news • 7 June 2023

Simon Browne runs a workshop at Cape Town International Animation Festival

Simon Browne profile picture

Written by Simon Browne

Houdini Tutor

Most of our training takes place in London or maybe online. Recently, we sent our Houdini Tutor, Simon Browne to South Africa to run a workshop at the request of the Cape Town International Animation Festival.

We asked Simon to keep a diary and tell us about his experiences. Here are some excerpts from our intrepid explorer!

Simon Browne

I won't lie, I’m not a great traveller. Video games and box sets have kept me reasonably happy for decades and I don’t see any need to mess with that formula. That said, you can't turn down an adventure if one lands in your lap.

I leave Heathrow. Time to surrender my human rights to the travel industry. Soon it was all a whirl. I arrived in Cape Town, hurriedly dropped off my case at the hotel and went straight to the arranged dinner. There I met loads of animation people and was made to feel very welcome (and full). I limited the drinks though- I wanted to be sharp for all the events in the next few days!

I discovered that South Africa has great food, and it's very cheap to eat out. You could say its very meat-centric, but diverse. The restaurant near the Marina has a special floating platform for the Fur Seals to hang out on. It's nice to see cute animals while you eat.  It even has a sunshade area for them. I hope the tourists don't feed them lots of junk.

The people are really really friendly. The festival was a very happy place to be. Cape Town has the climate that is the most like the UK in Africa, but is six months out of sync.

As for wildlife, the Rock Hyraxes are awesome and everywhere. They look like a large, cute rats except they have teeny tiny tusks. They are basically small elephants if you can imagine that. They hang out on the beach to sun themselves so you can get reasonably close for photos, and they are not skittish at all.

It was soon time for my workshop. We called it ‘Houdini Rocks!’ as a play on the fact I’d been asked to create lots of rock destruction simulations. I was mic’ed up by a gentleman with sticky tape on my face. This made me feel showbizzy.

I also got to visit Comic Con Africa that was on at the same time. Kids dress up as their heroes, or just anything really, whatever they want.  It's a model of how society should be. Twelve-inch papier mache shoulder pads wouldn't work on the London tube though. If these sorts of places existed when I was a kid I would have gone, and I envy them. In the 70's the nearest thing to a convention would have been the big comic shops in Soho.

I wish I had been able to hang out there more. When I arrived there was a Star Trek quiz on the main stage and I wanted to join in but that would have been like stealing their dinner money - I’m an expert!

I had to go in the sea. I was the only one as the water was cold. I swam out as far as the kelp beds, but obviously the water beyond that would have been seething with sharks. Those people in canoes must have had shark repellent with them.

Swimming back, I chatted with another doughty swimmer, who turned out to be a successful British comic book artist who has worked on Marvel and DC titles as well as his own stuff. I lent him my goggles.

Before I knew it, I was being whisked back to London. I hope my work had an impact and I look forward to seeing how the South African animation industry develops.