Monday, November 12, 2012

Otto (The Incredible)

Otto, The Incredible did everything in reverse.
In fact - true's God - he even started out in a hearse!
He had a crick in his neck from always looking over his shoulder,
But luckily that eased up over time, the less he got older.

Many struggle moving forwards in life, Otto's not the only one. 
At least he faces his past (it's not something from which he can run).
With life-experience behind him, Otto was wise beyond his years,
And with no need for hindsight, he'd usually avoid unnecessary tears.

But surely the greatest thing about living in the past tense
Is that, before anything happens, it all makes sense.
So there's little time wasted with confusion and doubt, 
And because it already has... everything always works out!

But what Otto didn't admit, though he must've known deep in his heart, 
Was that, like his name, turning around would get him back to the start. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Game Boy

illustration by Mike Scott

The real world scared him, he stayed in his room.
Days could go by before he'd emerge from the gloom. 
He felt no need to interact with people on the outside,
He had enough friends online. Or so he lied. 

His mother believed him - she didn't play those "silly" games,
So how would she know he'd made up all their names?
Besides, she was too busy earning a living as a single mom,
So for all she knew, he could've been designing a bomb. 

But his habits were harmless to everyone but himself,
The only people he killed were from the games off his shelf.
With nimble fingers and reactions super-quick
He was master of his world and could change it with just one click.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mary and Max - SA premiere

This Thursday, 18th September, 8pm I will be presenting the beautiful stop-motion masterpiece "Mary and Max" at the Kunjanimation Festival for its South African premiere! It is a great honor to be doing this on behalf of Adam Elliot who unfortunately could not make it out from Australia as he's busy working on his next feature film. 

Being a stop-motion animator myself, I had avidly followed Adam Elliot's award-winning short films - Uncle, Cousin, Brother and then the Oscar-winner Harvey Krumpet. They all share a minimalistic style of animation where the quirky script and character design drives the well-timed humor of each piece forwards towards a real emotional punch (and Mary and Max is no different!). 

Model of Harvey Krumpet from the ACMI
In October, 2006, a chance to visit my brother in Melbourne arose, I mailed Adam saying that I would be in the area and that my film had been in competition with his (at the Krakow animation festival in Poland) and would he be available to meet up? His film Harvey Krumpet had won the Oscar for Best Animated Short earlier that year, so I was hardly expecting a reply. Not only was he was gracious enough to say yes, but to invite the naive young South African animator to lunch - I guess they don't get many visitors there. 

Adam is a generous, warm and funny guy and it was an exhilarating experience to able to chat to the Oscar-winner about my own idea for a film that I'd been thinking about - a story about a half-striped zebra. Six years later, and I am in the final stages of the film. 

I had originally intended Khumba to be a 30-minute stop-motion film, but as the story evolved and grew and as I gained the support of my co-writer, I knew it would make a better feature. But getting a stop-motion feature off the ground is no easy feat. The fact that Adam did Mary and Max with a crew of only 120 - only six animators - makes it even more amazing. 

I first saw his incredible film at Annecy in 2009 where it won the Annecy Cristal sharing the prize with Coraline. I was also lucky enough to get a signed postcard from the man himself. 

The film opened Sundance in 2009 and also won Best Animated Feature at the Ottawa International Animation Festival as well as the Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Animated Feature Film. 

The screening is part of the Kunjanimation festival which is taking place as part of the France/SA Season 2012. The festival is now in its second year and lucky for us this year it's in Cape Town with a full lineup of workshops, talks and free screenings. Triggerfish is taking part in a few:

Stuart Forrest on The Changing Landscape of Distribution
Wednesday 17th, 14:00 to 15:30

Adventures in Zambezia premiere (invite only) 
Wednesday 17th, 20:00

Making of Adventures in Zambezia
Thursday 18th 16:30 - 17:30

Khumba - A Zebra's Journey from Zero to Hero.
Saturday 20th, 15:30 - 16:30


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Slow-mo Joe

illustration by Storme Humphriss

Slow-mo Joe is stuck forever in slow motion, 
Moving even slower than the snails in the ocean.
With his every step, other people make three,
With his every blink they make a nice cup of tea.

But from Joe's perspective the world positively whizzes by
Like everyone's in a mad rush and he can never figure out why. 
What is so urgent that it must be done yesterday?
And why is it always "Soon", "Now" or "Right away!!"?
Can no one see that Joe will always get the task done?
Left to his own devices, ticking things off one by one.

You might think Joe would be useless, unable to keep up with the pace
After all, there's a very good reason it's called the rat race.
But in the end, Slow-mo Joe often saves the day
Because sometimes, slow and steady is the only way.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Mary Jane

illustration by Retha Ferguson

Mary Jane mostly had her head in the clouds up high
But it was her mind that drifted as the days went by
The tiniest thing would fascinate her for hours at a time,
A passing sound; a gentle breeze; silly words in a rhyme. 

She'd often wander off mid-thought - she was easily distracted, 
And you could never explain the laughing fit she’d suddenly contracted.
Her appetite was enormous, especially for a girl so petite
And she could become quite lethargic for someone so light on her feet.

But when Mary was needed to help with the task at hand,
She could always be counted on to join the rest of us on land.
For 'tis true, though MJ was forgetful, and perhaps a little chilled out,
She always had a creative solution for every problem that came about.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Side-view Bob

illustration by Frank Conradie

Side-view Bob always sits on the bench
Along with the hammer and spanner and wrench.
His head is so flat and his forehead so wide, 
that - yup, you guessed it - both eyes are on one side.

He can use his head like a racket, a tray or a sword,
Which is why he's found among the nails and the board.
His father keeps him there, next to the vice
(and has only once washed him - to get rid of the lice!)

Though you may wonder what man could use his own son 
Like a common drill or a saw or a nifty screw-gun,
Bob doesn't mind being left with the tools in the shed,
Because, after all, what else can one do with such a flat head?


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sweaty Betty

Betty Bordeaux is perfect, but for one major flaw:
The perspiration that drips from her every pore!
Dehydration is Betty's biggest threat,
Even on the coolest of days, she's constantly wet.

With her sweat bands and bottle of H-2-0 never far from her side,
One could mistake her for a jogger, or maybe an energetic tour-guide.
In fact, she's a chemist - knows all about electrolytes and such
She's searching for a cure to her disorder… any luck so far? Not so much. 

Lucky for Betty, her secretions are not of the funky type
She doesn't have the usual sickly-sweet smell of something overly ripe.
So her friends gladly put up with her excess of NaCl, 
(that's sodium chloride for those who couldn't tell)
Because they know she is merely let down by one little gland. 
And when they're in need, Sweaty Betty's always there with a helping hand.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Zambezia at Annecy

Next week, our first animated feature film will have its very first public screening as part of the prestigious Annecy animation festival! So if you happen to be in France, catch it on Tuesday at 6pm or Saturday at 4pm during the  Annecy Annecy 2012 Festival Programmes


Sunday, April 15, 2012

What's in a name?

I'm always happy when another stop-motion film is released, and besides the fantastic script and animation, the latest film from Aardman has raised the bar in terms of the incredible level of craftsmanship and artistry. 

But, as this post suggests, I'm writing more about the name card than the film itself. 

In South Africa (as with most of the world) we get to see it as "The Pirates! Band of Misfits". Interesting that even Aardman is not immune to the name-change US studios sometimes feel necessary for international audiences. I do wonder what was wrong with "In an Adventure with Scientists" though besides the fact that it's a little more wordy? 

Surely there is more value in aligning a title with the existing intellectual property on which it's based rather than saving a few letters?  Although if this were the case, "The Secret World of Arrietty" would probably have been called "The Borrowers" killing two birds with, well, two words.

Perhaps it marks the decline of the one or two-word title that has been common for most animated films since the first days of Disney starting with "Pinocchio". It is a real challenge to evoke the story of an entire film with just one word and I have been amazed by the ingenuity of some (I didn't think you could get much more clever than "Antz", but then along came "Up".)

For our own film I can understand why we had to change it to "Adventures in Zambezia": keeping it as the simpler "Zambezia" would have put us last on any alphabetical list, plus now anyone seeing the title for the first time immediately understands the potentially obscure, foreign word is actually a place

This does raise the question about our next film however. "Khumba" is another foreign word and it's likely that it would need a similar addendum. This time it's the name of the lead character and although there is a lot of precedent for this, it's usually based on a known character or IP ("Pocahontas", "Coraline"). 

If I do have to change it, I have yet to come up with an alternate that I'm happy with "Adventures with Khumba" would not exactly sit comfortably. It's more likely it will become "Khumba and the…." which might just make it sound like a Harry Potter movie or the first in a series which wouldn't be all bad. 

The colon also seems to be increasingly popular (yes, I'm talking about those other Pirates movies). The longer the title, the more it gets abbreviated though, especially with the attempt to keep most information below 140 characters nowadays - the latest Mission Impossible for example becomes MIGP. 

No matter what it's called, people often refer to a shortened version of the title anyway - I doubt anyone is actually going to say "Two for The Pirates! Band of Misfits" to the lady at the ticket counter. Either way, do yourself a favor and catch it on the big screen!


Saturday, January 14, 2012


We finished our first movie last year just in time for a screening at AFM in LA. I'm still amazed at the accomplishment of the incredibly hard-working team at Triggerfish and was proud to watch the finished result on a cinema screen. Now we are all holding thumbs for the ultimate reward - an international cinema release...

In the meantime, check out the trailer. 



I often prefer something that has a rough, unfinished look because the human hand behind the art is more present. This is a perfect example of a bold and effective illustrative style.

 Beautiful compositions.

SketchTravel from Curio on Vimeo.