Interview with Stuart Forrest, CEO of Triggerfish Animation Studios

Stuart Forrest

Triggerfish Animation StudiosStuart Forrest is a longtime animator and the current CEO of Triggerfish Animation Studios, based in Cape Town, South Africa. Forrest is one of the producers for Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba.

„Stuart has over 15 years production experience in character design, storyboarding, scriptwriting, music scores and character animation. He is a Producer on Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba and is one of the entrepreneurs behind Triggerfish. His previous work includes six seasons of Sesame Street animation,

and production of several animated shorts ranging from commercials to 30-minute specials. Stuart was a finalist for the 2012 Sanlam/ Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year Award, winning Innovator of the Year. He is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and was selected as a judge for the 2012 International Emmy Awards. He has been invited to speak at conferences around the world, including South Africa, New Zealand and at Stanford Business School in California. Stuart has a BTech Fine Art (cum laude) from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. In true start-up fashion, Stuart used to run Triggerfish from his kitchen and created stop-frame animation in his living-room much to his wife’s irritation” (

Stuart Forrest gave an interview to


What it means to produce animated films in South Africa?

Our long form industry is still very new, so it’s wonderful to be part of the first big films to go out of South Africa. Traditionally our industry does a lot of commercials and smaller projects, so we are very much pioneers in this space.

Who helped you to set up animation studio? Who has invested in this business? How much was invested in the studio?

We started as a studio that did commercials and a lot of Sesame Street work. Then we found investment from several sources including some government funding and some funding from the United States. All the investment to date has gone into the budgets of the films, so the studio has not had any direct investment yet.

What difficulties do you encountered in animation filmmaking at Triggerfish Animation Studios?

Very few of our crew had any experience in working on feature films before we started making our own films. So we had to learn everything the hard way!

Where did you get your financing?

On Zambezia, the seed money came from San Francisco-based Wonderful Works Inc, gap financing came from 120dB, additional senior debt from Cinema Management Group – and the bulk of the funding came from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) of South Africa, with a smaller amount from the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa (NFVF). On Khumba it was far simpler – Spier Films, the NFVF and the IDC.

And what was the budget?

Less than US $ 20 m.

Where have you recruited from?

All the artists are from South Africa.

What kind of toolset did you use?

We used Softimage, Ice, Nuke, Final Cut Pro, Z-Brush and Photoshop.

What is Khumba about?

It’s about a zebra who is born with only half his stripes. The herd are superstitious and blame him for the drought, so he decides to leave to find his stripes.

What are the future projects of the studio?

We have a rough plan for 5 films, but the first 2 that we’ve announced are „Sea Monsters” and „Seal Team”. „Sea Monsters” is about a boy who discovers a magical monster in a sleepy coastal village, and „Seal Team” is about a seal who has to overcome his nemesis, a Great White Shark.

Can you tell me more about the studio projects? When can we see the first images from „Sea Monsters” and „Seal Team”? What it brings new to the next Triggerfish projects?

We are starting production design on both Sea Monsters and Seal Team in January.

Sea Monsters has humans in it, which will be new for us.

What is the difference between your studio and an American one?

We’re from a different culture. I think the world is ready to hear voices from other cultures besides Hollywood. We believe in creating highly entertaining films, like the Americans. But there will always be something different about the way we do things – as long as we are trying to be authentic as artists, this will come through.

What is your model for development of Triggerfish?

We’re scaling our business to build up our marketing, distribution, story development and games departments. We’re raising funding to go into production on 5 new films over the next 8 years. We aim to be a global player in the entertainment business over the next 20 years.

Do you take in consideration a movie animation in co production with a studio in Europe? Are you interested in becoming co producer on a project funded by Romania and the European Union?

We are always looking for partnerships, so yes, we would consider becoming co-producer – if we really loved the project and saw the potential in the script.

What is the recipe for success in the animation industry?

Have lots of patience! Never give up and be authentic – while understanding that you create work for your audience to enjoy, not for yourself.