Local animation shows it’s quick on the draw at film fest

When Stick Man premiered on BBC1 on Christmas Day in 2015, it was one of the most watched programmes in the United Kingdom, with more than 9.27-million people tuning in – it was animated right here in South Africa.

Stick Man, a character based on a children’s book by much-loved British children’s author Julia Donaldson (of The Gruffalo fame) that was illustrated by Axel Scheffler, tells the story of a branch that goes for a jog and then has a hard time making it back home to his “family tree”.

The 26-minute film was produced by Magic Light Pictures, an award-winning United Kingdom production company, and animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish. Stick Man was directed by London-based Jeroen Jaspaert and co-directed by South African Daniel Snaddon.

The film, enthralling to children and adults as the December viewership figures suggested, typifies the films that the programmers of the Cape Town International Animation Festival are screening at this event, which opens today and lasts until February 21.

Animation South Africa chair Nick Cloete says that with good animation, “the visuals are enough to capture or even reflect your imagination, however young or young-at-heart you are”.

The festival has undergone a major rebranding exercise, making it more a consumer-focused event. “Before, it appealed mostly to people who were already working in animation,” says festival director Dianne Makings. “The talks were quite technical, and quite specific to working in the industry.”

A diverse range of movies can be seen, from the French production Adama (about a West African boy who goes in search of his brother) to Sita Sings the Blues, about the Hindu goddess who is separated from her husband, Rama. This film is an adaptation of the Indian epic Ramayana.

Non-mainstream films
“We’ve tried to get films that are not being brought in by distributors in South Africa,” says Makings. “The programme features great stories and great animation, but these are all films that wouldn’t be seen in a major cinema in South Africa.”

Makings says there is about an 80%-20% split in favour of family viewing, with the rest of the programming being for older audiences.

The festival also features international speakers such as Mark Shapiro of Laika Studios (creators of Paranorman and Box Trolls), Arnauld Boulard (head of production on Despicable Me) and Dreamworks animator Nedy Acet (who will also be giving a masterclass).

There is also a workshop with Christine Ponzevera, producer of Oscar-nominated short This Way Up, as well as technical talks, demonstrations, gaming workshops and seminars.

The festival, now in its fifth year, is supported by the local National Film and Video Foundation, Wesgro and the French Institute, hence the ongoing relations between the South African and the French animation industries.

Cloete says the festival and the partnerships have led to several South African animation projects featuring in the France-based Annecy International Animated Film Festival’s pitching sessions, resulting in local animated shorts being showcased in the Animation Du Monde (world animation) category in 2015.

Boosting job creation
Asked about transformation in the South African animation industry, Cloete says it is “sluggish” but that Animation SA has contributed to it by adding a nonexecutive board to its own structures.

“As for the festival, the platform encourages trade opportunities between animation professionals which, in many cases, requires our local studios to increase their capacity, which creates permanent and fixed-term employment for many preferential candidates,” he says.

The festival’s programme takes place at the River Club in Observatory, where there will be outdoor screenings, as well as at the Labia in the Cape Town city bowl. There will be movies and other activities at the on-site playpark for the children.

For more information and tickets, visit ctiaf.com

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Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.

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