Durban Animators Making Moves – First Thursdays Focus

We all spent our early years lost in the vividly coloured and twisted cartoon worlds of Ghibli, Animaniacs and Walt Disney, but how many of us realised we could make worlds like that?

The practice of animation actually predates cinematography, if we consider the manipulation of shadows over light projection to be considered early animation experiments. Now, South Africa is catching up to the growing global trend leaning towards telling stories through animation and motion, with Cape Town hosting the only dedicated African animation festival on the continent at the Cape Town International Animation Festival. As the slowest official city in the country™️, Durban is finally catching up with its own showcase of extraordinary animators.


Our eyes are automatically drawn to movement. Director at Feral Child, Nella Addy recalls always wanting to make things move. During our quick chat over coffee (in the production world every minute matters) she told me she wanted to be a director like Spielberg during her innocently wild childhood climbing trees naked and menacing the locals in the Free State farm/art town of Clarens. She recalls consuming one title sequence after another, absorbing the way objects and texts could move around and tell a short story of their own. Saturated with creative inspiration around her, Nella discovered a skill for painting and illustration, to the delight of both of her artist parents. What Nella also learned about herself is that despite the feral nature of her childhood, she is a relentless worker with a desperate desire to be able to do everything herself.


It’s this drive that brought her to start freelancing after completing her studies, picking up most of what she knows by accepting freelance jobs she said she could do, and learning how to do them quickly under the name Addy Studio. Less than three years later, Nella’s team has grown four-strong and operates from Open Plan Studios on Station Drive as Feral Child, reminiscent of her early years as a muddy youngling.



She’s had to learn how to slow down and hand over the ropes to hone in on her primary skills; illustration and cell animation, which is hand-drawn frame by frame. The studio now specialises in 2D cell animation and motion graphics, with some members of her team experimenting with 3D animation. She says that animation in South Africa is still a competitive game, and they’re working hard for their piece of the pie. “But I think it’s changing now,” says Nella, “and that’s part of why we’re doing this exhibition.” Feral Child consists of Nella Addy, Rogan van den Berg, Skye Davis and Gareth Fourie.


Feral Child has collaborated with some local illustrators to put Durban’s animation potential on the big screen. Or at least up on a projector at the ridiculously popular First Thursdays at Station Drive. Together with illustrators Gregory Darroll, Sarah Mitchell and Warwick Kay, the Frame by Frame exhibition at Open Plan Studios will reveal not only the work that’s being made here but also the intricate processes that go into cell animation and motion graphics, with a fat dose of behind-the-scenes juice. The exhibition is so worth seeing, particularly for those with an interest in visual art and animation. With so many incredible collaborators around, it’s easy to be inspired in a room like that because motion isn’t just design, it’s an art form.



“Animation is so time-consuming and painstaking that you need a group to tackle bigger projects,” she says. And part of the process of a start-up business is keeping your team motivated through the slog work that pays the bills and making it through the luls. “That’s important to me, maintaining excitement,” says Nella, “as long as we have a personal project going it always feels better. It’s like a carrot for the creatives,” keeping her team motivated by leaving room for fun projects that they can work on individually or collaboratively. “I don’t want them to just do shitty things because they’re juniors.


“That’s where the idea for this exhibition came about, to collaborate and experience what it’s like to work in a team and to work on something that’s yours but also someone else’s.” Collaboration has allowed Nella to bloom from a self-motivated creative trying to do it all, to the director of a studio that’s paving the way for animation in Durban and meeting global standards of motion. She says she’s excited to work with more people and loves how accessible animation can be to learn. She revealed that they’ve collaborated with Durban producer Sean Ross (aka MISSU) for one of the videos in this exhibition, and spilt that she hopes to work with him again in the future. Feral Child will also be exhibiting the music video they made for Gangs of Ballet and Jack Parrow at the exhibition.



Pop into Open Plan Studios this First Thursday, 6 September for Feral Child’s Frame by Frame exhibition and look out for Greg Darroll’s Month of Motion and work-in-progress details for Sarah Mitchell’s new graphic novel, as well as .gifs from Warwick Kay. While you’re on Station Drive, pop into S43 for the Pussy Party takeover, you won’t regret it.


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