Vega lecturer Roberto Millan on South Africa’s growing animation industry

Roberto Millan, the Multimedia, Digital Media and Critical Studies Navigator (lecturer) at Vega School of Brand leadership, a brand of the Independent Institute of Education (the IIE), speaks about how South Africa is developing a reputation as a world class hub for creativity in the animation and multimedia industries.

Millan recently formed part of a panel discussing the convergence of comics, graphics and animation at the Cape Town International Animation Festival – a platform which is fast becoming renowned for showcasing the very best that the international animation industry has to offer. According to Millan, the discussion highlighted the great strides that have been made in South Africa over the past decade. “There seems to be a surge of interest in local stories by South African artists,” he says. “Big entertainment companies such as Disney are looking for trademark African content and South Africa’s growing reputation as a competitive, international, creative player seems to be mostly responsible for this.”

Another contributor to the South African industry’s success is how players within various media are coming together to work as a team rather than in silo. “Gone are the days where visual communication design, multimedia and illustration functioned on separate floors and in isolation from each other,” he explains.

Currently, Millan is involved in the adaptation of the Squeers comic concept, which is being developed by creative producer and TV series creator, Wendy Spinks under the banner of Pop the Culture. The concept was taken from Millan’s comic book, Squeers, which was the first published LGBTI topic newspaper comic strip in the country. The rights for the Squeers concept were optioned by Pop the Culture to develop it into a TV series as one element of a broader transmedia strategy.

Pop the Culture is a joint venture between Zeropoint Studios and Nick Wilson, both co-founded by Spinks, for a “coming soon” curated gallery, shop, talent and content hub, showcasing South African talent.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) have provided them with funding to produce a teaser and a written script with a few episode outlining the show while they pitch to potential broadcasters and investment partners.

“Animated online content has found a real audience. Cartoons and animated videos push boundaries, confronting relevant social topics in interesting, entertaining and often funny ways,” says Millan. “If the series is successful and broadcasts in South Africa, it will be the first animated television show of its kind to deal with adult topics pertaining to what it actually means to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or intersex.”

Young artists and designers interested in entering this fast-growing industry need to be proactive. “Learn the software, sign up for YouTube tutorial subscriptions and get solid technical training through an accredited and recognised multimedia school like Vega,” advises Millan. “Work on your projects for an hour or two every day, and learn how to write and create your own content. Start a YouTube channel and publish your own animated series. Make something interesting – create work that appeals to your sense of humour. Life is too short not to work hard and make things you care about.”

Millan is a visual narrative artist and multimedia designer, passionate about storytelling and active as an illustrator, political cartoonist and comic strip artist. He has worked with master cartoonist, Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro), as a digital colorist since 2013. He has also added his significant skill to creating pedagogical comics, illustrating safety manuals, and producing political cartoons and bespoke corporate and entertainment comic strips.

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