Child’s Play: Children’s animation in Africa

Nigerian animator Adamu Waziri is single-handedly re-igniting children’s entertainment from his studio in Nigeria’s capital Abuja. Frustration at the lack of children’s cartoons showing positive images of the African continent, led him to set up his own creative studio, EVCL. The company’s latest project, a children’s educational cartoon called Bino and Fino re-imagines Africa as a modern urban landscape, compared to the picturesque jungle shown in many American films. He talks about his love for animation and the ideas behind Bino and Fino …

Did you have any awareness of African animation, anyone you looked up to when starting out?
Lagbaja, he had a music video [Suuru Lere] way back in the day which was animated [that I thought was really cool. Then there was another guy called Moustapha Alassane [considered to be a pioneer of African Animation]

What kind of design ideas did you have for Bino and Fino initially, did this change along the way?
One of the big things I wanted is 3D but to do that you have to put more resource and expenses into it, you need more render power and you need constant electricity to render so you can just keep churning out the frames 24-7 etc, and also its quite slow to produce so I thought let’s stay clear of that and let us do something that’s more easier to use, and logistically easier to produce. So we headed towards a 2D style, which you can produce faster and also give more personality.
There is a [Children’s book author and illustrator] called Eric Carle, he was actually the starting point. I was also looking at the series Mr Men, I looked at that because I had watched it as a kid, and then there was South Park, which is very 2D style, the characters flick from left to right instead of turning around. There’s a children series called Charlie and Lola, we looked at that. All that kind of 2D collage stuff. I was also inspired by local African prints. I would just see like a work of art on the side of the street or a print from the fabric that the local women wear.

With your political cartoons what were you influenced by?
A while back in the UK they had a satirical puppet show called Spitting Image, it was a political satire series produced back in the Thatcher years. There was also another 2D animated version called 2DTV, again in the UK. In Kenya there’s a show called XYZ and it’s pretty cool they are doing it with puppets and everything. Basically I just see these programmes as an extended version of the political cartoons you see in newspapers. Political commentary that has a way of addressing very important issues from different angles.

So what’s next for Bino and Fino?
The whole point of Bino and Fino –  the idea is to create our own like say Dora the Explorer that spans books, and games, so we are just at the starting point right now. We are going to take it a little further.

The full interview and feature, including videos from the cartoon can be seen on the African Digital Art network.