Activate your imagination with these delightful award-winning animations, now streaming on Showmax and Netflix. There’s the animated documentary genre-bending film from an eSwatini-born creator, animated by a Nigerian artist and featuring a South African storyteller; a Japanese fable from the creators of My Neighbour Totoro; and a rewriting of French history in a steampunk sci-fi adventure.
Liyana – 2018 (Showmax)
Gcina Mhlope is a celebrated South African poet and storyteller, who made it her mission to activate the memories and imaginations of a small yet picturesque orphanage in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland). Using her knack for storytelling, she managed to coax a magical African tale about a young girl’s dangerous journey quite literally out of the mouths of babes. Narrated by five captivating kids, this original documentary-animation hybrid is creative, moving and truly special.
Beautifully animated images glide across the screen, brought to life by a vivid soundtrack and ad libbed sound effects. Liyana is driven by charming and expressive faces that give personality and depth to the tale. While you’d expect the children’s stories to be naive, the social challenges of living in a country with the highest HIV/Aids infection rate in the world have left scars on these kids. While fictional and magical, the story is anchored by tough experiences and dark memories that translate into some harrowing moments for the heroic Liyana.
IMDB rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%
The Red Turtle – 2016 (Netflix)
The Red Turtle emanates from Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio behind Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies and many more classics. And yet, it’s decidedly different from their collective. It’s reminiscent of Tintin, The Blue Lagoon and Castaway as a Robinson Crusoe story plays out as part survival adventure, part fable.
We’re gently immersed in the story as a shipwrecked survivor finds his place on the island as human nature and man’s will to live are explored in a meditative and emotional journey. While there’s no dialogue, it’s easy to follow this universal story of man versus nature and man versus man. The animation is delicate and nuanced, and breathes life into the film as hallucination and reality converge. The design is simple and the animation is sensitively orchestrated as the lush sounds and score help paint the minimalistic yet heartfelt world of The Red Turtle.
IMDB rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 93%
Sweet family movies that parents won’t mind watching
April and the Extraordinary World – 2015 (Showmax)
A teenage girl seeks her missing scientist parents in an age where France is governed by steam and Napoleon V. This lovingly animated adventure grows on you as it tends towards the fantastic, taking you from a divergent point in history and filling it with a curious “what if” around science, history and nature. Fun, exciting and imaginative, it’s an enjoyable and lively adventure with many twists and turns. Quirky and very French, it’s not surprising to see Marion Cotillard lending her voice to the starring role of Avril (or “April” in English).
A voyage of discovery, powered by mystery and a spirit of exploration, this comes through in the design of architecture, characters and science of craft. There’s a hand-drawn feeling to the images and a quaint, nostalgic feeling around the age. This French animated sci-fi adventure seems to have been influenced by Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Tintin and the iconic A Trip to the Moon. In much the same spirit, technology and magic intersect, as expressed through its fascination with anime and steampunk.
IMDB rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%