Thoughts on the Nigerian Animation Scene.

The Nigerian animation and visual effects industry is a young and new one. There are many people in it with lots of drive and energy. But one of the factors affecting it has been that of the establishment of proper studios and the current absence of collaborative projects between artists and technicians in the field.

Finance is a key factor, especially in Nigeria. In some countries grants and other support systems are available to support those in the creative industries. Of course the creative industries had to fight to get that. But their governments have realized that the creative industries can be a huge earner. The creative economy has been identified by the UN as one of the economies that will benefit developing countries immensely if harnessed just as it did for established economies. Unfortunately most African governments, including Nigeria’s haven’t quite realized the potential.

Most people in our fledgling animation industry are young graduates with little financial backing and no large industry to take them up and pay them a decent salary. They have to make it up as they go along. It’s not like our main established industries (law, engineering, telecoms, banking) where there are clearer entrance routes and more money to be made. We are in the pioneering phase right now. Passion can only get you so far when you have no cash (maybe I’m getting to old!)

To now dedicate your time and effort to an animation project with people just for the sake of it is hard. Don’t get me wrong, I think that is precisely what creates the best work. It’s just tough to do from a logical day to day stand point where bills have to be paid.

The ‘ego’ issue is also another factor to consider. There are positives and negatives to this. We all want our projects and studios to be the best. I think natural selection will sort things out. Once VFX/animation studios start to emerge that can hire people, get projects consistently etc most people will want to work for them. But at the stage where there are so few, people are still trying to figure out whether their studios will be the industry leaders. I make no apologies for saying my studio is one of them.

Having said all of that, things are changing for the positive as more practitioners meet and network. The future in the industry is looking interesting. Here are some people, companies and projects to check out on google when you have time. Fusion Studios and the Otwins, Grafikdon and Tales of Africa, Stanlee and Mighty Dot Studios I believe, Chicken Core, Coconut Island, Kenway Afam Oforeh. There are many more to explore. Have fun doing so.

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About BinoandFino

A new black cartoon made in Africa for kids all over the world.
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6 Responses to Thoughts on the Nigerian Animation Scene.

  1. Alfred Muchilwa says:

    The funny thing is, we Kenyans look at Nigeria and say you’re lucky considering you have a large market and you are an oil producing country.

    I am currently wrapping up production on Tinga Tinga Tales; the first ever animated east African production for an international audience and we are facing the same questions you are. Every pioneering group in any creative industry faces these questions. Whether it was Disney 80 years ago or Adamu in 2008.

    The real crisis is a leadership crisis. We need visionaries who are willing to brave the hard times and venture into the animation business; and slowly build trust through positive collaboration and strong product.

    Thanks to technology I think it’s easier to make productions and get attention these days. I worked with a kid who did an animated video to learn Maya, posted it up on you tube and got contacted by a mobile phone company to do ads. This proves a point- you have hundreds of millions of people hungry to see themselves on screen. The moment they do- even in a thirty second clip- the money will follow.

    The platforms are there. The technology- readily available. All we need is people willing to look at the bigger picture and brave enough to take a step towards making it happen. I see Bino and Fino or Bhovas and Sam from South Africa and i feel ready to take that next step. I hope there are a few other African animators out there willing to do the same.

    • evcl says:

      Hi Alfred,
      Good to hear from you. I’ve heard a lot about the Tinga Tinga project. I’ve watched some episodes on TV. I agree with most of your points. My main worry is how we monetise our efforts. Back when Disney started piracy was less rampant. That’s a huge problem in my opinion. There’s sponsorship and commissions by companies but owning one’s own intellectual property rights etc for me is something we should all strive for.
      As for the Nigerian audience, in theory we should have a decent audience but it has to be for the right product. It’s a tough call and I did a lot of thinking before I decided to start Bino & Fino. My main question was will people buy this? We’ll know in about 8 months if they will!
      We were wondering in our studio what happens to the Tinga Tinga production crew now because you guys are now a very valuable African animation resource.

      • I wouldn’t worry too much about monetizing in the traditional sense just yet, unless you can get a major company that has Pan African interest to get behind your product. Check out how Nina Paley managed to claw back some of her production costs for ‘Sita Sings The Blues’ here: http://blog.ninapaley.com/2010/11/15/frequently-asked-questions/#more-1547.

        She funded that film out of pocket.

        I figure that right now the biggest battle to be fought is just to make enough money to do more animation. If you have a body of material in five years that’s worth talking about then the venture capitalists will come. Copyright/ piracy is an issue but there is very little you can do to stop some kid in Senegal getting their hands on your content for free. If anything it works better if you ‘think ahead of the pirates.’ In Tanzania musicians live off CD sales because they turned the pirates into legitimate distributors by cutting deals with them. Everybody won.

        Alternatively you could make some of your content available, build a fan-base and then you’ll have a legion of fans willing to spend on other merchandise as well as companies looking for your characters to endorse their products. You have already figured that out… releasing episode one for free.

        I was at a forum for contemporary Kenyan musicians last week (animators were a last-minute inclusion), put together by one of our countries mega-tycoons. He figured that now there’s an endless supply of musical content and one or two real superstars- so in his words the music industry has reached a tipping point, meaning its viable as a business. He hasn’t seen the same yet for animation. meaning he needs to see more little shows cropping up and maybe one other big show before he can pump in money.

        As for the Tinga Tinga Tales crew, they’re resting, waiting for the next gig to happen. Its only a matter of time…

      • evcl says:

        Hi Alfred,
        Apologies for the late reply. You raised some interesting points. I do know about Nina Paley and ‘Sita sings the Blues’ and how she got back funds after releasing her content for free. It is an interesting model but I don’t know how sustainable it is. If she can do 3 or 4 productions that way, making a profit on each one that she can reinvest into her company and also her personal life then ok then I’ll believe it’s viable. But looking at the way piracy and more importantly the culture of free downloading is going, she might be leading the way.

        I don’t have all the answers but I’m thinking of a mixed approach to monetizing. We have to monetize. In our case we can’t wait 5 years though I understand where you are coming from. We have certain strategies but we’ll see which ones will work. My interest is to develop a studio that has assets which it can monetize over a long period of time. A studio that provides great African animation content for viewers and employment just like the Tinga Tinga project did. . Easier said than done right? I know that. But that’s why we have to work out ways of monetizing effectively before the venture capitalists and bankers come in. If we survive until they do then even better.

        All the best and have great holiday.

  2. Toyin says:

    Excellent work Ecvl, I am a budding animation writer and producer myself and what you have said is right. Our children want to see themselves on TV and they are not well represented. I actually did a qualitative study while I was in grad school which showed that our boys yearn to see themselves positively represented. This was the fire that propelled me into using animation as a way of telling our stories. However, is there an organization in Nigeria for animtors so we have a voice? I feel like the focus now is on Nollywood and the children’s world is being neglected.

    • evcl says:

      Thank you very much Toyin. I would say the focus is on Nollywood right now. But even if you hate their output quality, one has to admit they’ve worked hard for it. I’m not too sure about an organisation for animators in Nigeria existing. If they do, we’ve never heard of them. I think we have to make more of an impact I suppose for us to be noticed. But I think things are slowly moving in the right direction. We just saw some of your work on your you tube channel. Good work. How is that series working for you?

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