Disney has announced a partnership with an African animation agency, Kugali. Together they presented a new science fiction series, that Iwájú will be called.
Iwájú, meaning ‘future’, is set in the Nigerian city of Lagos. It is about themes such as class inequality and the effort it takes to change that.
Jennifer Lee, the creative director of Walt Disney Studios, says of the collaboration with the creators of Kugali: “It was the dream of three talented cartoonists to show the world African stories made by Africans. Their talent for cultural diversity and having the voices of the entire continent heard in their stories is overwhelming. “
The magic of Disney
Two years ago Hamid Ibrahim from Uganda and Ziki Nelson and Tolu Olowofoyeku from Nigeria started the company Kugali. They get inspiration for their stories from ancient African traditions. They bring them back to life with augmented reality, African comic books and soon in the new series.
Kugali’s team was determined to compete with Disney, they said in an interview with the BBC. With those words they caught the attention of the American animation company. Instead of fighting each other, they now join forces. “We combine the magic and expertise of Disney with the authentic storytelling of Kugali,” says Nelson.
It is the first time that Disney is working with African creators on an animated series set on the African continent. The makers thought it was high time that the traditional science fiction genre changed. “It is striking that there are almost no black characters in it. It was as if we wanted to send the message that there will be no black people living in the future,” Nelson told the BBC in 2019.
Together with musicians and writers, the Kugali team began to work on a new film genre; Afrofuturism. It explores the interfaces between African diaspora culture and the technology of the future. “To show that there are indeed black people in the future,” says Nelson.
The series Iwájú can be seen from 2022 on the Disney + channel.