London — Africa's animators have been largely self-taught but there is no lack of talent. This year 'Annecy' has made Africa its territory of honor so they will be getting a great deal more international exposure. Russell Southwood talked to Nick Wilson, Head of Projects and Content, African Animation Network about how things have been building up to this point.
African Animation Networks' relationship with 'Annecy' (Annecy International Animated Film Festival) began in 2014 when it pitched a special call for projects to the Festival for South African animation studios.
Out of this initial approach, African Animation Networks organized a pitch competition which became one of the preliminary rounds feeder route's for Annecy's Animation du Monde competition.
Wilson told me:"One hundred percent of the contestants have been self-taught so we have been running training, workshop and mentoring sessions. These have been a hugely positive and impactful component of our work."
The background work has included building partnerships with key animation and comics organizations across the continent, including Kenya's NAICCON (a comic convention) and local animation and comics festivals including FFPA in Abidjan and AFFIA, the Accra Animation Festival. There are pockets of animation talent across many countries including: Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso. African Animation Network's ambition is to bring them all together, raise their profile and encourage collaborations,
It has also launched FUPiTOONS Festival as a vehicle for "taking African animation to the world." Africa will be Annecy 2020's "territory of honour" and FUPiTOONS Festival will be part of the official programme. The 2019 edition of the Festival received 721 short animation film entries, of which 20 were selected to premier at DISCOP 2019 in Johannesburg. Since its inception in 2017 the festival has traveled the length and breadth of the continent, from festivals to pop culture events to schools.
At Annecy 2020, "there will be an African-focused panel with animation association reps and talent from across the continent." He emphasizes the sheer scale of the challenge for animators like himself:"Animation is an expensive broadcast medium and it's almost impossible to recoup investment off one entry alone."
He is planning a linear channel for animation and is researching "the right pricing and value proposition." For adult animation, he's create Mshini TV. The name is a corruption of the isiZulu phrase "mshiniwamahlaya" with "mshini" meaning "machine (gun)" and "wamahlaya" meaning "joke". Combined, "mshiniwamahlaya" is a pun which means both "machine (gun) jokes" and "joke machine/factory".
The African Animation Network has partnered with DISCOP Markets (the premiere content markets in Africa) and Annecy Festival (the biggest, most prestigious animation festival in the world) to present a special screening of African-produced animated content for mature audiences under the MSHINI TV banner.
The deadline for submissions to Mshini TV is 20 March.