by Baird Media

Not for a moment did Dorette Nel think that embarking on a course in animation would be a serendipitous filling of time. Or that the course assignment would be the beginning of a collaboration that would give rise to an award-winning animated children’s film.

Director and animator Erentia Bedeker poses with Ruby, the toy elephant from Ruby and Roach

The film centres on two characters, namely a delightful, flawed, cerise elephant, called Ruby, and Roach who, as his name suggests, is that most despised of insects, a cockroach. The themes of exclusion, rejection and ultimately, belonging, are universal and resonate for children and adults alike. The story in itself is not one of a kind. What makes this eight-minute film seriously unique – and award-winning – is its animation. Most people associate animated films with cartoons. These range from film versions of much swapped comic books or “graphic novels” of the 1940s and 50s. At the other end of the spectrum are the hugely and equally commercially successful 1960s and 70s Disney shorts like Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse.  

Ruby & Roach is quite the antithesis of these.  It is literally a work of art and a labour of love.

Animator and director Erentia Bedeker’s use of the traditional, stop motion method for Ruby & Roach, reminds one a little of The Nutcracker. Like Herr Drosselmeyer, she has painstakingly created the characters – and the sets and props – from paper cut-outs and materials. She then set up and photographed each scene and movement to make the characters come to life. Just as the Nutcracker and friends do, that Christmas Eve.  

Without dialogue, limited vocalisations and a musical soundtrack, this elephant and cockroach have travelled the world via the film festival circuit. Amid much acclaim.


At home, Ruby & Roach was flighted at the Jozi and uMgungundlovu, as well as the Durban international film festivals. It won the 2020 awards for both best South African and African short film.  

Internationally, the short film was officially selected for inclusion in 36 different festivals in Europe, Asia and the Americas. It received no less than seven nominations in categories ranging from best message to fantasy, music and experimental short film. Ruby & Roach was shortlisted six times, including for best animated short in Toronto and this year, and was nominated in the same category of the virtual Hollywood Art and Movie Awards.

Producer Dorette Nel with one of the many awards won by Ruby & Roach at international film festivals

In addition to their African winnings, Ruby & Roach has clocked up some serious accolades since it was released in 2020. It was voted best children’s film at the Tbilisi International Festival this year.  

The score, too, is highly rated, and won best music video or music film in season 3 of the Blu-Hill Film Festival. The film has subsequently also had big wins at the Onyko Films Awards in May, the best animated short film and with gold for best sound design. 

Bedeker and Nel lament not being able to travel the world with Ruby & Roach, to collect the awards in person. Instead, the pink elephant and her cockroach companion continue their happy circumnavigation of the globe all on their own.

We watch for their next stop.  By that time, perhaps the team will be able to travel with them.  

In coming articles we’ll tell you more about the team behind Ruby & Roach and their two-year journey from concept to screen.