SEAL TEAM, which launched on New Year’s Eve 2021 and immediately rocketed into the top 10 on Netflix, is the story of Quinn, a seal who spends his days relaxing in the sun, splashing in the beautiful waters off the coast of Cape Town, and swimming for his life from Great White Sharks. When he decides it’s time for the food chain to bite back, Quinn recruits a ragtag team of likeminded seals brave, stupid and crazy enough to try and teach those sharks a lesson.
Decider says, “Seal Team has laughs-a-plenty and a sense of good natured camaraderie in its heart,” not to mention “inspired voice casting” and “the kind of sight gags that look beyond cartoon kids’ fare.” Common Sense Media recommends Seal Team for ages six and up, saying, “Though it doesn’t have the big-name studios behind it, this movie holds its own in the animation and voice acting categories… You can’t help but root for the seals.”
The all-star cast is far from wet behind the ears. Jessie T Usher (A-Train in The Boys) stars as Quinn, opposite the likes of Oscar winner JK Simmons (Omni-Man in Invincible), Emmy winner Matthew Rhys (Philip in The Americans), Emmy nominee Kristen Schaal (Mabel in Gravity Falls, The Guide in What We Do In The Shadows) and four-time Annie Awards nominee Patrick Warburton (Joe Swanson in Family Guy), as well as South African stars Sharlto Copley (Wikus van der Merwe in District 9) and John Kani (Rafiki in The Lion King).
Grammy Award winner Seal plays a singing seal called Seal Seal and action legend Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables) portrays a dolphin called Dolph – two castings which tell you everything you need to know about both the film’s humour and how swimmingly everything fell into place for the production.
Seal Team is the feature film debut of South African writer-director Greig Cameron, working from a story by Wayne Thornley (Adventures in Zambezia) and Brian and Jason Cleveland. “Believe it or not, our underwater military animal team is based on a real unit that trains seals and dolphins to disarm mines,” says Greig. “Admittedly, the real-life version probably isn’t armed with exploding sardines and octo-suits made out of octopi that can change colour…”
Of course, seals are the unlikeliest of action heroes, especially when on land. “They’re these weird, flubby, amorphous slabs of butter on land,” says Greig. “We went on a research trip diving with them. As we left the harbour in the boat, I was looking at these derpy seals just lying there on the jetty, and I was wondering, ‘Goodness gracious, how are we going to make an action movie with these guys?’ But then as soon as we got in the water, I was like, ‘Yes, this is going to work amazingly.’ When they get in the water, it’s not just that they’re faster: their whole bodies re-form into these darting bullets. They’re pretty much the physical manifestation of ‘squash-and-stretch’ animation.”
Greig leaned into the ridiculousness of the seals vs sharks premise. “Cape fur seals forming a military SEAL team to fight sharks is something so silly and ridiculous, it makes me grin,” says Greig. “It makes everyone grin.” But co-director Kane Croudace says for all its silliness, behind the madcap gags and rapid-fire punchlines, Seal Team is also an inspiring underdog story that everyone at Triggerfish related to.
“It’s about a hero who is brave, stupid and crazy enough to want to do the dangerously impossible,” says Kane. “That’s a theme that resonates throughout my working career. Right at the beginning of my time with Triggerfish, we wanted to make a feature film at the bottom of Africa with a totally inexperienced crew, which everyone said was impossible. We went and did it anyway. If anyone working at a ’proper’ studio had seen our workflows on Adventures In Zambezia, they would have given us 150/1 odds against us ever finishing it. But shielded by our stupidity and bravado, we managed to do it and we’ve got better with each subsequent project. So I think Quinn’s attitude to the task ahead is mirrored in our tenacity in getting these films made.”
Cape Town-based Triggerfish’s first two films, Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba, sold nine million cinema tickets globally, placing them in the five biggest box office hits from Africa ever. Triggerfish then went on to animate the Oscar-nominated Roald Dahl adaptation Revolting Rhymes as well as four much-loved Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler adaptations, including the 2021 Annie Award winner The Snail and the Whale and the 2020 International Emmy-winning Zog, all produced by Magic Light Pictures. The 25-year-old studio is currently producing three Africa-focused TV series: Mama K’s Team 4 for Netflix; Kiya for eOne, Disney Junior and Disney+; and the anthology Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, for Disney+.
The 2021 Annecy International Animation Festival awarded Triggerfish the Mifa Animation Industry Award for “the pioneering role that the company has played in animation in South Africa, and Africa most widely,” according to Véronique Encrenaz, head of Mifa.
Watch the trailer here.