The studio Netflix chose for its first African cartoon series

The studio Netflix chose for its first African cartoon series

On a suburban farm 20 minutes outside of Cape Town, the stories of an orphaned seal who fights sharks, a young zebra born with only half of his stripes, and a high-spirited falcon travelling to a bird city were all brought to life. The farm is the HQ of award-winning animation company Triggerfish. By Stephanie Bailey

Last month, Netflix commissioned the studio to create the animated series Mama K's Team 4, which tells the story of four girls living in a futuristic version of Zambia, trying to save the world.

But Triggerfish has been producing internationally successful cartoons for nearly a decade and as well as making hit animations it has a mission to inspire young Africans.

Collaborating with Netflix and Disney

Commissioning Mama K's Team 4 from Triggerfish was not an isolated move from Netflix.

Since its 2016 debut in Africa, the streaming platform, which is now available in 54 African countries, has been investing in more original content from the continent.

Last September, Netflix purchased its first film, Lionheart, from Nigeria and in March, the company appointed award-winning Kenyan film producer Dorothy Ghettuba as the Manager for International Originals.

"The biggest resources are in people's heads," said Stuart Forrest, CEO of Triggerfish. "There's a billion people on this continent who could all potentially be telling stories."

The studio has long backed initiatives designed to grow the animation industry in Africa.

One initiative from 2015 is 'Story Lab,' a collaboration with Disney that launched a call for African creators to submit project ideas for animated TV series or films to Triggerfish.

The studio received over 1,400 submissions from 30 different countries.

Among those chosen for development was a story about a stubborn 12-year-old Kenyan girl who defies tradition by racing camels and the tale of a young South African scientist who accidentally turned her annoying sister into electricity.

"We realised that African creators had not had an opportunity to share their stories and to have them market ready," said Vanessa Sinden, a producer involved in the initiative. "We were quite overwhelmed by the entries."

Currently, Triggerfish is developing two feature films and two TV series from Story Lab (including Mama K's Team 4) that are being made with "big broadcasters" such as Netflix and Disney.

Inspiring young student creators

The studio prioritizes stories that enable African children to see themselves on screen.

To inspire student creators Triggerfish funds a foundation which aims to find and nurture talent in schools.

"I think in South Africa and probably in a lot of African countries, the arts are not really encouraged at school level," said Forrest. "So we have some online platforms and we go into schools with outreach and we try and encourage kids to consider it as a career."

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