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African Animators On The Rise With Disney+, Netflix, Cartoon Network

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

Until now, children in Africa didn’t really see themselves represented in the shows they watched, as the vast majority of television content was produced in North America, Europe and Asia.

It’s also a problem for licensees on the continent, as Africa has long lacked home-grown heroes in children’s shows, with virtually all licensed products linked to programs produced outside the continent, and that don’t particularly reflect African experience and culture.

But that’s changing, as the Cartoon Network, Netflix and Disney+ have given the green light for series produced by African animators and studios.

Most recently, as Kidscreen revealed in a recent exclusive, Cartoon Network Africa will be airing  Garbage Boy and Trash Can, the first ever domestically produced animated series to appear on their network.

The show was created by Nigerian animator Ridwan Moshood, and tells the story of a boy with imaginary superpowers who fights for justice with his trusty sidekick Trash Can. Moshood says he was inspired to create the series by his experience being bullied in school as a child. The show is set to premiere in 2022.

The show is a big step for the African animation industry, as Moshood has formed a studio in South Africa called Pure Garbage, which he co-founded with Mike de Seve (head of New York-based Baboon Animation) and Nick Wilson (founder of the African Animation Network in Johannesburg). Pure Garbage is intended to provide training and job opportunities for young, emerging animators and story tellers in Africa.

The team is getting a boost from John Fountain, director of the long-running American hit The Fairly OddParents, who is serving as the supervising director on Garbage Boy and Trash Can, with Moshood co-directing and de Seve executive producing for Pure Garbage.

“I’ve seen a lot of talented African creators with amazing projects that should be on TV right now,” says Moshood. “Our production and company will be a big boost for the industry.”

Moshood is a good example of why Africa needs studios to help the industry find its feet, and partners like Cartoon Network which will air their programs. Moshood reveals he taught himself animation because there were few if any affordable programs in his home country of Nigeria where he could learn the craft.

“I learned by watching Cartoon Network classics on TV and doing tutorials on YouTube,” says Moshood. “I didn’t even have a laptop to practice with; I had to use cyber-cafés in Lagos.”

Moshood is also among a new wave of African talent that is gaining notice for quality shows, and streamers like Disney+ and Netflix are taking notice.

Earlier this year, in February, Disney+, Disney Junior and France Télévisions picked up a new, CGI preschool series co-produced by South Africa’s Triggerfish Animation in a partnership with Hasbro’s eOne. The show Kiya is about a group of African girls whose magical headbands turn them into superheroes.

Kiya is expected to air in 2023 on Disney Junior and Disney+ globally, as well as on France Télévisions. Plans are also in place to create YouTube content, music, apps, audio, toys and other consumer products based on the IP.

A scene from Triggerfish Animations’ Mama K’s Team 4, in collaboration with Netflix.

Netflix, the world’s largest and most successful streaming service, is also supporting content from Africa. In 2019 Netflix agreed to collaborate with Trigger fish and the UK distributor CAKE on the animated action-comedy series Mama K’s Team 4.

The show is about a group of teenaged girls in Zambia who are recruited by a former secret agent (Mama K) to help save the world. It’s created by Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema and designed by Cameroonian artist Malcolm Wope, who took inspiration from ’90s R&B and hip hop girl groups. Aware of the need for both cultural and female representation in the industry, Netflix and CAKE even launched a continent-wide search to hire black female writers for the show.

While it’s been a long time coming, African animators and studios have now established the infrastructure and the relationships they need to build a home-grown industry, also opening the door to Africa-centric merchandise and collaborations.

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