The process of making the film began in November 2019 with Adedayo and his teammade up entirely of graduates from a training school for animators he has run since 2014given a target of turning the film around within a year. But those initial plans were partially derailed by the Covid-19 outbreak and the resulting lockdowns in Lagos. “That took out of our production time and was one of the biggest challenges we had,” Adedayo tells Quartz Africa.

To meet up with the agreed schedule which was, in itself, a tall order, Adedayo managed a hectic process through several workarounds.

With character sketches already existing from Amidu’s first trial to make the film, Adedayo’s team started off by creating concept art and more character designs before working with Ihidero to rework the film’s script to make it more fitting for animation.

“Once that was done, we began with the story boards for the entire movie and that took about four months. But while that was ongoing, character creation in 3D was also going on and the film environment was also being created at the same time,” he says. “We had about six processes going on at the same time. We were working on several parallel processes that were all interconnected and running at the same timethat’s how we were able to pull this through.”

Ultimately, it took a team of 29 animators to manage these processes over the eight months it took to finish the animation. “Editing was also happening in parallelbefore the final frame was being rendered, the rest of the film had already been edited,” Adedayo tells Quartz.

Working concurrently across several processes that typically happen consecutively meant keeping 18 high-performance computers on around the clock. But making the movie in Lagos meant the crew also faced unique, local challenges, especially Nigeria’s infamous power cuts. The solution was to keep the studio running on four large, 8 kilovolt-amps diesel-powered generators for nearly a year through the process of designing, animating, editing and rendering. “You just can’t rely on grid power when you’re working on a task like this,” Adedayo says.

Big picture

Like most animated film projects, Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters faced the albatross of a lack of funding which is particularly acute for creatives in Nigeria. Having failed to secure backing from financial institutions “who couldn’t understand what we were trying to do,” Amidu, a veteran of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, chose to self-fund the production which, she says, eventually came to a cost of just under $1 million.

The hope however is that the film serves as a springboard for other players in the niche by showing the scale of local capabilities.

“It’s important to note just how huge of an accomplishment this is,” says Roye Okupe, founder of YouNeek Studios which is working on plans for its own full-length animated movie as well. “My hope is that this sheds light on, and brings much-needed attention to, the amazing amount of talented artists that exist in not just the Nigerian creative industry but the African creative industry as a whole.”

But any chance of long-term progress inevitably revolves around the subject of funding. “We need more investors in this space,” Okupe says. It’s a subject he’s familiar with having bootstrapped a bulk of production costs for the release of the pilot for Malika: Warrior Queen last year.

“Often time, the difference between a local production and international standards is funding,” Ihidero says. “But there are people who can do amazing things here if properly funded and given the time required. I’m hoping this film makes people aware of the endless possibilities of creative people in Nigeria.”

The knock-on effect of more funding for the space will also be more opportunities for creators like Adedayo and the next generation of animators. So far, there’s already one sign of the film’s impact on the creative industry: six new students signed up for Adedayo’s training school for animators soon after the film’s trailer was released.

Image for article titled How Nigeria’s first feature length animated movie was made
Image: ID Africa

For her part, after finally getting her film done, Amidu and her new production studio are not slowing down. A story idea for a sequel is already in the works as are plans for animated drama projects. While the film will be screened across Nigeria, cinematic releases are also planned in parts of North America and the UKboth home to large swathes of Nigeria’s vast diaspora.

Amidu and her team will likely be banking on the increased focus on quality, which has seen recent Nollywood movies score big at local cinemas, to count in their favor. But there’s a lingering question about what appears to be the high-risk venture of a cinematic release amid a global pandemic which may yet see potential cinema goers avoiding public spaces.

Despite those fears however, Amidu insists postponing the film’s release was not in question. “After all hard work, there was no way we were going to push this back,” says Amidu. “We’ve already gotten this far.”

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