Animating Africa

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In order to develop the animation industry in Africa and explore its huge potentials, stakeholders who spoke at the maiden edition of Lagos International Festival of Animation workshop recently believe collaboration is highly necessary, writes Peter Uzoho

Sometime in June 2017, players in the animation industry made their way into the conference room of the Freedom Park, Broad Street, on the Lagos Island to partake in the maiden edition of the Lagos International Festival of Animation (LIFANIMA).

Screening in the room on arrival of participants was ‘Adventurers of Turtle Taido’, a Nigerian made 2D educational animated cartoon series produced by Muyiwa Kayode, Festival Director and Chief Executive Officer of USP Brand Management.

Served with some coffee after settling down on their seats, attendees comprising local and foreign animators, film makers, special effect artists, animation consumers, advertisers and investors, got some relaxing moment as they savoured the thrilling content on the screen.
The festival was organised by USP Brand Management in partnership with some notable media organisations in Nigeria and, had the theme: ‘Collaboration AsKey to Actualising Animation Projects’.

The programme, according to the organisers, sought to bring all the players into one umbrella, to have a common front in order to help develop the animation industry. Having operated over the years with the ‘lone ranger mentality’ and realised the huge loss it had caused them collectively and individually, they decided to set up a platform like LIFANIMA where they can unite and work as a whole to develop the industry. According to them, it is better for them to collaborate among themselves, harness their different talents and reap from the huge benefits that abound in the blossoming animation industry in Africa.

In the workshop session, Kayode in his welcome address stated that the industry was just beginning to blossom in Nigeria and across Africa. “LIFANIMA will provide a platform for animators to interact with other stakeholders for optimum value creation and rapid growth of the animation industry,” he said. According to him, the quality of entries received for the maiden edition confirmed their belief that there were tremendous animation and special effects talents lying across the continent. “These talents must be fully exposed and promoted with the expected impact it will have on the creative industry as a whole,” Kayode noted.

He said the festival had come to stay, assuring that it would only get bigger and better. Kayode explained that the call for stakeholders to come together was to produce better work and keep raising the bar, pointing that “animation is the next big thing in Africa.”

He disclosed that part of the plans of the stakeholders was to create an online platform where people can go to, in times of need for animation products and relevant information on animation. According to him, many people need animation but don’t know where to go to or whom to run to for advice and support. He highlighted funding as another challenge faced by animators which he noted was needed to help animators actualise their projects.

The director explained that his spending six years trying to produce an animation series for television, for Nigerian children, was an eye opener for him, saying, that showed him the need to enhance the animation industry in Nigeria. “So I realised that we need to create a platform for animators to come together and push a common front and develop the industry-share ideas, collaborate and create a stronger platform for telling own stories,” Kayode said.

Reacting to alleged poor production contents in the Nigerian and African animation industry, Kayode likened such criticism to what happened to the Nollywood in the 90s whose products he said, were poor but had engaging content. The convener however, advised animators not to be discouraged by the negative criticism of their works by people. He said rather than being carried away by the urge to produce an animation that has perfect technicalities and aesthetics, they should focus more on the stories, which he said, were the most important.

“We should focus on getting the most compelling stories to the public; we should not be bothered about producing a perfect animation; animation can never be perfect- perfection is a process. If we continue waiting till when we’ll have a perfect animation we’re not going to get to anywhere. So the message for us at this starting point is the message- the content, and not the technical quality,” he advised.

Also speaking, Co-founder, Quadron Studio, Mr. Uche Anisiuba, who concurred with the call for collaboration among animation stakeholders, noted that collaboration was key to actualising animation in Africa. “I think collaboration is essential in taking us to the next level. It’s through collaboration that we can stand as a sustainable industry in Nigeria and Africa,” he said.
Anisiuba stressed that the problem with animation industry in the country was that everybody wanted to start in one day and make it the next day. “The issue is that everybody wants to be the next Disney,” he said. He explained that animation was not a one man thing, adding that, it needed collaboration to thrive.

Anisiuba noted that tools needed to work in animation industry were very complex and were lacking in Nigeria. He said when he started he did not have the opportunity of having people to work with as everyone was going their own separate ways. Pointing out the opportunities hanging around for them in Africa, Anisiuba said the world is coming to Africa to get stories. “The West and Europe are taking African cultures back home to add to their own. So really, animation is the next big thing in Africa,” he added.

Contributing, Animator and Filmmaker, Mr. Collins Egba, stated that apart from lack of fund and resources, another challenge facing the industry was compromisation of the production content by animators. “Apart from lack of fund and resources, we animators often times compromise the quality of our production. This makes investors not to be willing to invest in our animation projects,” Egba said. He also pointed lack of existing standard for quality as another problem in the industry.

Lending his voice, Creative Director, Color Red Studio, Mr.Tochukwu Ogbogu, said the hard economic realities, the struggle to get a fair share of the market, and other factors were really challenging people in the industry. However, he noted that players in animation had a lot to achieve, calling for urgent response to the need for collaboration. “We all need to come together and brainstorm on how to move the industry forward. We’re still in the one man bandwagon thing. The way forward is to come together. The one man thing keeps limiting us. I believe in coming together and forming a team,” Ogbogu noted.

Also noted as a problem by the speakers was that everyone in the industry “wants to be the boss and no one wants to be under someone.” According to one Mr. Akinkunmi, a member of the audience, there is no specialisation among them. “Here in Nigeria, one person does a lot of work in the industry. One person is the storyteller, the animator, the producer, and so many things,” he said.

On his part, another member of the audience and consumer of animation products, Mr. Adeniyi Kunnu, advised that as a way forward for the industry, the stakeholders should try and have a registered association of animators in Nigeria that would be regulating the activities of members of the profession. This, he said, would checkmate unethical behaviours among them, and also, protect their creative works from unauthorised use.
The festival terminated at the cocktail and award night where outstanding animators were honoured with special prizes having emerged winners in each of the four categories of the awards at the festival.

In the best 2D animation category, O. J. Okosun’s animation series, ‘Sango and Friends’ emerged winner. Ekene Okoye’s ‘MolueThe Revolt’, won the best 3D Animation. In the animation commercial category, Olumide Adeosun’s ‘Mainfest’ carried the day, while in the special effects category, Ekene Okoye’s ‘The Revolt’, also emerged the winner.
Animation involves bringing artwork and characters to life with such precision that they truly seem real. Animation is part acting, part storytelling, and part visual art – it’s a mix of both electronic arts and traditional animation skills.