Lagos-based Smids Animation Studios, which makes kids’ and family entertainment content, celebrated its 11th anniversary earlier this week by teasing news of new projects in the coming months.
Founded by Dami Solesi, Smids Animation’s productions include The Makerbolts, Zooom and Boxed. The company was selected to represent Africa at the Animation du Monde Finals in 2019, while Solesi was selected as a juror for the International Emmy Awards last year.
Solesi wrote on Instagram: “Yay! We are 11 years. Eleven years ago, in a living room in Abuja, I made up my mind and put everything I had been paid in the last 12 months as a youth corp member into starting Smids Animation Studios. At the time, it was the highest point of my life. I had loved cartons and games all my life, and now I was going to make my entire life about the very thing I loved.
“Looking back 11 years now, we have grown from one little dream to becoming a force in children’s content in Nigeria and perhaps Africa. We now have shows that are on TV (Ugo and Simsim), hit hundreds of thousands of views across all social media platforms, showcased on a global stage (Annecy 2019- Makerbolt), [and have a series] currently showing on satellite TV (Boxed).”
Hinting at future announcements, Solesi added: “Over the next eight weeks, we will be making massive announcements about our next couple of projects. It’s taking everything in me to not spill the beans but in due time we will let you all know.”
Lagos-based Basement Animation Studio held a panel session this week with leading Nigerian women working in animation to discuss the theme ‘My Journey as a Woman in Animation.’
The session took place on March 8 in Lagos to mark International Women’s Day. It explored participants’ journeys in the sector as well as the opportunities it offers to women.
The discussion was led by Korede Johnson (Basement Animation) while other panel members included Dami Solesi (Smids Animation Studios), Yetunde Ogundipe (Beereel Pictures) and Emy Yugbovwre (Ajebotoons Studio).
Ajebotoons founder Yugbovwre said her first project had been the Nigerian cartoon Bino & Fino. This helped her see what was happening in the animation scene and made her realise African animation is accepted all over the world.
Solesi, CEO and creative director of Lagos-based Smids Animation Studios, started loving games as a child, which inspired her to create them. Having studied computer science and taken online lessons and read books, she started up her own business in animation.
Filmmaker Ogundipe, CEO of Beereel Pictures, ventured into advertising and production before falling in love with stop-motion animation, using her passion to develop her talent over time.
Regarding her inspiration, Yugbovwre said: “I loved watching cartoons growing up, and drawing. I love 2D animation and it was after my university days that I realised cartoons were actually animation.”
Discussing the challenges faced in the industry beyond infrastructure and power issues, Yugbovwre said the ones she faced were personal, since she had not been supported by her family.
Solesi said: “My challenges were more of family apprehension, but over time they came around. As a woman in animation, it’s been tough and challenging.”
Ogundipe said: “In Nigeria, no one wants to take risks. Stop-motion animation is not new but it is strange to so many people.”
She added that people often do not appreciate what it involves and so there was a need to educate them. Her challenge was that stop-motion animation was not a common style, so people felt they did not need it.
Solesi attributed her success to a combination of many things including people at her university, a good network beyond the animation industry and mentors from Nigerian non-profit organisation WinBiz. “We are still in the early stage of building the business so it’s been tough, but having that support system has been of great help,” she added.
Yugbovwre said she learnt a lot from YouTube and other tutorial websites. She encouraged people to make use of the internet to gain knowledge.
Ogundipe said: “I had challenge with animation because I had no drawing skill, but I realised I had to go beyond what I was doing. I challenged myself to take it further, think big and look for ways to execute.”
The three speakers agreed that, despite the challenges, building a career in animation is worthwhile. Yugbovwre said: “I have thought of quitting many times but it’s been worth it and I have enjoyed the journey so far.”
Ogundipe added: “It’s been very interesting and I have always fought for something different and new. Nigeria is filled with problems that we can solve. Women in animation are few but there are lots of opportunities to take advantage of as women.”
Solesi said: “It’s a challenging profession. It is also capital-intensive and although we are on the right path, we haven’t gotten there yet. The animation industry is changing and a lot of things are happening.”
As to what drives women in animation, the panel noted that determination to show women can make a difference, passion and a can-do spirit were some of the factors responsible.
They called on women to push ahead, ignore discouragement, focus on what they can offer, join support groups and understand that animation is a broad discipline.
“This is the best time. Engage in internships, grow your skills, develop yourselves and make use of opportunities,” Solesi concluded.
Dami Solesi, CEO and creative director of Lagos-based Smids Animation Studios, has been selected as a juror for this year’s International Emmy Awards.
Revealing the news on her Instagram page, Solesi said: “I’m proud to be a juror for the 2020 International Emmy Awards. This is a huge deal.”
The annual awards are bestowed by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in recognition of the best non-US TV content.
In the email confirming Solesi’s place on the jury, the event organiser said: “Despite the current worldwide situation, the academy is doing its best to ensure the competition is running on its usual schedule.”