The International Emmy for Best Kids’ Animation has been awarded to The Smeds and the Smoos, an animation directed by two South Africans. The 27-minute story is currently streaming on Showmax.
Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) narrates the story of two warring families whose children, Bill and Janet, fall in love and run away together. Hotly pursued by their grandparents, Grandfather Smed (comedian Bill Bailey) and Grandmother Smoo (Adjoa Andoh from Bridgerton), the two young aliens (Ashna Rabheru from Sex Education and Daniel Ezra from All American) lead their families on a chase across space, giving them the opportunity to find out they have more in common than they think.
South African Julia Smuts Louw, who co-wrote Aau’s Song for Star Wars: Visions Volume II, adapted the story from writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s bestselling children’s book of the same name. The book was partly inspired by Brexit, and the film is dedicated to all the children of Europe.
“The message of The Smeds and the Smoos is as timely today as it has always been: life is too precious to spend it fighting over our differences.” says Smuts Louw. “Kids’ movies (and books) are such an indispensable vehicle for cementing these crucial messages in the formative years. I’m so grateful to Magic Light for the chance and particularly to Julia Donaldson for trusting me with her words.”
The animation is produced by Magic Light Pictures, and co-directed by South Africans Daniel Snaddon and Samantha Cutler. Zog, which won the International Emmy in 2020, was also directed by Snaddon.
With the animation in production in 2021 during lockdown, Snaddon, Cutler and the animation team collaborated daily via Zoom between South Africa, where they were leading the project, and the UK, where most of the crew were based at Blue Zoo. This was a switch up from the days of earlier adaptations like The Highway Rat, when Snaddon, Cutler and the team at Triggerfish were the crew in South Africa and the project leads were UK-based for Magic Light Pictures.
Snaddon says: “With the pandemic, a lot of South African artists have had the opportunity to work for overseas studios for the first time because people can work remotely. So, a couple of our old comrades from Triggerfish made the move over to the UK for this project and other projects. It was so comforting to have these long relationships that we could trust.”
Smuts Louw says: “It’s been incredible just to be part of this rising wave of animation in South Africa. These opportunities really didn’t even exist a decade ago. I certainly never dreamed that something I worked on might be up for an International Emmy, let alone win.”
So far this year The Smeds and the Smoos has already won the Audience Award at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, the Rockie for Children’s Animation at BANFF, the NHK Japan Prize for Best Preschool Media, and been nominated for Best Storytelling (Writing) at the Shanghai International TV Festival.
At next week’s Rose d’Or Awards in London, on 27 November, The Smeds and the Smoos is also up for the Children and Youth Prize – competing against the pan-African anthology Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire.
Watch all 10 of Magic Light Pictures’ Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations on Showmax: The Smeds and the Smoos, The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Room on the Broom, Stick Man, The Highway Rat, Zog, The Snail and the Whale, Zog and the Flying Doctors, and Superworm.