Currently streaming on Showmax, The Smeds and the Smoos is produced by Magic Light Pictures and co-directed by South Africans Daniel Snaddon and Samantha Cutler. Dan was also a director on Zog, which won the International Emmy in 2020.
Dan and Sam weren’t in New York last night as they were in Japan instead, accepting the NHK Japan Prize for Best Preschool Media for the acclaimed 27-minute animation.
“I was hiking up a mountain in Japan when Dan phoned me with the news,” says Sam. “I was so overwhelmed and overjoyed, I just started crying. It’s truly wonderful to have all the hard work recognised. I’m beyond proud of Dan and our fantastic team. We all need to go celebrate this stunning achievement.”
South African Julia Smuts Louw, who co-wrote Aau’s Song for Star Wars: Visions Volume II, adapts from writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s bestselling children’s book of the same name.
Narrated by Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), The Smeds and the Smoos tells 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.
Dedicated to all the children of Europe, the book was partly inspired by Brexit.
“It’s a massive honour for The Smeds and The Smoos to be recognised with an iEmmy,” says Julia. “The message of The Smeds and the Smoos is as timely today as it has always been: life too precious to spend it fighting over our differences. 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.”
With The Smeds and the Smoos in production in 2021 during lockdown, Dan, Sam and the animation team collaborated daily via Zoom between South Africa, where they were leading the project, and the UK, where the majority of the crew were based at Blue Zoo – a switch up from the days of earlier adaptations like The Highway Rat, when Dan, Sam and the team at Triggerfish were the crew in South Africa and the project leads were UK-based for Magic Light Pictures.
“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,” says Dan. “So a couple of our old comrades from Triggerfish made the move over to the UK for this project and other projects. Annike Pienaar was our animation supervisor, James Mann was our shot supervisor, Tamara Polonyfi was our head of surfacing, and Shannan Taylor came on as our art director at the end. It was so comforting to have these long relationships that we could trust.”
So far this year The Smeds and the Smoos has already won the Audience Award at the New York International Children’s Film Festival and the Rockie for Children’s Animation at BANFF, 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 2023, The Smeds and the Smoos is also up for the Children and Youth Prize – competing against the pan-African anthology Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire.
“It’s been incredible just to be part of this rising wave of animation in South Africa,” says Julia. “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.”
Watch The Smeds and the Smoos trailer:
Watch all 10 of Magic Light Pictures’ Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations on Showmax: