US-based Baboon Animation has partnered with the African Animation Network (AAN) on a new production unit to work with creators in Africa.
Baboon Animation Africa has launched in partnership with AAN to help foster a “socially responsible animation industry” in Africa, the two organisations said.
The move comes after the two were commissioned by WarnerMedia-owned Cartoon Network Africa to produce superhero series Garbage Boy & Trash Can (10×2’30”) with the show’s creator Ridwan Moshood earlier this year.
Mike de Seve, president of Baboon Animation, said the aim of Baboon Animation Africa is to develop talent and shows in an “equitable and responsible way that keeps creators in the driver’s seat.”
Among the six initiatives the two are set to launch in the next six months as Africa’s animation industry continues to grow are The Great Big African Animation Pitch, slated for early 2022 and focusing on under-represented creators.
Nigerian animator Moshood, creator of Garbage Boy & Trash Can, was identified by Baboon as part of a pan-African talent development partnership with AAN’s Nick Wilson and the Annecy International Animation Festival/MIFA in France.
“We are building on the success of our new WarnerMedia show, Garbage Boy & Trash Can. Real ownership by African creators is our goal and we have the relationships to do it. AAN pioneered this approach through their social impact goals and together we are expanding,” said de Seve.
“Baboon is a perfect creative partner for this enterprise,” said AAN founder and head of projects and content Wilson, who developed and produced the continent’s first half-hour adult animated comedy in 2015.
AAN, which links various animation professionals and national associations across Africa, unveiled plans for a linear channel to Content Nigeria earlier this year.
“We have relationships with the biggest comedy stars and animation talent in Africa. The word is out that we are the go-to people if you have a show. We are the first ones producing African shows in Africa for a global media company,” added Wilson.
Gbenga Ajetomobi, head of Lagos-based Highbreed Animations, talks about his latest projects and coping with the Covid-19 crisis while working remotely to ensure productions continue.
Tell us about yourself and your company.
I am a 29-year-old 3D animator from Osun state, Nigeria. I live and work in Lagos. Highbreed Animations was initially a branding business I set up back in 2015 to use as a medium to promote my content. But this year, Highbreed Animations is not only a brand name but also a company that creates 3D animated content. We focus solely on character animation and our main goal is to tell as many stories with 3D animation as we can.
With the myriad animation studios in Nigeria, what makes yours unique?
Most animation studios in Nigeria are multi-purpose, that is they focus on animation as much as they focus on other things. But my plan for Highbreed Animations is to focus mainly on character animation, and I’m very passionate about animation and content creation. So my team and I work hard on every project to make it appeal to the audience and also have an international standard.
Recently you celebrated your five-year anniversary. How has it been so far?
It hasn’t really been easy. Most of the five years of starting Highbreed Animations have been spent on gathering knowledge and experience.
Can you tell us about your recent animated web series?
It all started late last year when some of my animation work was seen by [South African singer-turned-screenwriter] Lindiwe Suttle. She already has the idea of what she wants but as a writer she needed someone to make that idea become a reality. Coincidentally, she saw my works and was wowed. We hooked up, had a conversation and that was how we started developing her web series Coconut Confidential.
Coconut Confidential is a new African-produced animated comedy web series written by Lindiwe about her American high school life set in the 1990s. It tells the story of a meek black teenager who sets out to win back her black BFF while struggling to understand the complexity of interracial friendship. We were able to create the demo for the series and right now we are working on the pilot with the hopes of sharing it soon.
Are there plans for any upcoming projects or series?
Yes, I have projects that I am venturing into. I also have my own intellectual property that is the Ojo & Ebuka series. This will be produced in the future but currently I am working with a team to bring other peoples project to life and one of the project is Coconut Confidential, which all my energy is focused on. We are also working on a children’s show that will be disclosed soon.
How have you been able to manage with the pandemic while still producing?
For the pandemic, it is a global crisis affecting everyone generally because it stopped things from happening. As artists, we work remotely most times and it’s the same with Highbreed and its associates. Although, most of our international partners and collaborators were affected by the pandemic and as a result of this, we were also affected, making some activities slow down.
Another area that we were affected also was during the Coconut Confidential production while working on the trailer, the rendering service was affected by the pandemic and this affected our delivery too. Even in Nigeria, the pandemic was a major setback for us, making it difficult for me to meet up with my team members and also unavailability of tools. This was the main reason why we all had to agree to work remotely for safety purpose.
What do you think is the way forward, post-lockdown?
In my opinion, the way forward post-pandemic is for all individuals and entities to accept the fact that things should be done remotely and not basically seeing people face-to-face before you can strike a deal with them. At Highbreed Animations, most of our clients and deals are sealed online and after the agreement, we get their animation done and deliver it to them.
The pandemic has really shaped some of our orientation on how we handle things, it also makes the work faster and easier because it saves the time of going around different locations to see clients. From the comfort of your home, deals can be sealed and signed. As artists it makes us more productive.
Nigerian animator Mbuotidem Johnson tells Content Nigeria about the challenges facing his industry and his plans for his company, Basement Animation Studios.
The animation industry in Nigeria has often been overlooked, especially by audiences who are unaware of the power of storytelling with animation.
Mbuotidem Johnson, founder of industry body Animation Nigeria and creative director of production company Basement Animation Studios, told Content Nigeria about the problems plaguing the animation business, what is being done about them and – above all – how the industry is growing.
In a bid to address the many problems that hold back the industry, Johnson created Animation Nigeria, a non-profit organisation that aims to establish the Nigerian animation industry by ensuring adequate promotion and visibility, both locally and internationally.
Johnson also discloses the plans he has for Basement Animation Studios and the projects the company has been involved in so far. These include coproducing the pilot episode of TV series L’arbre à Palimpseste, from Togo studio Nebularts and animator Ingrid Agbo, which was selected for Annecy-MIFA Pitches Animation du Monde 2018 and awarded with The Gulli Prize.
As the founder of Animation Nigeria, can you give us an overview of your plans?
Animation Nigeria [AN] is a body that helps offer a better perspective on what we are about for the government and to help structure the animation industry. Before now, different studio heads have had such an idea of putting things together but have been met with a number of challenges. I didn’t know this until I started the organisation.
After I attended Discop 2016, I had a discussion with representatives from Animation South Africa and I told them about starting the same thing over here. We deliberated and they advised me on what to expect, from the difficulty of getting government attention to the benefits and flaws associated with it.
On returning, I contacted some studio heads based here, told them my vision and we began the process. As a non-profit organisation, we are still in the process of putting everything in place, because it’s a long process. Nevertheless, we’ve been able to partner with the African Animation Network [AAN], which is based in South Africa. We are looking over the whole network of Africa whilst trying to create synergy and collaboration between different countries.
AAN has been a big partner, supporting us at Discop and giving us opportunities to showcase things that have to do with our industry. A big win for AAN was when we went to Annecy in June and they partnered with Annecy in terms of the pitching competition within Africa. The finalist chosen from Africa also won at Annecy 2017. It was a huge deal, not only that they won but that a big channel network, Gulli in France, picked up their project. That was kudos for two years of hard work.
For AN, we have had a lot of discussions with studios trying to see how they can create their own IP. A lot of studios in Nigeria do more of service work – like advertising – rather than create their own content. Everyone is sceptical about doing that because it requires funding and to keep a studio afloat for a couple of years before any returns is quite difficult.
Would you say these challenges are particular to Nigeria?
Not really, but Nigeria has its own cases. Like having to run a studio with unstable power supply or a lot of animation companies going after projects in the same market because there are very few agencies available. These are some of the causes but some of these are normal challenges worldwide.
We started our project two years ago and focused on producing our own IP, which is why we began attending Discop and other markets. During that process we met Nebularts, a studio from Togo that was in the pitching competition. We coproduced their pilot episode that won at Annecy.
The perspective I’ve always been selling is how to get the studio funded without government support. In this country, we have a media industry, Nollywood, that produces content in a week with low budgets. But it takes us about two years to produce animated content, and this makes many prospective sponsors reluctant to support with funding because the returns are not as swift.
With this in mind, we decided to move into coproduction, partnering with studios that can produce quality content and reach out to other continents as well.
Presently, we are in talks with Ingrid Agbo (Nebularts), the owner of the IP, and studios from Burkina Faso and Madagascar, to coproduce a full 52×7’ season of L’arbre à Palimpseste, which was selected at Annecy. With this, we’ve broken the norm by working on coproduction based on our business formula and are able to fund the studio and get the necessary equipment. We keep producing and having a big network like Gulli pick up one of our projects has given us credibility, not only for Basement Animation but the animation industry in Nigeria.
How do you go about distribution?
For coproduced content, they’ve got Gulli ready to showcase it, and also putting in funds for the project. They also raise funds from different countries, some of these have policies put in place and the government tends to fund the project because a studio within their country is producing.
For our own content, we are in discussion with producers in France. We also pitched some of our ideas at Annecy in June and are working out the details. However, many companies are reluctant to sponsor a new studio and also one in another continent but our projects have given us credibility and we’re being taken seriously.
Do you have any plans to produce, coproduce and distribute shows in Nigeria?
Yes, we do. But it’s all about funding. Even when studios want to collaborate, getting the money is the question on everyone’s mind. Networks are also hesitant to fund animated projects; they usually tell us to produce it first and then they’ll buy it. Then studios get stuck because there is no one ready to invest.
With our own IPs, we’re thinking of other angles such as creating shortform shows rather than 11-minute episodes, distributing them online, gathering audiences and leveraging brand placement. From there we finally get our show in the market.
At the Annecy market, we had a number of companies offer to have our content on their platforms based on certain conditions, such as showcasing our content and generating income if we reach a certain number of views. They are not ready to invest but it is easier compared to doing 11-minute videos with no returns.
Turkish television station Natural TV has launched in 22 African countries.
The channel was set up to promote Turkish culture in Africa and features content including animation, news, health, music, movies and Turkish drama series.
Natural TV broadcasts around the clock in both English and French and reaches about five million homes. The channel’s presenters consist of young people from Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria.
Natural TV CEO Tuncay Demir said Turkey was interested in opening up the African market, where it sees major opportunities. “We thought, ‘Why does this opening up not have a media aspect?’ And one-and-a-half years ago we founded Natural TV,” he said.
“There is a big educated African population in Turkey. When we started broadcasting, we met Africans who are doing their PhDs here, are business people or are receiving a medical education. In time, the number of our staff increased and we also started receiving ideas from them.” Eventually the channel aims to broadcast in local languages, he added.
Natural TV covers several West African countries including Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal and broadcasts via satellite on Astra 2G on 11095.000 Mhz.