By Kevin Kriedemann
Published December 15, 2015
Triggerfish Animation Studios of South Africa has selected four features and four TV series for development from the inaugural Triggerfish Story Lab.
The selected storytellers include Kenyan film director Wanuri Kahiu, Nigerian-American World Fantasy novelist Nnedi Okorafor, South African YouTube phenomenon Mike Scott whose music videos for Goldfish have more than 12 million views, and Lucy Heavens, one of the writers on the breakout South African animation hit Supa Strikas which is broadcast in 120 countries around the world.
“From misfit Zambian girls who become low-budget superhero-super-spies to a stubborn 12-year-old Kenyan girl who defies tradition by racing camels, from a young South African scientist who accidentally turns her annoying little sister into a new source of electricity to a timid lemming who must defy his nature, these are characters we fell in love with,” says Anthony Silverston, head of development at Triggerfish. “We’re excited by the range of stories, that explore everything from contemporary urban to Afro-futuristic worlds. We’re looking forward to bringing something fresh to the screen.”
The Story Lab received a whopping 1 378 entries from 30 countries across Africa. Twenty-three features and 14 TV series were shortlisted and developed over a two-week intensive workshop in Cape Town in November 2015 with Orion Ross, Vice President of Content – Animation, Digital and Acquisitions Disney Channels EMEA, and leading Hollywood script consultant Pilar Alessandra, author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter.
“It was impressive to see how much all the projects had improved after the workshop,” says Ross. “Clearly the Story Lab was doing something right, and it must have been incredibly difficult to pick just a few projects to move forward.”
The shortlist was then evaluated by an expert panel that included Peter Lord, the British director of international blockbusters like Chicken Run and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists; Hollywood writers Kiel Murray (Cars) and Jonathan Roberts (The Lion King); and a panel of development executives from both the London and Los Angeles offices of The Walt Disney Company, as well as screenwriter Paul Ian Johnson, South African comedian David Kau, and Triggerfish’s development team of Anthony Silverston, Wayne Thornley and Raffaella Delle Donne.
“I loved the opportunity to review this material,” says Gary French, Senior Vice-president/Co-head, Production: ABC Studios. “There’s a lot of great talent here.”
Triggerfish, which had planned to select three projects for film and TV respectively, but increased this to four for each due to the quality of the projects, chose the following:
a). Feature films:
1). The Camel Racer (Wanuri Kahiu and Nnedi Okorafor – Kenya/Nigeria)
2). Dropped (Ian Tucker – South Africa)
3). Lights (Kay Carmichael – South Africa)
4). The Wild Waste (Naseem Hoosen – South Africa)
b). TV Series:
1). Bru and Boegie (Mike Scott – South Africa)
2). KC’s Super 4 (Malenga Mulendema – Zambia)
3). Ninja Princess (Marc Dey and Kelly Dillon – South Africa)
4). Wormholes (Lucy Heavens – South Africa).
“Story Lab exceeded our expectations at every turn, from the number of entries to the quality of the projects to the way they improved dramatically during the two-week intensive with Pilar and Orion Ross,” says Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest. “Narrowing it down to eight projects was difficult enough; narrowing it down to six would have been almost impossible.”
The selected storytellers will start 2016 with a two-week immersion trip to Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California, where they will receive mentoring from key studio and television executives.
Triggerfish will be investing up to US$2.8 million over the next three years in The Story Lab. The development process can take a number of years. For each phase of development, Triggerfish will provide financial support, workspace, and expert guidance by internal and international consultants and mentors, as well as a route to market through top-tier relationships with leading Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor.
Animation has proven to be a successful medium for South African films to travel internationally, with Triggerfish’s films Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba being distributed in over 150 countries and dubbed into more than 27 languages.