The Cartoon Network and Gulli, the Lagardère-owned kids network, are doubling down on African animation.
Gulli announced in Annecy June 14 that it’s pre-purchased “L’arbre à Palimpseste” (The Tree of Palimpsest), an animated TV series by Togo’s Ingrid Agbo, for broadcast across its Gulli Africa network. Turner, meanwhile, is upping its stake in the continent’s animation industry with the launch of the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab, an initiative designed to bring innovative, short-form African content to the channel and its digital platforms.
The moves point toward growing confidence that the animation landscape in Africa – arguably the last frontier for global animation – can be a flourishing source of both talent and audiences.
“It is very important for Gulli Africa to initiate different projects with local producers,” says Caroline Mestik, head of programming for Gulli. She stressed the need to develop “series that reflect the values of the Gulli brand (open-mindedness and tolerance) and that are directed especially at African kids.”
“Palimpsest” which is taking part in the Animation du Monde pitch sessions in Annecy this week, follows a story-telling grandmother who’s called upon to settle conflicts between kids in her village. Mestik praised the series for the evocative way it “immerses children in their own story by presenting them with great African figures.”
She adds, “We think African kids will sincerely appreciate this program, which relates the lives of men and women who shaped Africa, such as the Queen Sheba or the Moshoeshoe sage.”
“Palimpsest” will join a line-up of local content on Gulli Africa that includes “Ubongo Kids,” by Tanzania’s Ubongo; “Tinga Tinga Tales,” by Kenya’s Homeboyz Animation; “Jabu’s Jungle,” by South Africa’s Pixcomm; and “Supa Strika,” by South Africa’s Strika Entertainment.
The launch of an ambitious new pan-African contest by Cartoon Network Africa, meanwhile, is the latest example of Turner’s commitment to the local toon landscape. In recent years it’s bolstered its presence at the annual Discop TV content market in Johannesburg, hosting an African Animation Village last year, while also sponsoring the Turner Kids’ Animation Pitching Competition for African animators.
The first edition of that contest in 2016 bore fruit with “Cloud Life,” a 2D animated series by South Africa’s Punch Monkey Studios, that’s currently in development with the Turner Asia Pacific production team.
For the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab, the company has made a call for submissions of animated shorts from across the continent. Ten projects will be short-listed in September, when the creators will pitch their work to Cartoon Network Africa’s programming team.
The winner and two runner-ups will be announced at Discop in Johannesburg in November, and will get a chance to have a pilot of their projects produced by Cartoon Network Africa, to be broadcast across TV and digital platforms in 2019.
The project underscores what Turner execs see as a prime opportunity to transform Africa’s talent pool into a global animation force.
“This just reinforces our need to invest in local content, and our commitment to further mentoring talent in the African animation industry,” says Ariane Suveg, head of programming and acquisitions for Turner Kids’ Channels in Africa.