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Tiggerfish, Ng’endo Mukii, Africa’s busy animation ecosystem all recognised in Annie award

South African animation house Triggerfish and Kenyan writer Ng’endo Mukii were big winners in the TV/Media category at this year's Annie Award. But the recognition, for their episode of the animated Disney series, Kizazi Moto, echoes far beyond this one production.

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By Bonface ORUCHO

When ‘Enkai’, the tenth episode in the 2023 animation series ‘Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire’ emerged as the Best Limited Series Episode in the TV/Media category at the 51st edition of the Annie Award on February 17, the honour marked another milestone for African animation.

The episode, written by Ng’endo Mukii, a Kenyan filmmaker, is one of the six episodes from the Disney animation series that were nominated in various categories at the Annie’s Award.

Produced by South African animation studio, Triggerfish, the short film combines advanced technology, aliens, spirits and monsters, while paying tribute to African culture.

The film chronicles the journey of young Enkai and her ailing mother, Shiro, described as a “cosmic deity”, on a mission to rescue their gourd-shaped home planet from imminent destruction.

A renewed focus by international streamers such as Netflix and Disney, who are seeking to tap into the wealth of African-inspired tales, is giving fresh impetus to African animators.

In a 2023 interview on Television Business International, Orion Ross, Disney’s Vice President, described ‘Kizazi Moto’ as a “scratch on the surface”, suggesting that there is a lot more to follow.

“We really just scratched the surface of it, including some big gaps; there’s a lot of Francophone West Africa, which is not really represented in the anthology,” Ross explained.

Netflix released its first original African animated series last year. Supa Team 4 is set in a futuristic Lusaka. The series has been a huge success since it was released in July 2023 and has recently been nominated for the British Animation Awards 2024, to be held in London in March.

Recognizing the vast opportunities that animation storytelling holds, homegrown companies are also keen to seize opportunities. Multichoice began streaming its first original 2D animated series on its streaming platform Showmax, in December 2023. According to Showmax, the animation series Twende is “the first 2D animated show of this scale and quality made almost entirely in Africa.”

Collaborations between companies are also opening up opportunities for the sector. This week, production studio, Kugali Media, unveiled a trailer for an upcoming Disney-commissioned film, ‘Iwaju’, an original animated series set in futuristic Lagos.

According to Kugali Media, the story tracks Tola, a young girl from a wealthy island and her friend, Kole, a boy from a relatively poor background, as they discover secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds.

According to a January joint press release, all episodes of the ‘Iwaju’ series will be available on February 28 on Disney+, promising a captivating experience for animation enthusiasts.

Disney Kugali also partnered with ABC News Studios to produce a documentary based on the development of the cartoon series.

‘Iwaju: Rising Chef’, a mobile game app adaptation of the ‘Iwaju’ series, is also in the pipeline. Disney is partnering with Maliyo Games, a Nigerian animation studio, to develop the mobile game app, which will be the first Disney collaboration for game development in Africa.

Johnson Mbuotidem, the founder and creative director of Basement Animation Studio, a Lagos-based animation studio, explains that with the ongoing fast pace of growth, the animation industry in Africa will lead to an increased demand for African content in the global market.

“By actively seeking collaborations with fellow content creators and sector players such as production companies, and distributors, we can enhance the overall quality of content and drive the industry forward,” he explained.

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