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Imagine, if you will, an untapped vein of viewership that, over the last decade, has seen an explosion in growth due to tablets and smartphones. This vein dwarfs the viewership potential of the US, and rivals that of India and China.

Picture for yourself, if you will, a growing market that is hungry not only for foreign content, but for the development of its own local content for international distribution. That market, that untapped vein, is Africa, and the world is starting to stand up and take notice.

Animation has been growing at breakneck speed in South Africa, with its artists proving themselves every bit as cutting-edge as their international colleagues. Because of this growing industry, Animation South Africa (ASA) serves as a non-profit alliance of animation professionals that is furthering and promoting this ever-accelerating growth.

So when Turner announces its intent to expand its animation distribution, broadcasting and creation in Africa, we cannot help but stand up and take notice.

For several years now, Discop has been held in Johannesburg, South Africa, and year after year we’ve seen not only the market, but its attendees up their game. More than 1250 global and regional attendees gather at this media mecca to lay the foundation of Africa’s ever-growing television and film entertainment industry.

At the 2016 edition of Discop Joburg, which took place earlier this month, ASA partnered with Turner, Discop, Annecy International Animated Film Festival (MIFA), Animation Magazine, The Animation School and Digital Lab Africa, to create the first animation-centric pavilion in Discop Africa’s history, The Animation Lounge.

According to Nick Wilson, Chair of the Export Missions Committee of ASA and co-ordinator of The Animation Lounge: “Discop Joburg 2016 was a landmark for the African animation industry.  We had more than 50 animation professionals in attendance, an increase of 200% on last year’s event and, for the first time, 20 students were in attendance.  We intend to grow the footprint of The Animation Lounge at future DISCOP events across the continent in dialogue with animation professionals in multiple countries and with the incredible support of our partners and sponsors.

Turner not only partnered with ASA in the creation of The Animation Lounge, but it also sponsored the inaugural Turner Kids’ Animation Pitching competition.

On the second day of Discop, the ASA team met with Ariane Suveg, Senior Programming & Acquisitions Manager of Turner Kids’ channels in Africa. As the head judge of the pitching competition, Ariane’s advice to the finalists provided precious discourse wherein they could hone their presentations before the big moment.

Suveg stated that the inaugural event at Discop 2016 was a great success.

“As Turner, we have been extremely impressed by the amazing creative energy present within each of the animation pitches. This energy, together with the fresh storylines, has reinforced our investment into the competition and our promise to mentor further the overall winner and runner-up.

“Sponsoring the animation pitch competition has provided us with an invaluable opportunity to meet new talent and innovative animation creators from Africa, and to be exposed to some really inspiring local animation projects,” comments Suveg.

The stakes were high, with MIFA accreditation, an Animation Magazine subscription and, of course, the substantial cash prizes of $2 000 for the winner and $1 000 for the runner-up, sponsored by Turner.

The five finalists, Wendy Spinks, Rudolph Boonzaaier, Talia Sanhewe, Daniel Buckland and Izi Codron, did not disappoint. Pitted against each other in a tense first round, the audience was treated to five-minute pitches as varied as they were interesting.

Three of the finalists – Wendy Spinks, Talia Sanhewe and Daniel Buckland – were selected to proceed to round two, where they each had eight minutes to impress the expert judging panel comprising Ariane Suveg (Turner), Nick Wilson (ASA), Luxury Msiza (eTV), Renee Williams (SABC) and Serge Noukoue (Cote Ouest).

“There is something magical that happens when your industry is validated by the leader of kids TV in South Africa. Suddenly there is a mind-set shift and, not only were we able to concretise and forge new partnerships, but we were also successful in bringing our local broadcasters and a leading African distributor to the table as judges of the Turner Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition. For their time and expert knowledge, we are extremely thankful, » says Wilson.

In the end, however, there could only be one winner, and that was Talia Sanhewe representing Punch Monkey Studio’s Cloud Life, with Hatch (Wendy Spinks of Zeropoint Studios) the runner-up.

Punch Monkey Studio’s story, a heartening tale of reconnection between a corporate evil genius and his protagonist daughter, stole the show with its quirky persona and interwoven character-driven plot.

Suveg continues: “Our involvement in the animation pitch competition is the first step of a long term strategy for Turner, to build on new collaborative partnerships, and to share our creative processes and expertise in the development of original animated series that will resonate with our growing African audiences.”

“With the competition done for this year, we are hopeful that in the years to follow, more great things will come from South African, and indeed African, animation creators as a result of this exciting new venture headed by Turner and ASA,“ comments Wilson.

“This year’s Discop has presented us with many areas of potential and growth for the African animation industry. And, with Turner pioneering in this territory, we are assured of some exciting changes, challenges, and triumphs going forward, ensuring that our creative voices as Africans continue to be heard.“

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