anamazing storytelling enterprise

Maryanne Maina

Maryanne Maina

There was a time when storytelling and oral tradition belonged to our grandmothers; now it is the business of the Anamazing Workshop.

The Anamazing team tells African stories with African themes by Africans, through animation. The company was established eight years ago by half-Zulu, half-Irish Isabelle Rorke, 33, and Dumisani Gumbi, 35, who realised that African stories were being told from outside the continent and by non-Africans.

They have made it their mission to become leading creators of African animation content that will have cross-cultural appeal and is worthy of competing globally.

"When we started the company, nobody was doing African animations. The gap in the market made it a challenge for us, thus giving us two roles - developing the industry while growing our business," Rorke said.

"Most animated content being shown in South Africa is almost entirely imported, often bearing little relevance to the cultures and daily realities of African children."

Anamazing Workshop is 100 percent black-owned, based in Johannesburg with two main product offerings - long-form animation and short-form animation. It also generates revenues from the Animation Production Training Initiative.

Rorke studied journalism at Rhodes University and worked as a journalist in magazines and television before starting the company. Gumbi left Harvard's economics department to study film at Tufts University in Boston.

The business has a staff complement of 35 and at least 68 writers, animators, a production manager, an IT manager and directors have also been trained.

It is the third largest animation studio in South Africa and in 2007 made R8,8 million in revenue, showing how much it has grown since starting up with R20 000 from the savings of the two partners. "This is an expensive business as it costs roughly R30 million to make a 75-minute film, whereas in the US, a $50 million film is regarded as a low budget animated feature," she said.

"Creating these animations is not cheap., because you have to build everything from the character to the grass, couch, hair of the characters. among other requirements.Everything has to align with the script and be animated as planned. It is time-consuming, laborious and very costly," she explained.

Anamazing's most recent projects have been funded and distributed by the SABC. Productions have also been made for TV commercials for advertising agencies. Their clients include the SABC, the South African government and Young & Rubicam. advertising agency.

After identifying the project, the content with African stories and themes is secured according to the stated regulations. The next step is to develop the content, produce it and then distribute it.

"Our primary market is South Africa but our animated content has garnered international acclaim. In South Africa this market is estimated to be worth about R200 million today."

Local production capabilities are relatively small and underdeveloped, plagued by skills shortages and inadequate facilities. Unfortunately, local talent is also being drawn overseas, Rorke lamented.

She said the company had gone into TV, mobile phones and cinema and this had been a great success for them. This is driven by the growth of cellphone usage in SA and the continent in comparison to the rest of the world. "At the beginning of this year, Africa had about 280 million cellphone subscribers, many of whom are downloading content telephonically more and more."