KAT MANNE reviews

The Cape Town International Animation Film Festival (CTIAF)was a wondrous event for hopeful artists young and old, with informative talks and drawing w orkshops, the student awards, exclusive screenings of Liyana, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, The Highway Rat and the best of the Annecy short films from 2017, an exhibition area for local artists, networking sessions and a fun cosplay parade. The festival was hosted by Animation SA and held at the tranquil River Club in Observatory, Cape Town.


Alexi Wheeler

The Vice President of Animation Production and Development at Nickelodeon, Alexi Wheeler (pictured right) shared some insight into the industry and how he got there. Alexi was an art student before he dropped out and moved on to writing. He became a production co-ordinator working with DVDs until he heard that someone was looking for a writer and along came Peppa Pig.

“I was suddenly working for Nickelodeon.”

Alexi noted that he came to his line of work because of his interest in it and quotes his mother:

“How did you get into this role? All you do is watch cartoons.”

To which his response was:

“Well, that’s exactly how I got this role.”

He stated that this was an important aspect of working in animation because “we have to constantly remind ourselves to look at their perspective.” He soon delved into the question on everyone’s mind: What makes a great Nick show? He revealed a straightforward formula, saying that it needs to be broad yet simple and emotional.

“It always comes back to the connection with the children.”

Essentially, you need to know what your character wants, what they need, and how they get it in the end. The story needs to be pro-active but the key points are to know your brand, know your audience, to create for a global market, use effective characterisation and to tell a good story.

“We just need a good, solid script and a firm belief in the creator.”

Alexi mentions that although they accept pitches without any agent or pitch bible needed, they are avoiding anything to do with monsters at this point and that it’s best to keep the pitch as short as possible.



The developer and producer of the urban epic fantasy-adventure, Anansi (pictured left) attended the festival and hosted his own talk on packaging local stories for a global market. The multi-faceted Isaac Mogajane spoke about his amazing journey with Diprente, a South African production company and Ink Global in bringing the story of the young medium and the African trickster god to life. Diprente wanted to tell globally appealing South African kid’s stories and after a long journey from introducing concepts to a global market, raising private financing and finding the perfect partnership with Ink Global, a brand management company known to have a business model that values “the thing that’s weird.” Isaac spoke about the power of concept and story as well as the balancing act of African aesthetic and commercial appeal. He wasn’t certain how the market would respond to the show and wondered: “How do you create something that’s commercial enough?” He went on to discover that the more African it became, the more popular it became. He compared the importance of world-building to character-building and mentioned that you could initially sell a cool idea but, he added: “A story is about humans. It can be an amazing world but it needs a story and compelling characters to drive that story.”

Accordion to Isaac, the key formula is to have compelling characters and to find the right investors. He does add that Annecy (the International Animation Film Festival held in France) is a great place for inspiration and that “people have time for you at Annecy.” He also notes that although it is helpful to be informed about what people are looking for and to “build the business case”, it doesn’t mean that you have to compromise your vision.

“Be aware of the market but don’t lose the thing that makes your idea special. Protect the thing.”

Entertainment One

‘Peppa Pig Live in South Africa’

Entertainment One’s Lorna Withrington spoke about her role at the prestigious independent entertainment distribution company and offered some advice for artists and writers hoping to pitch to her division, Family and Brands. “Kids content follows you wherever you go.” she noted jokingly as she spoke about Peppa Pig’s global popularity. Peppa (pictured right) has enjoyed international success and Lorna believes this is due to a broad appeal, family values, humour and fun, life experiences and friendship. She pointed out that PJ Masks exceeded their expectations as there was a demand for children’s superheroes.

“You should always look for a gap in the market.”

In this case, kids wanted to watch superheroes.

Lorna indicated that creatives need to watch out for content that may restrict certain boundaries – Peppa Pig is a good example of this. She also stated that audiences no longer like being categorised by gender and that showrunners need to be careful not to alienate anyone. She concluded the talk with a clear list of the type of content Entertainment One is looking for. The story needs to be engaging with an empowering and aspirational lead character. The content must stand out, it must be different to E-One’s current content slate and it must have global reach.

“Why is yours different?”

Lorna mentioned that they are working with Triggerfish at the moment and are on the look-out for local writers. When asked about E-One’s diligence in connecting with new writers, she replied that new writers are needed and new voices are needed, otherwise the industry dies.

“We should be doing this. Everyone should be doing this.”

Polygon Pictures

Shuzo John Shiota

“I guess they couldn’t find another Japanese dude.” – S.J. Shiota

The President of Polygon pictures, Shuzo John Shiota (pictured left) joined the panel at CTIAF once again presenting a clear and concise presentation on the five golden rules to succeed in the animation industry.

“I always feel like a rockstar here. I had three interviews – that never happens in Japan.”

Shuzo proceeded to address the young artists in the Orange Room with a casual yet charming demeanour, informing hopeful creatives of the key advice to succeed in the industry. The first rule indicates that the artist must know where they stand and know what they are capable of.

“It’s not a shame to be … not a genius. We need to be introspective … think of yourself in relation to others. There is a chemistry aspect to it.”

He mentions further that an artist needs to find their edge by discovering their strengths, what they do best, how to better themselves, gain assistance and exposure.

“Find a way to showcase your edge. [There are] varied entry points into this industry. Find the ideal power that you wield.”

The third rule states that you can’t do much alone. The artist needs to find out if they are a team player, if they communicate well and if they surrounding themselves with the right people. It is important that you are able to understand people, not just to convey your frame of mind but to understand other perspectives. The fourth rule centres around originality and that every idea has a precedence.

“I used to think: ‘Why am I going to school?’ Basically, because we need to solve issues quickly. The issues that we face have usually been faced by our forefathers and schools package it together in a structural way and we learn from that.”

Above all, have fun. The fifth rule seems light-hearted but touches on emotional intelligence and how this can affect our work and how it affects the audience.

“It’s almost like you’re a god in a way and if we are being a god (in a way), we have to be responsible about how we do it. It should be a project of love.”

Shuzo touched on the importance of being monetarily compensated for your work. He also mentioned that there is a gap for things that look like anime with an international appeal and in conclusion, he brought up something called ‘emotion design’, stating that “we need to be master life-livers” and investigate why people find certain things beautiful.

The fest was a true spectacle with everything from masterclasses and workshops to screenings and cosplay. With over 2000 people in attendance and nearly sixty local and international speakers, sharing their knowledge and insight, we are excited to see what Animation SA brings to the table in 2019.