HBO Max and Cartoon Network have commissioned a 2D animated adaptation of graphic novel series Iyanu: Child of Wonder, created by Nigerian filmmaker Roye Okupe.
The African teen superhero story is published by Dark Horse Comics and YouNeek Studios and follows a teenage heroine who must uncover the mystery behind her newfound powers to save her people from an ancient curse threatening to destroy humanity.
The series is set in the magical kingdom of Yorubaland and is heavily influenced by the history of the Yoruba people of Nigeria.
The animated adaptation is being produced by Lion Forge Animation, the US company behind Oscar-winning short film Hair Love, which is the basis of a spin-off series, Young Love, for HBO Max. Lion Forge, led by founder David Steward II, is financing and overseeing production.
Okupe is executive producer, writer and director of multiple episodes, with Brandon Easton (Transformers: War for Cybertron) leading the writers’ room. Lion Forge’s head of production Saxton Moore (Rise Up, Sing Out) is supervising director.
Other executive producers on the project are: Steward II and Matt Heath for Lion Forge Animation; Erica Dupuis for Impact X Capital; Ryan Haidarian for Forefront Media Group; and Doug Schwalbe and Carl Reed.
Nigerian prodco Youneek Studios has signed a 10-book deal with US publisher Dark Horse Comics and is developing an animated series with heroes based on African mythology.
The studio’s parent company, Youneek, was founded by Roye Okupe, who also created the graphic novels the series will be based on. The first instalment, Iyanu: Child of Wonder, features a young black female lead and draws on Nigerian history.
Youneek has obtained venture funding from Impact X Capital. Erica Motley, creative partner at the VC firm, is onboard the series. Doug Schwalbe, formerly senior VP of coproductions at DreamWorks, is also attached as executive producer and will oversee distribution.
Johannesburg-based Forefront Media Group and Cape Town’s Triggerfish Animation will work with Youneek, Impact X Capital and Schwalbe on the project.
Okupe said: “Our mission has always been to empower African creatives and storytelling. We’ve done it successfully in the comic book industry and with Impact X Capital we’re excited at the opportunity to do it in the animation space.”