Triggerfish named Western Cape Business of the Year

At the recent Premier’s Entrepreneurship Recognition Awards (PERA), Triggerfish Animation Studios was named the overall winner and Business of the Year. Triggerfish also took home the prize for the Business with Global Reach.

Western Cape premier Helen Zille congratulated the pioneering animation company, which celebrates 20 years in 2016. “Criteria for the overall winners included the ability of the business to create jobs and grow its turnover. Triggerfish achieved excellently in both those areas,” she said. “Triggerfish is a world-class enterprise, making a major impact on economic growth in our province. They develop films which are translated into over 27 languages and licensed in over 150 countries. Their films have generated over R1 billion at box offices (and home entertainment) across the world. Employing 85 people, they are also an important source of employment for local residents.”

Over 300 businesses entered PERA, which was launched three years ago by the Western Cape Government and is co-sponsored by Absa, Deloitte, Business Partners and Entrepreneurs’ Organisation. The 13 PERA winners shared R1.8 million in prize money, with Triggerfish also receiving an overseas trip as the overall winner.

“These kinds of awards mean a lot to us, because it’s further recognition of the impact the film industry can have on the South African economy,” says Triggerfish CEO Stuart Forrest. “You can make a strong case that film has cultural benefits, like the role it plays in social cohesion. But we’re proof that there is also an economic case to be made, that South African films and TV series can travel globally and deliver a significant return on investment.”

Triggerfish has produced two feature films: Adventures in Zambezia (2012), starring Jeremy Suarez, Abigail Breslin and Samuel L. Jackson, and Khumba (2013), starring Jake T. Austin, Anna Sophia Robb and Liam Neeson. The two movies are among the top five highest-grossing South African films of all time.

They’ve just wrapped production on Stick Man, a 26-minute BBC festive season special based on the popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. They’ve also started collaboration on another childhood favourite – Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Both projects are being produced by Magic Light Pictures, an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning animation company in the UK.

In the second week of December 2015, Triggerfish will announce the final participants for their inaugural Story Lab, which was supported by The Walt Disney Company and The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The ground-breaking, pan-African search for storytellers attracted a whopping 1378 entries from 30 countries.

The shortlist included top African creatives like Nnedi Okorafor, a World Fantasy Award winning novelist; Charlie Human, whose debut novel Apocalypse Now Now is currently being adapted by District 9’s Terri Tanchel; award-winning picture book author Alex Latimer; and multi-award-winning directors Donovan Marsh, Hanneke Schutte, Jenna Bass, Judy Kibinge and Wanuri Kahui.

The final participants are currently being decided by an expert panel that includes Peter Lord, the British director of international blockbusters like Chicken Run and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists; Hollywood writers Kiel Murray (Cars) and Jonathan Roberts (The Lion King); and a panel of development executives from both the London and Los Angeles offices of The Walt Disney Company, as well as South African storyteller Gcina Mhlope, comedian David Kau, screenwriter Paul Ian Johnson, and Triggerfish’s development team of Anthony Silverston, Wayne Thornley and Raffaella Delle Donne.

The final Story Lab participants will start 2016 with a two week immersion trip, including mentoring from key studio and television executives, at Disney’s headquarters in Burbank, California. The development process can take a number of years. For each phase of development, Triggerfish will provide financial support, workspace, and expert guidance by internal and international consultants and mentors, as well as a route to market through top-tier relationships with Hollywood agency William Morris Endeavor.

Watch the Triggerfish story.