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Iwájú: Disney’s First African Animated Series Whisks Viewers to Futuristic Lagos

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Prince Jean

Feb 28, 2024

African Cinema

Simisola Gbadamosi, the talented voice behind Tola in the animated series “Iwájú,” graces the world premiere event in Lagos, Nigeria, held on February 27. © provided by CNN

“Iwájú”: Disney’s Groundbreaking African Animated Series Blends Futuristic Lagos with Real-World Challenges

When Hamid Ibrahim, co-founder of the African entertainment company Kugali, boldly declared in a press interview that his business would “kick Disney’s ass,” little did he know that fate would lead to an unexpected collaboration with the media giant.

“After the interview, when I went home, I thought, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have phrased it so strongly. Perhaps I should have been more diplomatic.’ But looking back, I’m grateful I didn’t hold back,” reflects Ibrahim.

Disney took notice of Ibrahim’s candid remark and reached out to him and fellow Kugali co-founders Ziki Nelson and Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku. The result? The birth of “Iwájú”, a groundbreaking animated series set in a futuristic Nigeria.

Key Highlights of “Iwájú”:

  1. Futuristic Lagos: The show transports viewers to a vibrant Lagos of tomorrow, blending Afrofuturism with the city’s rich cultural tapestry.

  2. Themes of Inequality: “Iwájú” fearlessly tackles pressing issues, including pay disparity, shedding light on the complexities of modern-day Nigeria.

  3. Balancing Love and Reality: While celebrating Lagos as a love story, the series doesn’t shy away from portraying the city’s harsh realities.

  4. Cultural Clashes: Creating an African narrative within an American company posed challenges. Cultural clashes and differing perspectives emerged during the story’s development. Yet, these differences ultimately enriched the project.

  5. Marlon West’s Expertise: Visual effects supervisor Marlon West, known for his work on Disney classics like “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” and “Moana,” joined the “Iwájú” team. His passion for the project stemmed from its unique blend of science fiction, crime drama, Afrobeat music, and an African setting.

As “Iwájú” takes flight, it represents the convergence of Disney’s global reach and Kugali’s distinct voice. Stay tuned for this unprecedented collaboration, where creativity knows no borders!

Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku, the show’s cultural consultant, emphasizes the significance of this moment. “Children are very imaginative and absorb a lot from what they see. It’s not like I have one thing in particular that I want them to see or take away. There’s no agenda per se. It’s just, hey, I grew up watching anime. I grew up watching American cartoons. I knew about cities I’d never been to. And, I picked up on Japanese phrases. I just absorbed a lot from the things I consumed, and I feel like I’m just doing the same thing.”

“Iwájú” will be available for streaming on Disney+ starting from February 28, 2024.[africanews]

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