Disney and France Télévisions have picked up a new South African preschool series from transatlantic studio Entertainment One (eOne) about a superhero who saves the day with martial arts and dance.
Kiya (52×11’) will debut on Disney Jr and Disney+ globally and on France Télévisions in 2023.
Kiya is based on an original concept from South African-based production company Triggerfish and was developed for television by Frog Box and eOne. The production features a diverse creative team, including writers, designers and composers from across Africa as well as France, the US and UK.
Speaking at the Kidscreen virtual event on Thursday, eOne’s president of family brands Olivier Dumont revealed the commission along with reboots of the My Little Pony and Transformers franchises for global streamer Netflix.
Dumont said the prodco is seeking more original IP but stressed that pitches must have strong commercial, global and consumer products potential.
“We’re definitely still looking for original IP in the same way that we were in the past. In terms of what we’re looking for, it’s as it was before the acquisition by Hasbro; we’re looking for projects with very strong commercial potential which complement our existing slate. What’s critical in terms of commercial potential is projects need to have global potential, but also need to go deep in terms of ways that we can exploit the IP overall, and therefore need to have strong consumer products potential,” he said.
Nigerian actor Yvonne Orji is working on an autobiographical comedy series for Disney+ with British-born Nigerian-American actor David Oyelowo and Oscar-winning TV personality Oprah Winfrey.
Half-hour show First Gen is in development at Disney+ and is based on Orji’s experiences growing up as a Nigerian immigrant in the US. It follows a child caught between trying to honour her parents and culture and attempting to assimilate into American life.
The show is written by Orji and executive produced with Winfrey’s prodco Harpo Productions and Carla Gardini and Oyelowo via his Yoruba Saxon Productions. 20th Television is the studio.
Orji took to Instagram to express her excitement about the deal, saying: “Thank you David Oyelowo for believing in the dream from JUMP and Lady Oprah for coming on board as our fairy godmother. I’ve been very vocal about my desire to highlight stories from the continent and I’m grateful to have this opportunity to do so.”
Orji is best known for her role as Molly in hit HBO series Insecure, which is set to end after its fifth season. She was nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actress in a comedy for the show in 2020. Orji is repped by UTA, Odenkirk Provissiero and Del Shaw Moonves.
Oyelowo is currently in production on an as-yet-untitled murder mystery thriller with Searchlight Pictures, in which he stars alongside Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell. Winfrey, meanwhile, is an iconic talkshow host, media mogul via her joint-venture channel OWN with Discovery, and a prolific producer via Harpo.
African animated series Iwájú is set to debut on streaming platform Disney+ in 2022.
The series was developed by Nigerian comic artists Tolu Olowofoyeku, Hami Ibrahim and Fikayo Adeola and is a collaboration between pan-African comic book company Kugali Media and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
According to its producers, Iwájú, which means ‘the future’ in the Yoruba language, tells stories about the African continent and its history, embracing the present and also imagining its future
Set in Lagos, the sci-fi series will explore themes of class, innocence and challenging norms.
Director Ziki Nelson said: “It will combine Disney’s magic and animation expertise with Kugali’s fire and storytelling authenticity. Iwájú represents a personal childhood dream of mine to tell my story and that of my people.”
Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative officer Jennifer Lee added: “We found Kugali comics from a BBC article highlighting the talented comic book artists. Their dream is to bring African stories created by African artists to the world, highlighting the diversity of cultures, histories and voices across the continent.
“Their talents as storytellers blew us away. I’m proud to announce the first-of-its-kind collaboration to bring original longform series to Disney+.”
Nigerian production and distribution company FilmOne Entertainment has signed a content distribution deal with American entertainment conglomerate Disney.
The agreement reaffirms Disney’s commitment to the West African cinema market and covers titles from all Disney studio divisions, including Pixar, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, Blue Sky Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures.
It also makes FilmOne Entertainment the sole distributor of Disney-owned films in Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia, giving it titles including Mulan, The New Mutants, The King’s Man, Death on the Nile, Black Widow, Soul, Free Guy, The Last Duel and Eternals.
Moses Babatope, co-founder of FilmOne, said: “It is a major career highlight that we’re able to get the world’s biggest movie studio as a partner. What the deal means is that we are exclusive marketers and distributors of Disney titles in the English-speaking West African countries that have studio-licensed cinemas. We will distribute the films to all those cinemas in the territory.
Christine Camerer, senior VP and country manager for Africa at Disney, added: “With their in-depth knowledge of the region and expertise in bringing theatrical releases to fans, we are thrilled to welcome FilmOne as our distribution partner for this territory.”
Babatope said the partnership could lead to future collaborations involving largely African content.
“It’s true that a lot of the content we will be distributing is from other parts of the world, but if we are able to demonstrate that we are accountable and transparent, there will be room to attract future investments involving content from this region.”
In 2019, FilmOne Entertainment signed a deal with Chinese media giant Huahua to co-produce the first major Chinese-Nigerian film, 30 days in China. The firm has also distributed and produced Nigerian box-office hits such as The Wedding Party and New Money.
New ‘visual album’ Black is King from US singer Beyoncé is set to roll out from July 31 on pay TV platforms across Africa.
They include MultiChoice’s DStv service, Canal+ Afrique, the new Disney+ video streaming service and also M-Net, flagship channel of MultiChoice. This is made possible due to the distribution deal Disney signed with MultiChoice’s M-Net and Canal+ Afrique.
The film was produced in a year and is based on the music of The Lion King: The Gift, the studio album Beyoncé released alongside Disney’s 2019 CGI remake of The Lion King.
It reimagines the lessons from the new version of The Lion King for children and features an impressive list of diverse voices on its creative team, including directors Emmanuel Adjei, Blitz Bazawule, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch and Jake Nava, as well as co-director and long-time collaborator of Beyoncé Kwasi Fordjour.
Other cast members include international African models like Aweng Ade-Chuol and Adut Akech, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Tina Knowles-Lawson, actress Lupita Nyong’o, singer Kelly Rowland, Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z, among others.
Additional co-directors and second unit directors add to the crew’s global representation, including Dafe Oboro, Julian Klincewicz, Derek Milton, Meji Alabi, Joshua Kissi, Alexandre Moors and Deon Van Zyl.
According to Beyoncé, the Black is King film was a labour of love and was researched, filmed and edited in the past year.
“It was originally filmed as a companion piece to The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack and meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry,” she said.
“The events of 2020 have made the film’s vision and message even more relevant, as people across the world embark on a historic journey. I believe that when Black people tell our own stories, we can shift the axis of the world and tell our real history of generational wealth and richness of soul that are not told in our history books.
“With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy. My only goal is that you watch it with your family and that it gives you pride.”
Filmed in various locations, the film’s cinematography captures beautiful people and landscapes across continents, starting in New York, then Los Angeles, South Africa, West Africa, London and Belgium. It will be viewed by audiences in Africa including South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Namibia, Cameroon, Liberia, Burundi, Senegal, Togo, Somalia, Benin, Congo, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Gabon, Cape Verde and other countries.
Although an official trailer for the film has been released by Disney, the screening dates and times on the African pay platforms have yet to be announced.
Fox Africa boss Evert van der Veer has been handed a new role in the wake of The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
In his new position, Van der Veer will take charge of the combined Fox and Disney channels in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
He now reports to Christine Service, senior VP and country manager of The Walt Disney Company Africa and head of the media networks division.
Van der Veer will be responsible for bringing together Fox and Disney’s channels in the regions under one umbrella.
The exec was named Fox Networks Group Africa’s general manager in May 2018, assuming oversight of the group’s pay TV channels across Africa, including Fox, Fox Life, Nat Geo Wild, National Geographic, Baby TV and Fox Sports, as well as non-linear services such as National Geographic+ and Fox+.
“Fox Networks Group Africa is very much still in operation and the Fox Networks Group Africa business is now part of the wider Walt Disney Company Africa business,” said Disney Africa.
The company has yet to disclose van der Veer’s job title.
Pay TV platform MultiChoice Africa has axed a Disney children’s show ahead of the planned introduction of a gay character, reports Gabriella Opara.
Following an announcement from Disney that its live-action series Andi Mack will introduce a gay character in its newly premiered season, MultiChoice Africa, which operates the DStv and GOtv platforms, said it will no longer air the show.
With broadcasters – in this case, Disney Channel – often providing only one satellite feed into Africa, a ban of a show in one country means it is taken off-air across the entire continent, even in countries where the content is not censored.
The move comes after Kenyan media regulators banned the series and follows the prohibition in Nigeria of reality shows I Am Cait and I Am Jazz on the E! channel of DStv Africa for including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) characters.
With anything that is seen to promote LGBTI a breach of Nigeria’s national broadcasting code, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) said it is ensuring that any programme on air clearly complies with its code of ethics.
Disney has promised African fans of Andi Mack that it will find alternative ways of broadcasting the show while still respecting each market’s cultural sensibilities and adhering to its rules and regulations.
The US media giant said in a statement: “While our shows are developed for global audiences we are committed to respecting each market’s cultural sensibilities, compliance rules and regulations.
“Disney Channel in South Africa serves multiple countries across Africa and the Middle East, each with its own regulations to which we adhere. Accordingly, Andi Mack will not be broadcast through DStv.”