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These African animators dared to give Disney a run for their money, now Disney has announced landmark collaboration with them

Ugandan animator, Hamid Ibrahim told the BBC a while back that his team’s work is “going to kick Disney’s ass”. Two years on and Disney – instead of battling Ibrahim and his colleagues – has announced a collaboration.

Three friends from Nigeria and Uganda created Kugali Media in 2017 to tell stories out of the continent. Through the entertainment company, the friends, Tolu Olowofoyeku, Hamid Ibrahim, and Fikayo Adeola, created a comic book collection called “Iwaju”, set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria’s capital city.

Now, “Iwaju” , which roughly translates to “the future” in the Yoruba language has been picked up as a new TV series by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

It is the first time that it will work with African storytellers to create an animated series set on the continent.

Iwájú will be a long-form series “steeped in science fiction” based in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria, Disney says.

Disney announced yesterday that the animated series will premiere on its Disney+ streaming platform in 2022, calling it a “first-of-its-kind collaboration.”
While more specific details about the show are not yet available, Disney Animation Studios’ Chief Creative Officer, Jennifer Lee, said it will explore themes of “class, innocence and challenging the status quo.”

Disney announced on Friday that the animated series will premiere on its Disney+ streaming platform in 2022, calling it a “first-of-its-kind collaboration.”

Speaking about Kugali, Lee added “their talents as storytellers blew us away.”
This is not the first time Disney has partnered with African entertainment companies. In September, the studio teamed up with Nigeria’s FilmOne entertainment to distribute Disney-owned films in English-speaking West Africa.

Kugali Media works in the Afrofuturism genre, referencing African history and tradition, which in part tries to address the absence of Africans within mainstream science fiction. “The idea was that in science fiction there were hardly any black people – it was as though they were passing on the message that there are no black people in the future,” Nelson told the BBC in 2019.

Now, with the Disney collaboration, he says that “Iwájú [which means “the future” in the Yoruba language] represents a personal childhood dream of mine to tell my story and that of my people”. Though at this stage the creators are not giving anything away about the plot, Disney says the series will explore “deep themes of class, innocence and challenging the status quo”.

There a lot of animation features coming from the continent including Nigeria’s first feature length animated movie by Blessing Amidu. ‘Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters’ is an animated film about a curious little girl that accidentally gets transported through time.

When released this December, Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters will be Nigeria’s first feature length animated film and will mark a major milestone for a blossoming comic and animation scene which has increasingly seemed primed for the mainstream.

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