This
study bases on the challenges that Zimbabwean animation companies face at
institutional levels as well as at audience reception. The literature will
focuses on animation as a genre in film, which gives a global picture of the
industry starting with the history of animation in Africa. South Africa presents
a comparative of a regional animation industry to show the gaps that the
Zimbabwean animation industry needs to address at a local level. The research will
illustrate how South African productions have fared in the market and how the
industry has developed. Furthermore, an account of the cultural value of
animation within a given context shall be highlighted in an attempt to
underscore the importance of developing a lucrative animation industry in
Zimbabwe.

 

1.1 History of Animation in Africa

 

Animation in Africa has
developed due to the technological advancements. According to some studies,
animation in Africa began in Egypt. Ghazala(2008) argues that the pioneers of
animation in Africa were not professional artists or animators; they a group of
Jewish carpenters who immigrated to Egypt from Russia in search of freedom and
work. He adds that:

 They achieved the unexpected; the first
African animated cartoon was created. Despite problems with equipment and
financing, they managed to create the first animated film throughout Africa.
The duration of this film “In Vain” (“Mafish fayda”) is just 10 minutes. Its
main hero was Mish Mish Effendi, who was the prototype of the well-known Mickey
Mouse. (Ghazala, 2008)

 

Thus animation in Africa is not
a new occurrence, however it has faced many challenges due to lack of equipment
and financing. Ghazala (2008) states that there were many endeavours
practically in every country throughout the African continent, but they were just
individual attempts, not in groups or association. The lack of associations is
another problem the researcher of this study identified within the Zimbabwean
context. There are a high number of free-lance animators and a few key players
in terms of animation companies.

 

Furthermore, animation in
Zimbabwe has had a gradual growth due to the lack of digitalisation. This has
had a negative impact on the animation in Zimbabwe, as this is a field, which
is technology intensive.  Ghazala also
argues that:

 

African animation is not yet a
consistent industry within the continent and this is due to our economical
situation making it difficult to produce films on a mass scale. Animation
differs from other forms of art in that it cannot be produced individually; instead,
it requires assistants, finance, equipment and much more. The population of
Ethiopia is 80 million people but there are just 3 animators. There are no
orders for work, no equipment, no new projects. Glints of hope come from
European countries and their cultural centres providing financial support to
animators and their projects.

 

Africa then needs to be equipped
digitally to undertake animation at a large scale. Thus, Zimbabwe’s animation
industry is wanting of these advancements and must seek to introduce policies
that may assist in the growth of the industry in reaching global standards. The
animation industry in Africa is in need of revision for it to develop. Ghazala
argues that:

 

Although Africa has a long history of developing its animation, it still
has not reached the level of animation as those countries that started even
after it. We have a very small number of academies teaching animation and it is
very hard to get all necessary professional equipments, software and the
trainers which would help us to educate generations of animators with their own
tradition of animation, or individual African style of animation without being
fully influenced by current Western and Japanese styles.

 

This shows that African productions cannot be
limited and underpinned within a homogeneous framework, as they are constructs
manufactured in various contexts. Animation can be generally treated and viewed
as a cultural industry that seeks to cover the gaps caused by the consumption
of Western and Japanese styles of animation. This study will therefore unveil
the production processes the animators in Zimbabwe undertake particularly Nafuna TV and the BYO Show in their content creation and the effect it has on
audiences at the reception levels.

 

1.3 The importance of Animation in
society

 

Animation
is an industry that is fast growing within the developed countries. This study
seeks to highlight the benefits of an intensive movement into the animation
industry in Zimbabwe. It will also seek to open up a theoretical approach to
policymaking processes regarding animation with the analysis of the two case
studies Nafuna TV and the BYO Show.  Wells argues that:

 

 animation is arguably the most important
creative form of the twenty-first century… It is the omnipresent  pictorial form of the modern era” (1).
Despite animation’s prominent status in everyday life, from television
commercials to the recent spate of popular feature length animation films to
various uses on the Web, the form itself has suffered a long history of
systematic neglect — both critically and academically.

 

This
is evidence that animation is an industry that needs reviewing within the
global, regional and local spectrums of broadcasting. A successful animated
character has diverse applications, “a personality that can be easily
transferred to dolls and play set environments” (Wasko et al., 1993: 285). As
such, the two case studies shall undergo speculation in an attempt to
illustrate their success during production, marketing and dissemination processes.
 Creating such an exclusive character
animation property is a talent that is a blend of art and business (Neuwirth,
2003; Raugust, 2004).  This becomes a
foothold for the research, as the success of animated products amongst
consumers or audiences will reveal the power of animation within the context of
creating, maintaining and establishing animation related cultural industries.

 

1.4 Animation as a cultural
industry

 

In
cultural perspectives, meaning, are arguably generated through a consensus and understanding
of various signs and symbols. Wells, in his book Understanding Animation, argues
that:

 

 an animated film may be interpreted through
its symbolism, whether the symbols have been used deliberately to facilitate
meaning or not … the symbol in animation can operate in its purest form,
divorced from any relationship to the representation of the real world, finding
it proper purchase in the realms of its primal source ( 83).

 

The
dynamics involved in the creation and reception of animation, could depend on
the representation of characters that will connote meanings out of the
different individuals involved in production and consumption stages.  Jardim, (2013) states that, drawn art as well
as digitally rendered representations, usually illustrate, either a real life item,
person, animal or similar. According to the above notion, Jardim captures the
role of animation as centred on the cultural values within a given society that
enable individuals to deduce meanings from the various digital texts produced.
This study will then seek to draw up an analysis of how different audiences
consume content from Nafuna TV and
the BYO Show and what meanings they
deduce from these media texts.

 

Animation
is universal in nature, it has penetrated and influenced visual cultures, while
inhabiting, informing and politicising various public and private spheres. It
has long had a constitutive role in disseminating ideologies with a mind to
shaping public attitudes. Moreover,
animation studios compete to be creative, producing new characters and new
story ideas that can form the foundation of a franchise of products across
media platforms and consumer products (Raugust,2004; Screen Digest, 2007). Technology using computers
and ICT networks has become commonplace not only in production but also in
consumption. Consumers participate in the new forms of production in the
networks (Benkler, 2006; Flowers et al., 2008). This means that one has to take
into account the challenges presented by the advent of globalisation and its
effect on the Zimbabwean animation, market share. As such, the two case studies
shall provide a basis for the relevance of the gap caused, as a consequence of
the challenges they face at production, marketing and distribution stages.

 

However,
Melo, (2006) argues that:

 

Cultural
Animation is a pedagogical tool that can be used in different contexts and
social venues with the clear purpose of intervention. It is established from
the desire to change reality and from understanding that an intervention within
this perspective can be an important tool to achieve this goal. Its strategy of
action is based on the idea of mediation, seeking to build a society that is
fairer, more egalitarian and democratic, where people learn to respect and
mediate their differences, acknowledging and exploring their creative possibilities
and taking an active and critical stand in society

 

 Hence, animation has the capacity to be
function as an edutainment tool and this influences cultural industries within
a society. He further states:

 

In
order to satisfy any need for a clearer and more direct definition, I defined
Cultural Animation as an educational technology (an intervention pedagogical
proposal) based on a radical mindset of mediation (that should never mean
imposition), which aims at fostering the comprehensive understanding of
cultural meanings (taking into account the tensions in place within this
milieu), conceding to the concretion of our everyday life, built from the
principle stimulus for community organizations (that presupposes the idea of
strong individuals to ensure the actual construction of democracy), always aiming
at questioning the social status quo and helping to overcome it in order to
build a fairer society (MELO, 2006, p. 28-29).

 

The
above quote highlights the dynamic processes that animation possesses. It has
the ability to inform citizens on various discourses that might ail a society
and need remedy while sometimes being used as an apparatus that seeks to
transforms normative practices. The case studies of this research will
highlight and benchmark the edutainment value of their products. 

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