South Africa’s first LGBT animated TV series, about two gay squirrels, is being made in Cape Town.
Squeers, an edgy comedy animated series, is aimed at both local and international audiences. A trailer (featuring a pigeon that’s into BDSM, nogal) was released this week to mark Pride Month, celebrated in many countries in June.
Squeers takes a satirical but affectionate look at the lives and daily escapades of Neil and Artel, two gay squirrels, who share a “tree”, in search of success, love and happiness.
They live in the treetops of the City Gardens. Their life is inspired by the pink lifestyle in Cape Town, but Squeers reflects the contemporary macrocosm of human life across the globe, say its producers.
Within the park, the furry characters experience relatable struggles and issues, with extremely human problems, like love, diets, going green, figuring out what’s real and what’s not, the work place and where to bury their nuts for the night.
The planned 78 episode, 7 minute TV series is based on the original South African LGBT comic strip by Roberto Millan, which was published in The Pink Tongue newspaper.
It’s being directed by Cape Town creative Matt Torode and is written by Johannesburg based writer, storyteller and performer, Lebogang Mogashoa.
Pop the Culture and Zeropoint Studios are producing the adaptation of the Squeers comic concept, led by Torode and Series Creator, Wendy Spinks.
Spinks said she hopes that the series will “deliver a message of equality, with the hope of normalising all sexual orientations and taboos in order to curb ignorance, discrimination and bullying”.
The producers will explore the potential of the rising video on demand platforms and smart phone and tablet audiences with the series as well as traditional television platforms.
“Financing animated series’ is always a challenge in SA,” said Spinks “But our main challenge may lie in breaking into the greater African market. This series can be considered controversial to many, but it will break ground and we believe there to be a substantial and growing niche audience globally.”
The NFVF (National Film and Video Foundation) has supported the project and funded the development of a teaser video, a written script and a few episode outlines of the show while the project is pitched to potential broadcasters and investment partners.
That the two lead characters of Neil and Artel are voiced by American talent which, Spinks explained, was a calculated decision.
“We are looking at global audiences of all orientations and in particular the US market,” she said, noting that South Africa does not have a big enough audience for adult animation, “but we will be having a few SA voiced characters in the series”.
In fact, she added, the series will be home to many voices, cultures, and dialects, including Cashiefa Cupido, a Cape Malay transgender squirrel and Chow, a Durban, curry-loving bunny client.
Squeers will be the first local animated television show of its kind to deal with adult topics pertaining to what it actually means to be a part of the LGBTI community and how, as humans we share similar struggles and dreams.
“Cartoons and animated videos push boundaries, confronting relevant social topics in interesting, entertaining and often funny ways,” commented original comic creator Millan.
He describes the process of creating the original comic strip as self-indulgent and fun, and as his response to the Cape Town gay scene.
“It was my way of making fun of what I observed in the community” Millan said, “A reaction to topical gay issues in and around South Africa”.
Spinks hailed Millan’s comic concept: “Through the exploration of two loveable and immediately endearing squirrels…There is an opportunity not only for poking fun at perceptions and societal norms and beliefs…but through comedy and these anthropomorphised squirrels’ everyday lives; we are able to explore the “tree of life” if you wish… To push audiences too think, question… And laugh at themselves…”