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Disney, Netflix take notice of the talent driving an African animation dawn


GLOBAL demand for content is fuelling a surge in animation production across Africa as creatives tap into a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

In 2018, according to Statista estimates, the global animation market was worth 259 billion US dollars and was projected to top 270 billion by 2020.

For years, African animation has been limited to advertising, with only a few success stories – like “Bino and Fino”, from Nigerian animator Adamu Waziri – finding their way onto TV screens and inflight entertainment. That is now changing fast as a growing interest in Black and African cultural representation in the arts and entertainment drives a wave of animated storytelling.

Streaming services like Netflix and Showmax are providing film producers with Africa-wide or even international audiences, where traditional distribution networks can prove more difficult to crack.

“All the disruption in the traditional broadcast television model has worked to Africa’s advantage,” Nick Wilson, founder and head of projects and content for the Africa Animation Network told Forbes last year.

“We have the world’s youngest population, a combined continental population of 1.2 billion on par with India, and a middle class of 300 million and growing.”

Attesting to the cross-continental nature of the animation industry’s growth, Nigerian animation, Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters debuted last December to a global audience and made history as Nigeria’s first feature-length 3D animated film.

It was a bold statement from Nollywood, Africa’s biggest movie industry (and world’s second-biggest, after Bollywood) –– that animated films can be good business.

In South Africa, a far older industry has been going through something of a renaissance, with 2020 also delivering big scores, like the Emmy for Best Kids Animation – picked up by the production, Zog.

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Zog was animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish and produced by Magic Light Pictures. Previously, Triggerfish’s Revolting Rhymes, had been nominated for an Oscar and won both BAFTA and Emmys.

The studio also produced two feature films –– Adventures in Zambezia (2012), starring Hollywood stars including Jeremy Suarez, Abigail Breslin and Samuel L. Jackson, and the 2013 release, Khumba, starring Jake T. Austin, AnnaSophia Robb, Steve Buscemi and Liam Neeson.

Those films have since been distributed in more than 150 countries and grossed over 64 million US dollars.

Disney, the world’s animation movie behemoth, has taken notice.

In July this year, Disney+ partnered with animation creators from across Africa to put together a 10-part anthology of original films from six African countries, called Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, to premiere globally in 2022. The name is coined from the Swahili phrase “kizazi cha moto,” meaning “fire generation.”

Ahmed Teilab (Egypt), Simangaliso Sibaya, Malcolm Wope, Terence Maluleke and Isaac Mogajane (South Africa), Ng’endo Mukii (Kenya) and Shofela Coker (Nigeria) will work on the project.

Others are Lesego Vorster, Nthato Mokgata and Terence Neale, Tshepo Moche (South Africa), Pious Nyenyewa and Tafadzwa Hove (Zimbabwe) and Raymond Malinga (Uganda).

They are being mentored by Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) and the creative teams at Triggerfish and Disney.

Further investment and emerging talent is expected to super-charge the industry and earn African creatives a seat at the world’s animation high table.

Here are some of Africa’s Top Animation Houses:
Triggerfish Animation Studios –– Triggerfish Animation Studios is a South African animation company. The animation studio is one of Africa’s top animators with many animated movies to their name. Some of their popular shows include ‘Seal Team’, ‘The Highway Rat’, and ‘Stick Man’ among many others. One of the latest animation films by Triggerfish ‘Adventures in Zambezia’ was sponsored by Netflix.

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The African Animation Network (AAN) –– The African Animation Network is definitely an African animation powerhouse. The team is made up of talented and skilled personnel from across the continent who collaborate to produce local quality content. One of the animation shows produced by AAN is ‘Take that bullies!” – garbage boy & trash can’.

Ubongo –– Ubongo is Africa’s leading edutainment company that uses animation to make learning fun for school-going children. The company also composes of talent from across the continent. Popular shows by Ubongo are ‘Akili and Me’ and ‘Ubongo Kids’.

Samaka Studio ––Samaka Studio is a popular animation house in Egypt. The company targets the young Egyptian audience with the intent of educating them about Egyptian culture.

Lucan –– Lucan is another South African based animation house that majors in 2D and 3D animation.

Kukua Studios –– Kukua Studios is a fast-rising Kenyan animation company. The studio is currently famed for its superhero series called ‘Super Sema’ starring Grammy award winner Lupita Nyong’o as one of the voice artists.

Orange VFX Studios –– Orange VFX is a Nigeria-based animation company. The company majors in 3D animation for services such as character design and product visualization. Orange VFX is known in Nigeria for its animated comedy series dubbed ‘Wale and Ovie’.

Other individual animators in Africa include:

Ridwan Moshood –– Ridwan Moshood is the brain and talent behind ‘Garbage boy and Trash can’. The animated series, which aired on Cartoon Network captures a young, self-proclaimed superhero with a trashcan as his sidekick.

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Mike Muthiga –– Mike Muthiga is a Kenyan animator who came to the limelight for his famous Faiba animation TV adverts. Mike, the founder and CEO of Fatboy animations, focuses on animated TV adverts with his company being the most sought-after animation studio by digital advertisers in Kenya.

Malenga Mulendema –– In a male-dominated industry, Malenga Mulendema from Zambia made a name for herself in the animation field through the famous ‘Mama K’s Super 4’. Her animation was the first African animated show acquired by Netflix.

Comfort Arthur –– Although London-born, Comfort never lost touch with her Ghanaian roots. Comfort is an award-winning animator and graphics designer. Her famous work is ‘Black Barbie’, an animated film showcasing a young girl’s journey in understanding her black skin.

Kwame Nyong’o –– Kwame is a Kenyan animator and illustrator with projects such as Disney’s ‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ attributed to his name. Kwame also advocates for the promotion of African animation content by freelancing for clients in Kenya and the rest of the world.

Raymond Malinga –– He earned himself fame with his short film, A Kalabanda Ate My Homework. The film was later selected in the Festival De Cannes Short Film Corner 2018 as well as winning multiple awards around the world.

In October, Cape Town plays host to the Cape Town International Animation Festival (CTIAF), with top animation talent and executives from Hollywood and around the world in attendance. The world is suddenly an African animator’s oyster.

By The African Mirror