his team at Triggerfish are thrilled that South African viewers can now get to watch the animated film and hope that the heart-warming tale reaches more audiences. “Zog was originally a BBC and ZDF (Germany) co-production. I’m thrilled that Zog is streaming on Showmax and I’d also love Zog to eventually show on national TV, and for either the SABC or kykNET to get some translations going!” he concludes.


  • Writers: Julia Donaldson, Max Lang, Suzanne Lang, Axel Scheffler
  • Directors: Max Lang and Daniel Snaddon
  • Producer: Mike Buckland, Martin Pope, Michael Rose Sound: René Aubry         
  • Editor: Robin Sales
  • Sound: René Aubry

SA-animated Zog up for International Emmy

South Africa is having a good year at the International Emmys: first The River was nominated as best Telenovela and now Zog, animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish for the UK’s Magic Light Pictures, is up for Best Kids’ Animation.

Co-directed by two-time Oscar nominee Max Lang (The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom) and multi-award-winning South African Daniel Snaddon (Stick Man), Zog is competing against Grizzy and the Lemmings (France), Jorel’s Brother (Brazil), and Lamput (India). The winner will be announced on Tuesday, 31 March 2020 in Cannes, France. 

Zog has already won Best Animation at the Shanghai International TV Festival and the Audience Award for ages 3-6 at New York International Children’s Film Festival. 

“We’re delighted,” says Stuart Forrest, CEO of Triggerfish. “Congratulations to Magic Light, Max, Daniel and everyone who helped bring Zog to life. We hope this latest nomination encourages more South Africans to try out animation, using our free digital learning platform and upcoming 10-second animation competition.” 

Zog is the keenest but clumsiest pupil in his class at Dragon School, where he longs to win a gold star as he learns how to fly, roar and breathe fire. He keeps meeting a kindly young girl who patches up his bumps and bruises, but can she help him with his trickiest school assignment yet: capturing a princess? 

The short film is based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much loved 2010 picture book, which sold over 1.5 million copies and won the Galaxy National Children’s Book of the Year Award in the UK. 

Hugh Skinner (Fleabag) plays the clumsy dragon; 2019 Olivier award winner Patsy Ferran (Jamestown) is the kindly young girl; Kit Harington (Jon Snow in Game of Thrones) is the bumbling knight Sir Gadabout; Sir Lenny Henry (Broadchurch) is the narrator; and Tracey Ullman is Madame Dragon. 

Zog premiered on BBC last Christmas to five-star reviews, 8.8m viewers and the highest share (37%) of any programme across Christmas week on British television. In South Africa, the short premiered at The Cape Town International Animation Festival in March 2019 and on Showmax in August. 

Zog is the fourth in a string of BBC Christmas adaptations animated by Triggerfish for Magic Light, following the multi-award-winning Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations Stick Man (2015) and The Highway Rat (2017) as well as the Oscar-nominated Roald Dahl adaptation Revolting Rhymes (2016), which also won the International Emmy in 2018.  

Before teaming up with Triggerfish, Magic Light also made three previous Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations: the Oscar-nominated The Gruffalo (2009)and Room On The Broom (2012) and Annecy winner The Gruffalo’s Child (2011). All seven family classics are now streaming on Showmax. 

Snaddon is currently co-directing The Snail and The Whale, his third BBC Christmas special for Triggerfish and Magic Light Pictures, based on another Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler classic, which is coming to Showmax in 2020. 

You can stream both Zog and The River on Showmax in South Africa, as well as Is’Thunzi, which earned South African Thuso Mbedu nominations for Best Actress at the International Emmys in 2017 and 2018. 

The Triggerfish 10-second Animation Challenge, supported by Goethe-Institut, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, and The Walt Disney Company, is currently open for entries. Aspiring animators across Africa have until Thursday, 31 October 2019 to create 10-second character animations, then post them to Facebook with the tag @triggerfishacademy. The winner of the 18-and-under and 19-25 categories will take home any animator’s dream tool: a Wacom Cintiq 16” drawing tablet, valued at nearly US$1,000, which allows the artist to draw directly onto a screen which connects to their computer. The top three in both age categories will win a $100 cash prize.

Call for entries: Triggerfish 10-second Animation Challenge

The Triggerfish 10-second Animation Challenge, supported by Goethe-Institut, the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and The Walt Disney Company, is now open for entries.

Aspiring animators across Africa have until Thursday, 31 October 2019 to create 10-second character animations, then post them to Facebook with the tag @triggerfishacademy.

“We’re looking for fresh animation shorts that celebrate Africa’s uniqueness and diversity,” says Stuart Forrest, CEO of Triggerfish, the ground-breaking animation company behind two of Africa’s highest grossing movies of all time (Khumba, Adventures In Zambezia) and five multi-award-winning BBC Christmas Specials with Magic Light Pictures, including the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes. “Creating animation is easier than ever before, so if you love animation, we’re hoping this competition is the encouragement you need to try making five seconds of it for the first time. We’ve kept the format short because we’re looking for artistic impact and technical excellence.”

The winner of the 18-and-under and 19-25 categories will take home any animator’s dream tool: a Wacom Cintiq 16” drawing tablet, valued at nearly US$1,000, which allows the artist to draw directly onto a screen which connects to their computer. The top three in both age categories will win a $100 cash prize.

A jury of professional animators from Triggerfish will choose the top six animations in both age categories, which will be posted to the Triggerfish Facebook page from 18 November 2019, with the most Liked animation on 1 December 2019 being named the overall winner for each category.

This competition is one of a number of recent Triggerfish initiatives to train and diversify the next generation of African animators. Others include Triggerfish Academy, a free digital learning platform for anyone wanting to understand more about career opportunities in animation and how to get started in the field; sponsoring bursaries to The Animation School; the Mama K’s Team 4 Writers Lab in Zambia with Netflix; the pan-African Triggerfish Story Lab, supported by The Walt Disney Company and the Department of Trade and Industry; Animate Africa webinars; Draw For Life; and the Triggerfish Foundation schools outreach programme.

Forrest encourages all competition entrants to work through the 25 free video tutorials on Triggerfish Academy, as entries will be judged on the key animation principles outlined there. The Triggerfish Academy website also has links to download free software that will help you create your first animations, as well as all the terms and conditions for the competition.

About Triggerfish Academy

Triggerfish Academy is a free digital learning platform for anyone wanting to understand more about the career opportunities in the field of animation. It’s been realised within the initiative “Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs)” by the Goethe-Institut South Africa, with support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). By strengthening and networking local CCIs, positive and commercially viable “African narratives and productions” are being supported (through animation, gaming, fashion, music, etc.). For more information, visit www.triggerfish.com/academy.

Triggerfish launches free career-focused learning platform for animators

Triggerfish, in partnership with Goethe-Institut and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, has launched Triggerfish Academy, a free digital learning platform for anyone wanting to understand more about the career opportunities and how to get started in the field of animation.

The website features 25 free video tutorials, quizzes and animation exercises introducing animation as a career and the principles of storytelling, storyboarding and animation, as well as several additional resources to help guide aspiring animators into a career in animation.

“The South African animation industry is growing – and so is the demand for skilled animators globally,” said Noemie Njangiru, head of Culture and Development at Goethe-Institut Johannesburg, pointing to  the success of recent Triggerfish projects like the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes; Mama K’s Team 4, recently announced by Netflix as their first original animated series from Africa; and this year’s New York Children’s Festival and Shanghai International Film and TV Festival winner Zog.

Njangiru also highlighted the opportunities for animation outside the traditional film industry, within fields like advertising, app and web design, architecture, engineering, gaming, industrial design, medicine, and the motor industry, not to mention growth sectors like augmented reality and virtual reality

The course was created by Tim Argall, currently the animation director on Triggerfish’s third feature film, Seal Team. He’s roped in many of the South African animation industry’s brightest stars, from Malcolm Wope, character designer on Mama K’s Team 4, and Annike Pienaar, now working at Illumination in Paris on Sing 2, to Daniel Snaddon, co-director of the multi-award-winning BBC adaptations Stick Man and Zog, and Faghrie Coenraad, lead dressing and finaling artist on the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes, as well as Triggerfish head of production Mike Buckland. The featured talent share not just their skills but also their stories, from how they broke the news they wanted to be animators to their parents, to common myths about the animation industry.

“As kids, animation is part of our lives, so we don’t really think about the idea that animation is actually somebody’s job,” said Argall. “When I was a kid, I loved animation and I loved to draw. I remember when I was about 12, I thought: ‘I really want to see my drawings come to life. I want to be an animator.’ But I had no idea where to even begin.”

Triggerfish Academy is his attempt to make it easier for the next generation of African animators: an accessible starter kit for anyone considering a career in animation.

“By the end of working through this course, you’ll have all the background you need to know whether animation is a good choice for your career,” said Njangiru.

Aspiring animators can also use Triggerfish Academy to learn how to write and animate their own short story, then post their animation on the Academy’s Facebook group for feedback and advice from professional animators.

Triggerfish Academy is set up so that youth can play with it directly, but it’s also been designed to double as an activity plan for teachers, NGOs and after school programmes to use. Schools, organisations and other animation studios who are interested in using it can contact Triggerfish for additional free classroom resources.

Triggerfish Academy is just one of a number of Triggerfish initiatives to train and diversify the next generation of African animators, like sponsoring bursaries to The Animation School; the Mama K’s Team 4 Writers Lab with Netflix; the pan-African Triggerfish Story Lab, supported by The Walt Disney Company and the Department of Trade and Industry; Animate Africa webinars; Draw For Life; and the Triggerfish Foundation schools outreach programme.

Director Speak: Daniel Snaddon


Screen Africa chatted to Daniel Snaddon, founding director of the Cape Town International Animation Festival and director of Zog, Triggerfish’s latest BBC Christmas special with Magic Light Pictures…


Growing up in the transition era has made me an optimist and a believer in people. As a director, I like to be collaborative and to challenge my teams to come up with creative solutions on both the art and technical sides of our films. So far, they’ve only fuelled my belief!


In his book Starting Point, Hayao Miyazaki describes all animators as being nostalgic for a world that doesn’t exist, which really resonates with me. Plan-wise: I’ve always drawn, made little comics, films and video games, and when I was looking at what to study, I became really jealous of my friend when he told me he was going to do animation… so I followed the envy.


My wife, Julia, and I are working on a kid’s book together. It’s about a young boy trying to figure out how to be a ‘manly-man.’


Directing Zog was great fun, and surprisingly straightforward for Max (Lang) and myself. We are both story-board artists and managed to get a first pass of the film out in a couple of weeks, and then just built on that with the team, iteration by iteration.

At the heart of the book, there is a lovely and surprising relationship between the dragon and the girl, which I found charming. It also has a great message about being true to yourself in the face of the expectations of others, which I think is a great take-away for kids and adults alike.


Young audiences can be quite brutal, and can smell condescension or someone who thinks they’re funny a mile away. To get something to connect, you need to be just as brutal with your film, and if the story is unclear, a joke isn’t getting a laugh or an emotional moment isn’t landing, you need to fix it.


Africa is currently being looked to as a source of inspiration. It’s still hard to do things in Africa, but we finally have the ear of the big studios and networks – and they want to see what our animation studios can do.


The current interest in African animation has been fuelled by a thirst for unique stories and voices. Whether this turns into a genuine boom or not will depend on us and whether we can create characters and stories that connect with world audiences.


I was completely blown away! The quality of the talks, the meetings and conversations was world-class. Di and her team did an amazing job.


It connects us to the world and to each other and that, alone, makes it super important. We’re a collaborative medium; we can’t really thrive in isolation.


Watching Zog with my nine-month-old, my wife and our parents at the UK premiere was pretty special.


Young people! Listen to me!!! Figure out what you WANT, and then figure out how to get it! Otherwise other people will tell you what they want from you, and you’ll spend your life giving it to them (because they have all the money).


I’m currently directing another Christmas special for Magic Light Pictures and the BBC, based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s book, The Snail and the Whale. I’m also developing the feature film Kariba with Triggerfish, based on the graphic novel by Daniel and James Clarke.

Netflix announces first original African animated series, Mama K’s Team 4

Netflix, the world’s leading internet entertainment service, has announced its first original African animated series, Mama K’s Team 4, produced by Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios and leading London-based kids’ entertainment specialist CAKE.

Mama K’s Team 4 tells the story of four teen girls living in the neo-futuristic African city of Lusaka, Zambia, who are recruited by a retired secret agent still committed to saving the world. The series joins Netflix’s growing slate of original animated programming designed for kids and families everywhere, brought to 190 countries by artists from around the world.

Mama K’s Team 4 is created by Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema, who was one of eight winners in the Triggerfish Story Lab initiative in 2015, a pan-African talent search.

Designed by Cameroonian artist Malcolm Wope, it draws visual inspiration from retro-’90s R&B and hip hop girl groups.

To join the creative team on the series, Netflix is collaborating with Triggerfish Animation studio and CAKE to launch a continent-wide search for local female writing talent.

Malenga grew up watching cartoons on TV and found herself asking why no heroes looked like her and why they didn’t live in a world that felt like her own. “In creating a superhero show set in Lusaka, I hope to introduce the world to four strong African girls who save the day in their own fun and crazy way. Most importantly, I want to illustrate that anyone from anywhere can be a superhero,” commented Malenga.

“In addition to giving African writers a global platform on which to be heard, we are excited to present this powerful and entertaining new animated series that brings Malenga’s incredible and unique vision to life on Netflix,” said Melissa Cobb, vice president of original animation at Netflix. “Mama K’s Team 4 has the potential to give a whole new generation of African children the opportunity to see themselves on-screen in the powerful, aspirational characters they look up to.”

“After animating four multi-award-winning BBC Christmas specials set in England, including the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes, Triggerfish is delighted to bring an African capital city to life on Netflix,” added Vanessa Ann Sinden, Triggerfish’s development producer. “Female writers from Africa who have had their work produced for either TV, film or theatre can find out more about the Writers Lab and how to apply from the careers page of our website, www.triggerfish.com.”

CEO & Creative Director at CAKE, Tom van Waveren, concluded, “We are delighted to be partnering with Triggerfish and Netflix on Mama K’s Team 4, a uniquely empowering, but most of all fun project, which brings a fresh perspective to a classic cartoon genre.”


Triggerfish’s latest animation to premiere in Cape after five-star reviews in UK

Proudly presented by Animation SA, The Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF) kicks off this Friday, 8 March 2019, with the African premiere of Zog, Triggerfish’s latest BBC Christmas special with Magic Light Pictures.

Here are eight reasons to book your tickets while you can:

#1. Zog is based on the Julia Donaldson bestseller

Zog is based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much loved 2010 picture book, which won the Galaxy National Children’s Book of the Year Award and has sold over 1.5 million copies.

Zog tells the tale of a keen but accident-prone dragon who gets himself into mischief while learning how to fly, roar and breathe fire in his first three years at Dragon School. Each year he meets a kindly young girl who patches up his bumps and bruises, but can she help him with his trickiest challenge yet: it’s Year Four, and he has to capture a princess!

#2. It stars Kit Harington as Sir Gadabout

Hugh Skinner (Harlots) plays the title role; Patsy Ferran (Jamestown) is the princess with medical ambitions; Sir Lenny Henry (Broadchurch) is the narrator; Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) is the bumbling knight Sir Gadabout; Tracey Ullman is Madame Dragon; and Rob Brydon is many characters, as usual for a Magic Light special.

#3. It’s from the team behind the Oscar-nominated ‘Revolting Rhymes’

Zog is the latest BBC Christmas special to be produced by Magic Light Pictures and animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish, following on from their multi-award-winning adaptations of Donaldson and Scheffler’s Stick Man (2015) and The Highway Rat (2017), and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes (2016), which was nominated for an Oscar last year.

#4. It was nearly as popular as the Queen at Christmas in the UK

Zog placed fifth on the UK’s viewing chart this Christmas, with only 200 000 less viewers than the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. The Telegraph gave the “hypnotising, inspiring tale for all the family” five stars; Den of Geek called it “a thing of perfectly spherical loveliness; it is lovely from every conceivable angle”; The Guardian warned parents “once this has been added to iPlayer you may never be allowed to watch anything else again on your TV – ever!”; and Donaldson told The Herald that Zog was her favourite BBC adaptation to date.

#5. It’s directed by South African Daniel Snaddon, who co-founded CTIAF

Zog is directed by two-time Oscar-nominee Max Lang (The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom) and South African Daniel Snaddon (Stick Man). Friday’s screening is particularly special for Snaddon as he was the founding director of Kunjanimation, which grew into CTIAF. “When we started the festival in 2011, it was one day of workshops at Wits and two nights of screenings at Alliance Francaise. It’s been amazing to watch it grow and be accepted by the international community. This year, they have Peter Ramsey, director of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – just after he won the Oscar! And Aron Warner, who produced Shrek and The Book Of Life… I’m proud of the small role I played, but festival director Dianne Makings really deserves all the credit – what she’s done with the festival is remarkable.”

#6. You’ll relate to the clumsy dragon who just wants a gold star

Snaddon’s looking forward to Cape Town audiences falling in love with Zog, the keenest but clumsiest pupil in the class, who longs to win a gold star at Dragon School. “He’s super enthusiastic and he loves what he’s doing; he’s just not very good at it,” says Snaddon. “I think a lot of us feel like that. Hopefully not all the time but certainly there are times  when you know you’re falling short of your aspirations.”

#7. It’ll make your daughter want to be a doctor, not a princess

Snaddon describes Zog as “this great playing-against-type, progressive story about two people who are told by society that this is the way you do things and say, ’No, we’re going to make up our own minds.’”

But he says he’s found it funny that Zog has been hailed as a feminist story. “I’m delighted, but I do think it’s an awfully low bar if all we’re advocating is that women can be doctors,” he says. “Maybe it’s because we’re saying that being a doctor is more aspirational than being a princess. That’s cool. My father-in-law is a doctor and my sister-in-law is studying to be a doctor – it’s a very worthwhile, noble pursuit.”

He recommends Cape Tonians go watch Zog, “because it’s funny, sweet, short and sharp, and it has really good values, especially if you have kids and don’t want them to be slaves to other people’s opinions.”

#8. It’ll make you feel patriotic

Zog really is the product of some of South Africa’s finest digital artists,” says Snaddon. “We can get behind the Springboks or the Proteas or Ryk Neethling or any of our athletes because they are exceptional people on top of their game, doing amazing things on a world stage. You should go see Zog for that same reason; it’ll make you feel proudly South African!”

Zog will have its African premiere at 8pm this Friday, 8 March 2019, at The River Club in Observatory, Cape Town. The screening will be followed by Studio Ponoc’s animation anthology Modest Heroes.


Triggerfish sponsors three more bursaries to The Animation School

Sibusiso Ngubelanga, 26, first applied to study at The Animation School in 2014 but couldn’t afford the tuition. The Khayelitsha resident attended every open day for the five years since then, to the point that some of The Animation School staff assumed he was a student there.

This month, thanks to a bursary from Triggerfish, Africa’s leading animation company, that dream finally became a reality: Sibusiso is now enrolled at the Cape Town campus of The Animation School, named one of the world’s top 100 animation schools by Animation Career Review for 2018.

Triggerfish is sponsoring Sibusiso and fellow first year student Zaid Neethling (19, from Strandfontein), as well as second-year student Dawood Salie (19, from Mitchell’s Plain), who also received a bursary in 2018. The bursaries cover the full tuition fees for the year, thanks to funding from Triggerfish and Animate Africa, a US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting Africa’s youth through animation skills development and training.

The Animation School principal Nuno Martins says these bursaries are important because of the shortage of funding opportunities for students at private animation schools. This year, he estimates there were over 50 students who applied but were unable to secure the necessary funding.

“Talent is universal; opportunity is not,” says Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest. “We want to start changing that, because we need diverse teams to do justice to our continent’s diverse stories.”

Forrest pointed out that all three recipients are examples of how it takes a village to create an animator.

Salie is an alumnus of Draw for Life, an initiative offered by Sparks Flew Development Studio and PASCAP Trust and supported by Animation SA, The Animation School, and Triggerfish. Draw for Life introduces talented learners from disadvantaged backgrounds to South Africa’s booming animation industry and mentors them through a three-month series of classes covering the foundations of drawing for animation. Salie went on to complete a short course at Digital Canvas Academy, offered pro bono to Draw for Life alumni. From there, Salie was invited to take part in Triggerfish’s hot desk programme, where he experienced first-hand what goes into creating the BBC Christmas specials that Triggerfish animates in collaboration with Magic Light Pictures, like the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes.

Ngubelanga and Neethling are both graduates of False Bay College’s 2D animation course, funded by MICT Seta and lectured by Cate Wood Hunter and Riaan Theron. The False Bay College course provides an ideal bridging course for learners who were not able to study art formally at school. This allows learners to build their drawing as well as digital skills and put together a competitive portfolio for application to attend the likes of The Animation School.

Ngubelanga and Neethling also both interned on Jabu’s Jungle, a ground-breaking children’s animation produced by Pixcomm, first in Masiphumelele township and now in Muizenberg, which provides training and internships for young animators from the community, and has been sold to India. China and America, among other territories. Ngubelanga and Neethling also interned on Yolanda Keabetswe Mogatusi’s  Rapulani and Rapunzel.

“It’s great to see the way the industry is coming together to create opportunities and mentor new talent,” says Forrest.

While many parents are sceptical about ‘iPopeye’ as a career, animation is currently a scarce skill – not just in South Africa but globally. “Finding animators who are ready for our scale of projects is a real challenge,” says Forrest. “If we had more animators, we could take on a lot more work.”

Martins agrees, adding that 85% of graduates from the last two years at The Animation School found work.

For example, Sinenhlanhla Sanelisiwe Shozi received a third-year bursary to The Animation School in 2018 and was immediately snapped up afterwards by Triggerfish, where she’s now part of the layout department on their third feature film, Seal Team – their follow up to two of the top five highest-grossing South African films of all time, Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba.

These bursaries are just one of a number of recent Triggerfish initiatives aimed at growing and diversifying the animation industry in Africa, from the pan-African Story Lab, which was supported by The Walt Disney Company and The Department of Trade and Industry, to Triggerfish Academy, an online introduction to animation in partnership with The Goethe-Institut and The German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation.

Africa’s best animation of 2018 now on YouTube

After winning seven international awards and screening at over 60 international festivals, Triggerfish’s short film Belly Flop is now on YouTube.

Directed by Jeremy Collins and co-directed by Kelly Dillon, Belly Flop is the story of Penny, a fearless young girl learning to dive, unperturbed by a talented diver who keeps stealing the spotlight.

The heart-warming short film was named Best Animation at the Africa Movie Academy Awards last month and also won the Gryphon Award at Giffoni, one of the world’s premiere children’s festivals, Best In Show at Longwood Animation Festival, the Czech TV Audience Award at Zlin International Film Festival for Children and Youth, and the Children’s Jury award at Cinemira, among other accolades.

Belly Flop also screened at Oscar-qualifying festivals like Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, Anima Mundi, and the world’s top animation festival, Annecy, where it was shown during the closing ceremony, alongside DreamWorks’ latest short film, Bilby, and two others.

Belly Flop is based on a screenplay by Dillon which won an internal scriptwriting competition at Triggerfish in 2011, with the five-minute short being made as a passion project during downtime at the studio over the last seven years.

“The character of Penny was inspired by a girl I au-paired for when I was at university,” says Dillon. “I remember when she started taking swimming lessons, I admired her persistence in learning to dive properly, oblivious that she kept belly flopping. This short film has taken seven years, so being named Africa’s best animation really reinforces Belly Flop’s message that perseverance does pay off, eventually.”

With Marc Dey, Dillon also co-wrote Ninja Princess, one of the winners of the pan-African Triggerfish Story Lab. The series is now in development with Triggerfish and global A-list partners.

Collins is a freelance animation director based in Cape Town, who has over 20 years of experience creating short-form animation and motion graphics.

“The process of making Belly Flop has been a lot like Penny’s day at the pool: a combination of perseverance, hard work and plain good luck,” says Collins. “We started production in 2015 and finished the edit in January 2018, which is why our credit roll is so long. With the exception of the first month – when fortune smiled on us and we suddenly had a full studio at our disposal – during the rest of production we worked with small teams, in short bursts between other projects. Thanks to Kelly and Anthony Silverston, Triggerfish’s head of development, we kept the momentum and  maintained focus. I’m absolutely delighted by the response we’ve had from audiences all over the world, and I can’t wait to share our little movie with a wider audience, especially here at home.”

Belly Flop is the latest success from Triggerfish, Africa’s leading animation company, who helped animate Revolting Rhymes, Magic Light’s BBC One Christmas special adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, which was nominated for an Oscar and won at the Annie Awards, Kidscreen, and The International Emmy Awards this year. Triggerfish is currently in production on their third feature film, Seal Team, among other projects.


Revolting Rhymes nominated for an Oscar

Revolting Rhymes is one of five animated short films nominated for an Oscar.

Directed by Jakob Schuh (Oscar-nominated for The Gruffalo) and Jan Lachauer (Oscar-nominated for Room on the Broom) and co-directed by Bin Han To, produced by Martin Pope and Michael Rose, Revolting Rhymes is an adaptation of Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake’s classic book of surprising fairy tales.

Produced by Magic Light Pictures, Revolting Rhymes was animated at Magic Light’s Berlin studio and Cape Town’s Triggerfish. It’s voiced by a stellar cast that includes Dominic West (The Affair) as The Wolf; Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) as Red Riding Hood; and Gemma Chan (Humans) as Snow White.

“We’re beside ourselves right now, and just incredibly happy,” say Schuh and Lachauer. “Happy for the film and happy for all our fantastic collaborators here in Berlin, our producers at Magic Light, as well as our wonderful team in South Africa. It’s a pretty unreal feeling to find your labour of love has been recognised in this way. We’re deeply grateful to the Academy for this nomination. This was a hard film to make. What always steered us forward was the level of love our team had for this story – and the blessings we received from Luke Kelly, Roald Dahl’s grandson, and from the great Quentin Blake. So, for everyone’s work to receive such love in return today, it’s the most beautiful reward.”

Revolting Rhymes has already won nine major international awards: the Cristal at Annecy in France, the world’s premiere animation festival; Best Animation at the BAFTA Children’s Awards; two awards at the European Animation Awards; Best Animated Short at TIFF Kids; Best Animation at the World Banff Media Festival in Canada; Best Storytelling at Shanghai International Film and TV Festival in China; the Children’s Jury prize at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and the Audience Award at Filmfest Munchen.

Revolting Rhymes is also nominated for a prestigious Annie Award on 3 February 2018 in Los Angeles; a British Animation Award on 15 March in London; and an International Emmy Kids Award, which will be presented in April 2018.

“Congrats to Jakob, Jan, Bini and the amazing team at Magic Light; it was such an honour to watch and learn from them,” says Mike Buckland, head of production at Triggerfish. “We also feel immense gratitude towards our insanely hard-working, generous and talented crew, who fully deserve this recognition that their work stands up there with the best in the world. We’re hoping Revolting Rhymes‘ success will inspire many more Africans to enter the animation industry, which is growing rapidly here but still not fast enough to keep up with demand. And we can’t wait for South African audiences to finally be able to see Revolting Rhymes when it comes to Showmax in the near future.”


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