With the successes of blockbusters like the Black Panther franchise and The Woman King, Hollywood has taken notice of how marketable African inspired tales are.
There is the prospective possibility that the visual representation of African stories could be Hollywood’s next cash cow.
Needless to say, should this trend continue, it is not far-fetched to assume that a story-telling revolution is imminent in the global entertainment space.
Similar to how we saw Hollywood evolve from Westerns to non-linear storytelling, to CGI heavy films to the current superhero era, change in the entertainment industry is the only thing that keeps it afloat. As a result, the world is becoming very attentive to African entertainment.
This is probably the reason why Disney, a behemoth movie production company, is looking to produce an African inspired TV series called Iwaju.
Below are 10 things to know about the upcoming Disney series Iwaju.
Central Plot: According to the creators of the story, Iwaju is a coming of age story about a young heiress named Tola and a poor boy named Kole who happens to be a self-taught tech expert. Both characters are best friends, and together they are set to face dangerous threats despite their different social standings.
Concept: Based on the concept art alone, you get the sense of this series setting, which is futuristic or in this case, afrofuturism. As a matter of fact Iwaju in Yoruba means the future, so you can expect to see a sci-fi spectacle with this long format animated series. However, this series would be set in a real community of Lagos Nigeria, and not a fictional place like Wakanda.
Production: The production of Iwaju is not falling solely on Disney animation studios as the production company announced its partnership with Kugali, a pan African entertainment company. Kugali is basically a comic book studio, the first one Disney will be working with outside of Marvel studios. Kugali would also primarily handle the animation and direction of the series, while Disney will provide its resources for development, animation expertise, and marketing.
Release date: Although it was originally announced that the show would premier on Disney+ in 2022, the studio has since then shifted the premier date to 2023, but the exact date itself is still undisclosed.
Creators: Although Iwaju is an all encompassing African story owing to the back-story of 2 of the 3 original creators, both of whom grew up in Lagos. Tolu Olowofoyeku, Ziki Nelson & Hamid Ibrahim made the revelation in the D23 2022 Expo. Ziki is the writer and director, Hamid is the visual specialist, and Tolu is the consultant, making sure the story authentically represents Lagos culture.
Originality: Both Disney and Kugali created Iwaju with no affiliation to any of its past works. Like Tolu Olowofoyeku said, Iwaju was created specifically for Disney+. Disney itself also acknowledged that Iwaju will be the first series from the studios to be a wholly original property, rather than a continuation of a preexisting film.
Socio-political tropes: According to the creators of the show, Iwaju will focus on social constructs of the typical African society. They admitted that they drew inspiration from the detachment of Lagos’s wealthy islanders vs the largely impoverished Lagos mainlanders. Also as mentioned earlier the story follows the adventure of an heiress and a street boy, so this series is sure to highlight the realities of inequality in the African community.
Competitors to partners: Disney came across Iwaju when the CEO of Disney animation studios Jennifer Lee read a BBC story, reporting that Kugali aimed to pose a challenge to Disney. She reached out to Kugali and was blown away by the Iwaju story; the rest, as they say, is history.
Animation quality: Asides from the fact that Disney Studios is backing this project, some renowned experts are also on board for the project, Marlon West, is the visual effects supervisor for this series. He has worked on projects like, the Lion King, Frozen, Tarzan, Mulan, Emperor’s New Groove and many more. So you can be assured of high level animation.
From podcast: Kugali initially started as a media company, creating podcasts on comic related stories. During that time they discovered the huge gap in Africa’s animation industry and decided to fix it. Shortly after they built an animation team, which originally intended for Iwaju to be a series of shorts. But after securing a deal with Disney, Disney suggested that Iwaju be produced as a long format series.