African Centric Animation To Promote African Story Telling, Preserve Black Heritage, And Educate On African History And Culture
By Victor Williamson Oct. 18, 2012
An essential method to promote positive and wholesome portrayals of blacks and Africans in the media is to create animation with themes chosen that show the beauty and richness of Africans and the diaspora. Africa is full of life and rich in culture, language, diversity, peoples, knowledge, history, etc. and these need to be portrayed above other more negative or stereotypical portrayals[5]

Disney's The Princess and the Frog

The field of animation has a rich history[1] in major civilizations that include America, China, Japan, India, Russia, European countries, and many more[2]. African countries lag behind for obvious reasons, a few reasons being short histories as independent nations, limited access to modern technology, lack of awareness, etc. These are stumbling stones, but Africans are not without a presence[3][8] and have a history that dates back to the 1930's[4] which include the likes of Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Algeria, DRC and Kenya. However, not all African animators are black which speaks to the technological divide. Notable exceptions include Jean Michel Kibushi (DRC), Adamu Waziri (Bino & Fino, Nigeria), Pierre Sauvalle (Pictoon, Cameroon), Tinga Tinga Tales animators such as Kwame Nyongo (Kenya), Segun Williams (TransTales Entertainment, Nigeria) and Fusion Media (The O Twins, Nigeria). In Jamaica, Cabbie Chronicles is a first of its kind in the Caribbean and has received numerous awards.

Disney's The Proud Family
There are a number of animated series from African-Americans in America and Africans in South Africa. These include creations by Bruce W. SmithThe Proud Family (2001-2005) and its climactic movie (2005), Bebe Kids (1992) movie and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales For Every Child (1995-2000). Bill Cosby's Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972-1985), Ice Cube's Friday: The Animated Series (2007), Kid 'n Play: TV Series (1990-1991), Mr. T: TV Series (1983-1985), and the Jackson Five: The Animated Series (1971-1972), and more [10]. South Africa's Isabelle Rorke founded Anamazing Studios and has created Magic Cellar (2006-2007), Bhovas and Sam and Backyard Shorts (2008) all with African themes [9]

Animation is labor intensive, taking months to complete a few episodes let alone a feature length film or season series, and this is where expertise and resources play a key role. The better the animators are, the more quickly high quality animation scenes are produced, and fewer resources are needed. The medium also plays a role. Take, for example, Eddie Murhpy's 1999 stop-motion animated series the PJs. Each frame is carefully molded out of clay at 12 frames per second for each roughly 20 minute episode[6]. This is somewhat alleviated by the advent of advanced computer graphic tools, which are readily available and supported by large communities who are passionate about animation. The Blender 3D content creation suite, for example, is free and open source, with dozens of tutorials. Fusion Media's The O Twins and South Africa's Jungle Beat are 3D animated. Then, of course, there are traditional hand drawn animations, which remain relevant and powerful, and are promising avenues for Africa.

The O Twins, Nigeria, Fusion Media, teaser
A second important factor is writing. Scripts geared for both education and entertainment pull from history, cultural arts and the sciences to produce any variety of engaging scenes and contexts. It's commonly accepted that Africans are rich in storytelling partly due to a long and rich oral tradition. It would be awesome to see traditional stories combined with and juxtaposed against modern views and perceptions, and in addition to morals also share basic how-to knowledge useful in every day circumstances such as medicinal, health, jobs, trades and skilled labor.
 
Some Africans are taking advantage of subsidized animation training in Cape Town. The training includes intensive 3D modeling and rendering training plus an internship with a South African animation company. I found this on Naija Comics blogspot. Oladeji Victor Bamidele is one example of a African, a Nigerian, taking advantage, and now bringing his skills home. The sponsor, Animation for Africa, has a host of online trainings and resources for aspiring animators. MX Nigeria offers training in Lagos, but also to animators worldwide who are willing to contribute to Afro-centric themes. These are not new ideas, I found this on Sudan.NET Discussion Board where Africans saw the need for Afro-centric animation back in 2008. UNESCO launched Africa Animated in 2004 with the goal of training animators and providing necessary resources to create high quality African cartoons[7].

Useful Resources:
360 Nobs, Oh Dear! The Kenyan's Have Arrived With the Trailer for a 3D Animation 'Kiririmbi', Link
Mighty Jot Studios, Lagos, Nigeria, Home
AfriPOP, 7 African Animations You Should Know and Their Creators, Link
Cartoon Africa International, competition, Home

More Animation:
Indie Flix, My Name is Leila, Nigeria, Link
YouTube, The Brats and Toy Thief, Link
YouTube, The Adventures of Alayo, Nigeria, Link
Central City Tower, Spider Stories African Animation heroes, Home
African In Motion, Scotland African Film Festival, Home
Lafem Animation, Nigerian animators, commercials, Home
Pan Afrique Kids, The New Pan African Children's Portal, Home
The Secret Princes, Trans Tales Entertainment, Home
Pokou Ashanti Princess, Cote D'Ivoire, Home
Aya De Yopougon, French, Amazon
DevDavis, Child of God COGICHome
Changa and the Jade Obelisk, Eric ElderHome
Dex Davis Child of God, COGIC, Home

Current Work:
SMIDS, Lagos, Nigeria, Home
Ayudos, Creators of First US Made African Animation Crowdfunding on Kickstart, Link
Afrokids, Empowering Black Parents and their children, Home
Afro Man Kids Space, Black cartoon 3 partsHome
Safari Tales, Original African FolkloreHome
Nafuna TV, Zimbabwean media, animationHome
Crazy Afro Animation, Aliens with AfrosHome
Techpoint NG, 4 Nigerian 3D animators you never knew existedLink
South African History, Fresh Retelling of African History in Animation. VIDEOSLink
The Film Experience, Celebrating Black History Month: A brief tour of African-American animationLink
Comics Alliances, Eight Animated Series With Black Leads To Look Out For, Link
DW, Afro Cartoons, Ivory Coast, Bringing Animation to AfricaLink
EWM, South Africa, African Animation Industry Receives Training Boost in the USLink
IndieWire, Upcoming African Diaspora Animated Feature Films to be Aware of, Link
Spoof Animation, Nigeria-based EXO partneredHome
AntHill Productions, Lagos-based artists, post-production, 3D shortsHome
Ai Multimedia Academy, 3D animation, video, publishing, certificationHome
Darquemotion, Lagos-based visual effects, motion graphicsHome
3D Motion Pictures, Nigeria, Home
O Studio Labs, Nigeria, CGAfricaHome
All Knightz, African American comics, graphic novels and animationHome
Jabu's Jungle, South Africa FrancophoneLink
Black Science Fiction Society, Very up to dateHome
Anthony's Notes, Blog about blacks in comics & animations, high qualityHome
Nory Animation Studio, Ejidayo Oguneye Lagos, NigeriaLink

African/Black Animators:
Everett Downing, Pixar, Home
Jamaal Bradley, Supervising Animator, Director, Artist, Home
Dwayne McDuffie, Static Shock comics & animated series, Home
Anay Dena Hub pages, African-American AnimatorsLink
Redd Scarlet Studios, Zulla AnimationHome
Mbu, comics, animation, South AfricaYouTube
Nilah Magruder, comics, animationHome
Frank Abney, Dreamworks, Home
Andrew Kaggia, Animator Brings Disneyland to KenyaLink
Bugi Kaigwa, Technical artists @ Visual ConceptsLink

Challenges:
HT1Zone, Great article on the challenges facing black cartoon developmentLink
BBC One, Embracing Animation in AfricaLink
Kevin Likes, African Animation at a Tipping Point, Link

Communities:
RevisionPath, Weekly PodCast showcasing graphic/web designers and developers, link


References
1. Wikipedia, History of_Animation
2. Wikipedia, Animation by country
3. Paula Callus, Blogspot
4. Unknown author, Animation history in Africa
7.  UNESCO, Africa Animated!
8.  Animation Africa, Celebrating Animation in Africa, Home page
9.  Bloomberg Businessweek, Africa's Best Small Companies
10.  Madaime Noir, Animate Me! 10 Black Female Characters we LoveLink