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Animators speak out at NITV

Somto Ajuluchukwu, Ayodele Elegba and Kola Olarewaju at the animation roundtable

Animation is an often-neglected part of Nigeria’s media industry but this is beginning to change, delegates at Nigeria International Television (NITV) Summit heard.

In a roundtable discussion at the Wednesday event, studio heads and animators discussed the uniqueness of the animation industry as well as the challenges.

Mbuotidem Johnson

Speakers included Mbuotidem Johnson, CEO of Basement Animation; Ayodele Elegba, CEO of Spoof Animation; Kola Olarewaju, CEO at Komotion Studios; and Niyi Akinmolayan, CEO of Anthill Studios. The session was moderated by Somto Ajuluchukwu, MD of C3 African Network.

Highlighting the challenges facing the industry, panelists agreed that one of the major issues is electrical power, saying that the use of high-powered computers and other technology necessitates constant light, which is costly in Nigeria.

According to Akinmolayan, talent is also difficult to come by because there are no training schools in Nigeria, so it falls on the animation studios to train animators, which is a long and costly process.

“Finding the right person to do your job is not easy because there are no qualified people and no training schools. Therefore, that responsibility lies on us, so we train and do the job simultaneously because that is the best tactic,” he said.

Agreeing with this, Johnson, who is also the founder of trade body Animation Nigeria, said: “I came from a background of 3D animation but as I considered my options, I switched to 2D. With 2D I can finish a project and train faster. Within a month a trained person can execute 2D renderings well enough, but 3D takes about five to six months of training and you’ve hardly begun.

“Finding investors is also one of the hardest thing to do. So to stay in this industry you have to do things in unusual ways.”

For Akinmolayan, director of The Wedding Party, the right approach to sustaining an animation studio is to get other jobs to keep the cash flowing.

“Do something on the side. I make money as a film director. If you call me to do wedding videos, I will do it. Anything to keep the money flowing in, because animation is a long-term investment and I’m not giving up.”

Olarewaju highlighted the issue of religion and animation. “When we did [short film] Sango, many people said it was fetish. They liked it but would badmouth it because of their religion. They do not see it as a work of art but as something fetish, which is mostly how Nigerians react to something out of the norm,” he said.

“The audience demand in the international market and here in Nigeria varies. Animation in the international market is often created for younger audiences, for under-nines, or nine- to 13-year-olds. However, here it appeals more to adults, so to break the market in Nigeria we are often forced to create content for adults, which is kind of restricting,” said Johnson.

Elegba, also founder of Lagos Comic Con (LCC), advised on the right strategy for getting investors. “If you are only thinking of how good your content is, you will run down,” he said. “You have to think of the business side – think distribution, coproduction, and more.”

LCC, of which Content Nigeria is a media partner, takes place at the Landmark Centre, VI, Lagos on September 15.

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