Stick Man, by local animation company Triggerfish,was screened at The Cape Town International Animation Festival

Theresa Smith

THE Cape Town International Animation Festival which ran in the Mother City last week has almost tripled in size since last year when it was known as Kunjanimation, founded in 2011.

It wasn’t just that the film screenings at the Labia and the Riverclub proved popular, but the number of people attending workshops represented by international animators increased exponentially.

One of the new sponsors – Nickelodeon – surprised attendants with the announcement that they would sponsor two animation students with international trips. Timothy Mayers and Luke Berge get to travel to the US for a two-week internship with Nickelodeon. The other international prize for students, organised by Mastitute, was awarded to James Mann who won a 10-day industry trip to Japan, which includes a visit to Studio Ghibli.

In addition to showing local animators what is happening in their industry out in the world, one of the goals of the festival is to act as a platform for the art and business of local animation. To that end, the fest hosted a French delegation last year and that partnership launched an MIFA (the market component of the French animation festival) call to pitch at the Annecy Festival 2015 in France.

Frederic Chambon of Ifas (Institut Francais SA) explained that this platform resulted in (Joburg-based) Bugbox Animation winning the pitch to partner a co-production to produce a tv series.

“What they won was support to develop the tv series and to make the pilot.

Plus, there are two types of residency, one at Folimage, for the animation designer from Bugbox, and a residency in May at a film and digital cluster for Centre Region (in France) where they host projects in development. The ultimate goal is one year after the Annecy presentation we want to showcase the pilot to the industry.”

Chambon says Ifas has been setting up student exchanges between local and French animation schools like Gobelins and Ecole Emile Cohl and next year they hope to exchange teachers as well.

Producer Christine Ponzavera of Nectarious Films discussed how animators pitch to potential international partners. She works on the development of projects, standing in for the audience to help formulate ideas.

“You have to be authentic and trust your personal take on a given project. But, we are in a business as well so we have be aware of the market,” she explained. “You have to understand who will bring the product to the market so you need to keep an eye on what is being made, who is airing what, who is distributing what and who the artists are.

“There are trends, and there are marketing people trying to find the parameters of the market, but then there are all those exceptions and you want to innovate, to stand out. I don’t think it’s wise to do what’s already on the market, you want to stand out and be noticed and as a producer I want to promote the creator’s voice.”

Still, looking at what the TV channels need can be a good way of figuring out what work to pitch for, depending on the territory of course.

Right now, Ponzavera is noticing that the niche of 4- to 7-year-olds is splitting: “So now, it’s the bridge they are looking for because the market was split between pre-school for the up- to-5-year-olds and then the 6 to 9 market and that’s splitting again. Upper pre-school children want more sophisticated stories. They want adventure, but they are still small so it has to be safe adventure. Then there’s the trend that children, especially girls, don’t want to watch animation after a certain age, around 9, because that’s for babies. They want to be adventurous and more autonomous, so that’s the next big challenge,” she said.