SA animation starts to come of age
Animated sitcoms on TV have become a genre that walks a line between hilarious and crass. The Boondocks, South Park and The Simpsons come to mind. They use kiddy styles with adult content that isn’t shy to comment on society.
But we’ve generally had to tune in to US accents to get our fix.
Now there’s a sudden boom in the local industry and 2016 will see at least two adult-humoured animated series on the box. It’s part of a bigger picture. We’re producing animated features to match some of the best in the world (think Triggerfish’s Zambezia and Khumba) and development programmes are paying off as young animators enter the industry. Mdu Comics’ web series Izikhokho Show was South Africa’s biggest YouTube hit in 2014 and could easily have made it to TV, but hasn’t yet.
The question is whether we’re developing our own style or just copying what’s hot in America.
Systraat (Side Street) and My Child: Teenage Mutant Azanians – the two new TV shows – suggest we’re finding our own accents. Afrikaans series Systraat premiered on SABC3’s YouTube channel, the first debut of this nature for the SABC. It is South Africa’s first animated sitcom. It follows the lives of a multiracial family of four and how they deal with a suburban neighbourhood full of pretty odd characters. The Kotzes are vibrant folk who are doing all they can to navigate their way through the challenges of suburbia. It comes off as closer to The Simpsons than the raw and edgy South Park, as it aims to poke a little fun at our South Africanness. A stand-out is Hein, the younger of the two sons, who brings a touch of darkness to this otherwise light-hearted sitcom. It’s classically drawn from puppet performances, bringing the characters to life but not really pushing the envelope.
Far more exciting, as animation and sweary content goes, is My Child: Teenage Mutant Azanians on Comedy Central (DStv channel 122). With fresh, experimental animation, its cast boasts heavyweight comedians such as Trevor Gumbi, Mpho Popps, Nina Hastie, Griffy 2Trillion and actress Maggie Benedict. If these new developments are anything to go by, the future looks bright (and delightfully dark).
RAW AND UNCUT My Child: Teenage Mutant Azanians
SCHOOL DAZE A still from Systraat, the SABC’s new series
MEET THE NEIGHBOURS Systraat’s suburban characters have to deal with the multicultural SA