Magazine article Variety

South Africa Leads Continent's Toon Boom

Magazine article Variety

South Africa Leads Continent's Toon Boom

Article excerpt

Region's sophisticated animation draws more auds

When the South African delegation arrives at the Annecy toon fest, members will be looking to cement their growing reputation for world-class animation.

"For South Africa, it's a great year," says Véronique Encrenaz, head of projects at Annecy's film market, noting that the country has a feature in competition for the first time, a special territory focus, and a case study for the animated feature Khumba as part of the fest's conference program.

The country's emergence reflects a broader trend across the continent, as animators from Morocco to Madagascar are showing increasing sophistication in a range of animation, from traditional eel animation to CG, stop-motion and 3D.

"I'm surprised with the results I see every day," says Mohamed Ghazala, head of the African chapter of the Intl. Animated Film Assn. Despite a lack of formal training, little government support and difficulty in getting private investors onboard, "Young people are using the digital tools they have on the computer and they (are starting) to make their own animation," he says.

There have been successes both big and small. Tinga Tinga Tales, which was produced by the U.K.'s Tiger Aspect Prods, and the Nairobi-based Homeboyz Animation, aired on the BBC's children's web, CBeebies. Nigeria's Bino and Fino, by the design studio EVCL, has shown in the U.S., U.K., and South Africa.

The Adventures of Zambezia, from South Africa's TYiggerfish Studios, was submitted for Oscar consideration and has so far grossed $23 million in more than 70 countries; the studio is following up with Khumba, in competition at Annecy this year.

Another South African hit, Sunrise Prods.' TV series Jungle Beat, is being distributed in more than 170 countries.

Still, few countries have managed to build viable industries. Egypt is a regional powerhouse in the Arab world, exporting content across North Africa and the Middle East. South Africa is finally beginning to tap into the international co-production market, and could soon secure a competitive niche alongside more established industries in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

The waters are murkier between Cairo and Cape Town, however. In recent years, Annecy has highlighted features and shorts from Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and other nations - but "nothing is organized yet in (most) countries," says Annecy market's Encrenaz. …

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