Cape Town-based media and entertainment company Triggerfish Animation Studios may create stories that entice the imagination, but the studio’s rise to worldwide acclaim is very real.
The company was established in 1996 as a boutique stop-frame animation studio and achieved prominence in the industry with several locally produced commercials.
The company’s profile was strengthened in 2001 when it directed and produced material for the first season of the local version of US educational program Sesame Street. Based on the success of this initial project Triggerfish produced material for both Takalani Sesame Street, as well as US versions of the hit show.
The main objective of the business is to produce character-driven stories that have global appeal and this is the inspiration behind the work of an elite team of passionate individuals, headed up by owner and CEO, Stuart Forrest.
Five partners make up the ‘brains of the business’ and, together with producers, supervisors, team leaders, production support staff and technical creative artists, have contributed to the company’s standing as a globally-recognised and award-winning production studio.
In an article by Forbes Magazine, Triggerfish Animation Studios was referred to as Africa’s answer to DreamWorks, Disney and Pixar.
African Innovator chatted to Forrest about the company, the role of technology, its lucrative distribution partnership with Sony Pictures in the US and what innovation truly means in this space.
Triggerfish has been described as one of the continent’s most innovative companies. How do you keep ahead of technology and instil an environment of creativity and innovative thinking?
We are primarily a creative company employing some of the most talented people in the country. We use technology to enable our creativity, so everything we do with technology is done in order for our creative vision to be realised. We set ourselves extremely high creative goals to start with, and then go about solving them one step at a time. This forces us to be innovative and constantly on top of technological advances so we can deliver the solutions.
We do not have the resources of some of our more established competitors, so this compels us to find new and better ways of doing things.
Technology is empowering independent producers to take advantage of the massive opportunities digital disruption is bringing to the media and entertainment space.
Your project Adventures in Zambezia was the first South African full length animation feature to attract US distribution partnership for English speaking regions, how did this feel?
We were thrilled when we got the offer from Sony Pictures International Acquisitions. They are a major distributor and to partner with them on the release of our first film has been prestigious and we have learnt a lot from them. It is also a big step forward for African film-making and our aim is to change the way the world sees Africa through our films and help inspire a continent.
The movie business in Africa seems to be growing, with the likes of Nollywood making a significant impact, where does animation fit into growth projections?
We are proud to be a leader in African animation, a particularly family-friendly genre, and it is exciting to be at the forefront of exporting original African properties into the world.
Africa itself has a huge market potential, and we want to experiment with various new types of distribution for the continent. With the rapid growth of mobile technology throughout the continent, we are seeing exciting possibilities for a different distribution model that finds new ways to get our stories into every household.
Animation travels really well and digital disruption is having a massive effect on how media is consumed. There is a big opportunity for Triggerfish to bring Africa’s unique creative voice to Hollywood and audiences around the world and for this reason we are talking to potential partners to help us realize this vision.
What inspires you as a creative producer?
When I work with a director who has a clear, consistent vision, and we put together a team that can support and deliver that vision, I get really excited. We get to work with the best artists and technical directors in the country – it is wonderful to see the vision come to life, bit by bit, as the team works to execute it.
Our studio is also driven by a bigger dream – to change the way the world sees Africa through our films. Our industry has an outsize influence on the world around us, and Triggerfish has the team and the talent to reshape perceptions of Africa.
Chris Tredger – Online Editor