The Hollywood animation production powerhouse Disney has partnered with the rising pan-African entertainment company Kugali Media to bring the first-ever Disney animated series with an African story. The series will be Disney’s first “original long-form animated series.”
Titled Iwaju (Yoruba word for “the future), the series is adapted from the comic book of the same title by the Nigerian creators Tolu Olowofoyeku, Hamid Ibrahim, and Fikayo Adeola. Set in a futuristic Lagos, the series, which features mainly Black African characters, will explore “deep themes of class, innocence and challenging the status quo”.
This news – as exciting as it is – has an even more inspiring backstory. In a feature on Okay Africa, we learn that the Nigerian duo Tolu Olowofoyeku and Ziki Nelson shared an early common interest and love for comics and graphic novels. Fed up with African stories being told by non-Africans, they founded Kugali Media, and, in 2017, they crowdfunded on Kickstarter and published the Kugali Anthology which featured the work of top African artists from all over the continent.
The buzz surrounding their achievements netted them an interview with BBC in which Olowofoyeku was quoted to have said they were going to “kick Disney’s ass.” Apparently, word got around to the Chief Creative Officer at Disney, Jennifer Lee, who reached out to the group with a proposal to collaboratively develop an original long-form science fiction animated project. The initial plan was to produce a series of shorts but “each idea was an epic feature”, so they chose to create a series instead.
Iwaju is scheduled to debut in 2023 on the streaming platform Disney+.
Stay tuned for more details.