Talking Animal Films in South Africa (Part 1)
by Duncan R. Piasecki
Submitted by guest writer Duncan R. Piasecki – don’t miss his amazing previous article, The Forgotten History of the Furry Musical.
Of all the things you’d expect a country in Africa to have in common with whatever first-world place you’re reading this in, I bet nowhere on that list was CGI animation studios. But it’s true, for better or for worse, and (un?)luckily for all of us, all the major CGI films produced by this country fall into the talking animal genre. Furry appeal, it’s an international thing!
Preface: important things that will colour how you understand the rest of the article
Before we get too deep into this, some context is important to understand the nature of this country.
First and foremost, you need to understand something of the way that stories are told here. This is mostly about books, but it speaks to the way film and television are made here as well. We like to fool ourselves into thinking we’re cosmopolitan, but we’re really, really not. We’ve fallen a long way since JRR Tolkien moved away from here. Fictive literature here can be mostly divided into two categories: classic and modern. Classics are largely about sociopolitical concerns (most famous is probably Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton – most likely you’d know it from the 1995 film adaptation starring James Earl Jones, if you knew it at all). Modern however… well. Publishers down here tend to want you to write stories with an African bent all the time. In theory, it leads to more Afrocentric storytelling, but in practice, if you go look under general fiction, everything is either just described as “X, but in Africa!” or just a rip-off of whatever the Americans are doing. Not all books, of course, but certainly enough that you wouldn’t even be able to find the local fiction that’s not like this in most stores. For example, a big hit here a few years ago was Spud by John van de Ruit, which is basically “Adrian Mole, but in Africa!“. On the other side of the coin are writers like Wilbur Smith, who writes what look like fairly cheesy adventure/thrillers generally. As a writer myself, who falls under the oft-confusing literary movement of postmodernism, it is beyond frustrating and annoying to see, and there is no way I’d ever be published by anyone down here as a result of these weird stipulations (hooray for self-publishing).