Hello, fans and creators worldwide, especially those in Africa, something big your way comes. Introducing the legendary animation/kids station that has been providing content for children worldwide for more than a couple of decades, Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Network Africa is proud to announce the launch of their brand new initiative, Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab, a new and innovative opportunity for African creatives to produce amazing, funny content for the world to see. Entries for the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab will be open from 7th June until 31st August 2018 across the continent to all African residents, as well as any African-based company.

We at Squid Magazine bagged an exclusive interview with the Cartoon Network Africa team for further insights on the initiative, its continuity and aims. What follows is an interview with Ariane Suveg, Head of Programming and Acquisition for Turner Kids Africa.

This interview has been segmented into 4 parts to make for easy reading. We’ve also provided our interpretations as summarised answers to our questions for people who prefer to skim through. 

1Part 1

The Search, Long Wait, Black Panther & the Future

Are you seeking anything in particular or just looking for generally good content, what are the criteria?

Short answer: Awesome, fresh content is the main criteria.

Long answer:At Turner, we pride ourselves on our diverse and original content. We are not looking for something that fits a specific pattern, or based on certain criteria. Rather, we are encouraging creators to challenge the status quo with something new, irreverent, smart and unexpected … something that will resonate with our African audience. We are constantly on the lookout for new projects that have never been done before – we want them to wow us!

The initiative encourages African talents: creators, writers, graphic artists, and animation students etc. to produce a short-form animated comedy piece between 1-3 minutes. The core target should be kids, aged 6 to 12 years old, with an English dialogue. All kinds of humor, including irreverence and randomness are welcome, with the comedy being driven by engaging characters and unexpected stories. The piece should portray positive values such as kids’ spirit, kindness, diversity and never-ending imagination, with unique graphics based on any animation technics (2D, 3D, stop motion, mixing real footage etc.).

The presentation of the piece should include a pitch, the main heroes’ description, storyline(s) and graphic intention, as well as any additional material accepted (including storyboards, animatics, videos etc.). The submissions should be submitted via Dropbox on www.CartoonNetworkAfrica.com/CreativeLab.

Cartoon Network shaped and most likely still does the childhoods of a lot of kids in Africa. Surely that’s a viable market to create (or source) local animation for (or from).

a. Why has it taken so long to come to Africa?

Short answer: Timing.

Long answer: Cartoon Network enjoys a strong following on the continent, and we continually strive to create a viewing experience that resonates with our African audience. Our localisation strategy that identifies the cultural differences of our African markets, and which we have implemented for the past four years, has undoubtedly boosted our brand value across the continent.

b. Why now?

Short answer: Why not now, especially with recent blossoming of African animation? 

Long answer: Our African collaborations include partnering with Animation South Africa (ASA) as the official sponsor of the first-ever “Animation Lounge” at DISCOP 2016. That same year, we also hosted the “Turner Kid’s Pitching Competition”, a first strong initiative to bring forward African talent. Cape Town-based Punch Monkey Studio brought amazing creativity and originality to their winning entry, Cloud Life. The project has been travelling through the Turner group and is now in a development process with the Turner Asia Pacific production team! This just reinforces our need to invest in local content and our commitment to further mentoring talent in the African animation industry.

Last year, we also sponsored the “African Animation Network (AAN) Village”, boosting AAN’s efforts to develop animation talent in Africa. We expanded our presence and hosted panels with various African organisations, discussing the opportunities and challenges faced in promoting African animation productions at local and international levels.

The results from the above are evidence that the African animation community is blooming, and we have built many important relationships within the local market. At last year’s “Animation Village” we truly felt a change in the air, with new ambition and talent pushing forward and creating new structures to how the local animation community collaborates and communicates and so now is the time to tap into these creative minds in Africa which will be essential in paving the way forward for us to get straight to the hearts of the fast growing African audience.

c. What’s the end goal?

Short answer: To front African animation and locally produce content for young African audiences.

Long answer: With Cartoon Network’s Creative Lab, we are taking a step further to strengthen our position within the African animation industry with the end goal being partnering with local talents that will bring crazy creative ideas to the table, thinking completely outside the box. We believe that this will result in a genuine African sense of humour, which in turn will result in content loved by young African audiences.

Is this as a result of the success of Black Panther?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: We know that the core concept of a superhero is universally recognised and is bound to no specific region, including Africa, so it is great for our creators here at home, to see African creatives are now being more visually represented and commercially successful internationally, That’s the magic about comic superheroes; they travel across boundaries no matter the color of your skin!

Black Panther illustration by Quaphryma
Black Panther illustration by Quaphryma

Being one of the most popular kids TV channels in Africa, Cartoon Network has their own comic superheroes which are now loved by young African audiences, such as ‘Ben 10’ and ‘Thundercats’. In line with our strategy to localise content, we are always looking for local content that can be translated, appreciated and celebrated internationally as well as locally for a long time, whether it be through DISCOP or initiatives like Cartoon Network Creative Lab collaborations.

Besides the Creative Lab, what is the future of Cartoon Network Africa, particularly in terms of long-form content and genres that are not comedy?

Short answer: We’re in for the long haul and comedy isn’t the only thing we’re interested in. Creativity and innovation is what we seek.

Cartoon Network Creative Lab is one of our most recent initiatives addressing the gap in locally relevant content which offers a viewing experience that resonates with its African audience.

Creativity is at the heart of the DNA of our brand and in the past, Cartoon Network Africa has included innovative local initiatives which are not comedy driven. South Africa’s hip pop sensation, Toya Delazy, lent her voice to the newly revealed fourth Powerpuff Girl, Bliss for Cartoon Network Africa. Paralympian medalist, Ntando Mahlangu, teamed up with Cartoon Network as the ambassador of our anti-bullying campaign, which has won numerous Public Relations awards for investment in cause marketing and CSR categories. We also partnered with local third parties to produce Cartoon Network’s Pop Up Party which followed a young crew of local dancers as they pop up and infiltrate unexpected locations to create a vibrant, unique and fun Pop Up Party.

In the next coming month, we are excited to air some new Cartoon Network long format original series such as Craig of the Creek, Apple and Onion and Summer Camp Island, as well as launching the new seasons of some of our action-driven shows such as Ben 10 and The Power Rangers.

2Part 2

Credit: Punch Monkey Studios

Future Collaborations, Dedicated Channel & an Africa Centred Approach?

Is CN open to acquire more content and collaborate with Africans in the nearby future?

Short answer: Yes, definitely.

Long answer: Through our years in Africa, we have been presented with an impressive number of talented African creatives, and as stated above, we are currently busy with two new collaborations with local studios and talents to develop two new shorts for Cartoon Network Africa to be released later this year.

We have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with numerous influential networks, studios and animation associations in Africa, and are looking forward to future new encounters. We are fascinated by how the African film-making community brings creatives together from all over the continent and we want to continue tapping into the inspiring pan-African talent through Cartoon Network Creative Lab.

How African is this project going to be beyond the initial submissions – from production to post-production to marketing etc.?

Short answer: Not exactly. It’s an international, all hands on deck approach.

Long answer: The winner and runners-up will be given the opportunity to get their project produced locally as a pilot with Cartoon Network. The idea is really to work with the winners, graphics, writers, story builders and local production companies that are based in South Africa and other territories in English speaking Africa to produce the short-form animated comedy shows.

The locally produced projects will then premiere on Cartoon Network Africa and its digital platforms in 2019.  We hope to see the winners flourish in their career as content creators, following the footsteps of Punch Monkey Studios’ Cloud Life project that the has been travelling through the Turner group and is now in a development process within another market!

Will there be a dedicated Cartoon Network Africa Channel which will cater to African Animation alone?

Short answer: Nope.

Long answer: Cartoon Network’s superior content is distributed across 56 countries in Africa, each with its own culture and conditions to be considered. We have a dedicated ‘Compliance’ service, making sure our programmes are suitable for each of our markets, being careful not to break our viewers’ trust.

Our Data and Consumer Insights team runs qualitative surveys to provide actionable insights and ensure our brands delivers locally relevant content. The idea, therefore, is not necessarily for Cartoon Network Africa to go for African content alone but rather adapt to our consumers’ lives and fit in with their daily routines by adjusting schedules, geolocalising communications and adapting our brand tone of voice with local content. Our goal is to integrate more local African stories and characters in amongst our much loved existing content.

3Part 3

L’arbre a Palimpseste

African Comics, IP, Terms and Conditions & Existing Opportunities

The African comic book industry has been blossoming over the years. That’s a reservoir of stories waiting to be told. What opportunities exist for collaboration with the African comic book industry?

Short answer: Yes, lots of opportunities.

Long answer: There is a rich storytelling tradition throughout Africa and we think that the African comic book industry is a fantastic opportunity for us to find superheroes within the African artscape, not only for Cartoon Network, but also our Toonami channel, which is home to superheroes like Batman’, ‘Superman’, or ‘The Green Lantern”. In line with our strategy to localise content, we are always looking for opportunities that have the potential to be produced locally, whether it be through comic conventions like FanCon Comicon Africa collaborations, or inspiration drawn from the local Nigerian comic scene, making Toonami the African go-to destination for superhero enthusiasts of all ages.

According to internet chatter we’ve caught, the terms and conditions say artists give all rights to Turner once they submit their projects and may or may not receive credit for their work.

a. Is this true?

Let me clarify this point, we want to work together with the winner, and this is a partnership and collaboration between the channel, the producer and the creatives. The creators are the full owners of their ideas, and if they win we will share their idea. Turner will be the main producers of the show, working with the creators to develop the idea. We won’t obviously be giving credit to all submissions received for this project, but as the terms state we will credit on a case by case basis so any project developed will be credited

b. How are applicants guaranteed that their work will not be duplicated or used without permission?

The consent form states that what we are granting is the right to exercise the intellectual property. They are still going to own it, but we have the right to exercise it on a non-exclusive basis.

Turner will never work on a project without the original creators of the project involved. Creators are always at the centre here at Cartoon Network. The idea is to build the relationship and to bring this talent to a global process of animation development. That means we will produce locally but if we find the huge initiative amazing talent and that’s what we did before, we are going to bring them within the Turner Group internationally and we will be able to develop the ideas within Turner. It’s a process of mentorship, and providing the means for development.

What benefits exist for artists who take part in the competition – winners and non-winners – and how does this help develop our industries?

Short answer: Opportunity to have your project as part of Cartoon Network’s programming and the chance to exhibit at DISCOP Johannesburg.

Long answer: The competition is a fantastic platform for all African creatives! All entries will be seen and judged by Cartoon Network Africa’s content programming team, alongside Ariane Suveg (Head of programming and acquisition, Turner Kids Africa) and Julien Borde (Head of Channels, Kids and General Entertainment in Africa).

Following that, ten projects will be short-listed in September, and the local creators will get the opportunity to pitch their work to the judging panel. The winner and two runners-up will then be revealed at DISCOP Johannesburg at the end of the year. The winner and runners-up will be given the opportunity to get their project produced as a pilot with Cartoon Network Africa which will then premiere on Cartoon Network Africa and its digital platforms in 2019. There is even the potential for the winner’s work to be developed into a full series for our channel, following the footsteps of some of Cartoon Network’s greatest talents.

L’arbre à Palimpseste Togolese animation

Are there any African animators, illustrators or animated projects you have come across whose work you (Cartoon Network) found interesting?

Short answer: Oh yes, plenty!

Long answer: Our exposure to local talent through our collaboration with Animation South Africa (ASA) and other industry bodies through DISCOP has resulted in us contracting powerful alliances with locally selected partners to inject some local African flavour into our first locally produced animated shorts for our Imagination Studios competition.

Cartoon Network contracted with the Pan-African animation company MyChild TV, who acted as the executive producer coordinating all parties involved in the completion of the Imagination Studios shorts. To write the script for the shorts, Cartoon Network partnered with Cape Town-based Punch Money Studios who won the Turner Kids Animation Pitching competition at DISCOP in 2016 for their Cloud Life project. Also jumping on board, Cartoon Network partnered with Mindseye Creative, a 2D animation studio based in South Africa and Audio Militia, an award-winning post-production facility specialising in the original composition of music, sound design and final mix for a variety of media (TV, radio, film, games). Together, the creative team brought the winning drawings from the Imagination Studios competition to life through motion, style and sound.

4How to Apply for the Cartoon Network Africa Creative Lab

African residents, aged 18 and over, or any African-based company, can submit their one-minute to three-minute creative short project which must fall in the comedy genre and fit with Cartoon Network’s values of random, irreverent, smart and contemporary humour.

Deadline for application is 31st August, 2018. Learn more about entering the Cartoon Network Creative Lab animation competition.

All the best!