South Africa: Children's writer makes breakthrough onto television


A South African childrens writer has made a television breakthrough with his Toby the Tugboat children’s books. Leo Donaldson, 44, a father of two, has signed a contract with Johannesburg TV production house Ukhamba Communications Company to produce 260 episodes based on his stories for either M-Net or the SABC.

He said the daily, five- minute animation shows would target children up to five years old. Donaldson, a writer, 3D animator, graphic designer and songwriter, said his ideas were motivated and inspired by the love of and the bond he had with children. “I approached the SABC this year to find out how my books could be made into animation TV shows.

“After my visit to their studios, I received a call from this production company and they told me they wanted to sign up my work.” Donaldson said the company would produce the series and then outsource the production to any broadcasting company.

“I’ve been working very hard to get TV production of my work and this contract came at the right time – just as I was thinking about giving up on writing Toby stories.” Donaldson intends to write more children’s books and he also wants to have all of his books translated into South Africa’s 11 official languages.

He said each title in the Toby, the Big Little Tugboat series featured a little tugboat and its daily activities in a small harbour. In his first book, Toby’s Big Surprise, Toby learns that it is not what not you have that makes people like you, but who you are.

In the second story, Toby to the rescue, Toby learns that you can do anything if you learn how to work as a team. The third story is called Toby makes a new friend and the fourth is Toby learns a lesson.

Donaldson said each page of text in his books was accompanied by an illustration in bright, primary colours that would appeal to young children. “My family is very excited about the TV production contract and they have been supportive of my work.

“I’m looking to get the books in overseas bookshops and I’m also setting up the merchandising of products related to the books, such as duvet covers, curtains, toys and pillow cases.” Donaldson said he was also making a series of 3D animated movies related to the books and intended to sell them in DVD format.

Ukhamba Communications creative director Guy Sclanders said the company had agreed to go into partnership with Donaldson in developing his four books. “His work has an international appeal and we are going to take what he has done in the books and translate it into TV shows. He is going to work with us in terms of developing the stories. “