It was back in 2017 when Tolu Olowofoyeku, Hamid Ibrahim, and Fikayo Adeola, friends from Nigeria and Uganda, established Kugali as pan-African creative company. The comic book collection they came up with was born out of a desire to tell modern African stories—now it’s set to reach a much wider global audience than they could have hoped with a comic book.
Now Disney has announced Kugali’s science fiction series Iwájú will debut globally in 2022 on Disney+ fast-growing streaming service.
Iwájú, a name that loosely translates to “the future” in Yoruba, a language spoken in West Africa, is set in Lagos and will explore a number of thematic concerns from class and innocence to challenging the status quo. The creators see it as an opportunity for Disney to tell a modern and authentic African story to the world using the entertainment behemoth’s animation and distribution prowess.
“Their talents blew us away. I’m proud to announce the first of its kind collaboration to bring original long for series to Disney+,” Disney Animation studios’ chief creative officer, Jennifer Lee, said of Kugali while speaking at Disney’s investor day this week.
Disney used the investor day to unveil several major announcements extensions to its storied franchises including Star Wars and for its Marvel characters. The world’s largest entertainment company has been under pressure to expand and boost its range of content as it doubles down with its Disney + platform to compete in the so-called streaming wars with Netflix and more recently HBO in the US and globally.
Disney+ has grown rapidly since debuting in November 2019 and now has 86 million subscribers globally, compared with Netflix’s near 200 million subscribers as of the third quarter, built over 13 years. Disney projects it will have 230 million to 260 million subscribers by the end of its fiscal year 2024 which is a huge jump from its initial projections in 2019 of 60 million to 90 million subscribers.
While Disney has had huge success with Africa-influenced tentpoles including Marvel’s Black Panther and Lion King it has no established track record of working with African creatives but it has started to move in that direction. In September, Disney Studios collaborated with Nigeria’s cinema chain FilmOne Entertainment to distribute Disney-owned films in English-speaking West Africa.
Netflix, which is much further along in working with African creatives in Nigeria’s Nollywood and South Africa’s TV and film industry, has become increasingly influential on the continent as it rolls out original shows produced by local talent, producers and executives including Queen Sono and Blood and Water and movies including Lionheart.
Africa’s animation film sector is growing rapidly with young talented animators and local collaborators create new, mostly short, features. This month saw the unveiling of Nigeria’s first animated full-lenght feature film titled Lady Buckit and the Motley Mopsters.
Last year, Netflix revealed it had partnered with Cape Town-based animation studios Triggerfish for a new series called Mama K’s Team 4, the story of an all girl-team of African spies, who also happen to be four normal Zambian teens by day.
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