Black People Stop Waiting for Disney to Tell Our Stories

There I said it. Sue me. Actually don’t! I can’t afford it. 🙂 But seriously this is something I’ve been dying to get off my chest for ages. I’ve heard many black people say ‘Why can’t Disney (or any other major children’s media producer) do more black or African cartoons?’ or ‘Why aren’t there many black characters in Disney cartoons?’ I get where they are coming from but my answer to that is why should Disney do that?

Hear me out on this. Let’s take the American context as an example. I am by no means denigrating or belittling the fight and struggle of many African Americans and blacks around the world to get American/western media to portray black people and our various cultures in a proper balanced way. I understand the historical context so I am not being flippant here. I just think that in today’s climate, waiting or lobbying for Disney to produce more Black content is a diversion of resources and energy.

For me Disney is a gigantic corporate machine that does what it needs to survive. That revolves around making as much money as possible. I don’t feel Disney thinks the African American market is significant enough to try really hard to get. Mainly because they have it already! That’s not to talk of catering for the African market. For a company like that it’ll be too much hassle. Disney will make sure it doesn’t intentionally offend as many people as possible to make as much money as it can globally. I will confidently make a prediction now. When the US population because mainly Hispanic the content Disney produces will reflect that fact or the company will suffer. It’s all about money. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not attacking Disney. I’ve watched their stuff since I was a kid. I’ve never really liked Mickey Mouse though. I’ve always preferred Bugs Bunny though he has a shady past when it comes to race issues but that’s for another time.

To be fair though Disney has made some good strides regarding producing more multicultural content. But they or the other big studios are not charities set up to look after the interests of black people worldwide. Who has more interest in seeing and producing more African and Black media content for kids? Disney, Pixar, Sony etc or the African/Black community? In whose interest is it that African, children of African descent and all children globally have access to quality media products that show the African/black story in a positive light? Disney or ours? Who is it critically more important for socially and culturally? Why leave this issue in the hands of corporations who don’t have a real vested interest in it? Does Disney care if a Yoruba cartoon exists? NO! And it shouldn’t. (this is where someone writes and tells me Disney did a Yoruba cartoon in 2004!)

We as the black community have to take responsibility over the issue of children‘s media for our children. I don’t expect Disney to do it. I don’t want Pixar to tell the African story. I don’t mind if they do. I’d probably watch it but that’s not the point. Who else can tell the African and black story in all it’s complexities better than we ourselves? Years ago big studios, TV stations and cinema chains controlled all the children’s cartoons, films that we used to consume and our access to them. Now, with the internet and new technology platforms that is not the case. There is a paradigm shift. I refuse to believe there isn’t enough talent , financial clout and resolve to develop and cater for our own markets. That’s crazy and sad in my opinion if that’s the case. But I don’t believe so.

African and black media companies have to do what Disney , Pixar, Marvel, etc did. Produce quality content that a market wants to see and build from that foundation. And the market has to support it. Every year the global black community invests millions indirectly or directly in Disney by buying it’s products. I have no problem with that. They make it extremely easy to do so. You can buy Disney products online, in shops, in planes, their films and series are in cinemas and TV networks and their toys are in the shops etc. But it has taken them many decades to get to this point.

We have to do the same. Stop complaining and produce and support the alternative children’s media properties that we say don’t exist. Actually we can keep complaining, I don‘t care. As long as action is been taken and we’re not waiting for someone else to do what we can viably do ourselves. Once we really start telling our stories, the world will listen, Disney included. We have to take the lead of Pioneers like Bill Cosby through to Dwayne Mcduffie. The issue is will it be done?

Learn more about the new Bino and Fino Cartoon and visit the shop.

What are your thoughts on this? Am I wrong? Do you agree? Either way I’m happy to have the discussion.

About BinoandFino

A new black cartoon made in Africa for kids all over the world.
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11 Responses to Black People Stop Waiting for Disney to Tell Our Stories

  1. Eric Elder says:

    I agree with everything you said. My question is when and what will it take?

    • BinoandFino says:

      Hello Eric.
      Two very important questions. For when I can’t answer that. Disney , Pixar and the rest didn’t know how big they were going to get and the impact they’d have. But I do know the process has already started. From the first cartoons done by Africans in Egypt by the Frenkel brothers and other pioneers like Mustafa Alessane, Ali Moheb. Add to that people like Bill Cosby. What one thinks of Fat Albert etc is another issue but he got it done and now there’s Little Bill. Then there’s people like Dwayne Mcduffie with Milestone comics and the Static Shock Cartoon character. Back to Africa you have small studios in West Africa such as ours, East Africa, North and South actually that are fighting to produce content for children. There are too many to mention here. But things have started but it’s the next level that we are talking about here right?

      Several things need to be done. Within the global black community big business has to team up with big media and the content producers. Animation especially is a long and expensive process. Financing is needed. We have enough venture capitalists and industrial giants in our community. As producers we have to be professional and produce content that adds serious value that the markets will love. As an audience we have to support fledgling cartoon titles/brands, books, toys just like Disney was supported at the beginning. Don’t support piracy because that’ll kill anything before it develops. Distribution channels need to be established that make it easy a possible for the audience to get black content. But on the other hand the audience has to be proactive in hunting down content that’s out there already today before major distribution is established. Investors need to know there is a market. If the audience doesn’t buy, they won’t invest. It’s a chicken and egg situation in my opinion. Black and African media outlets and shops also have a big part to play. There are many dimensions to this but it’s possible.

  2. I hope you do really, really, really well. And then I can say I knew you when…:)

    • BinoandFino says:

      🙂 Many thanks Karyn. We are going to give it our best shot. As are other people and studios in Nigeria, Africa and beyond. It’s exciting times. On a random note. Are you on Twitter yet? You don’t have to answer that! lol

  3. …well OK…I hope you do really, really, really well because what you say is right and you’ve worked hard on a great idea.

  4. …have just been pondering it…
    It’s the time factor that worries me the most I think, I don’t have enough time now – let alone adding to my load.

  5. Thank you for this article. I have been speaking on this topic for years and not with malice towards those companies because in actuality I love to learn about the origins of DC Comics, Marvel, LucasArts, Disney, etc. They inspire me to stay the course and be the leader and vanguard for what I feel may be lacking in this industry. I also admire the fact that these companies project their images as larger than life and go to places that boggle the mind. As Black people we have a global history of fantastic storytelling and have always painted pictures both visually and mentally of amazing places but somewhere in history (I can speak from the perspective of here in America) that breaking out of what is the “real” is not our domain however that is from social programming that I do see changing around us.

    Not to be long winded but I agree that a part of this lies on the investment capital linking with the great minds and awesome talents of those of us who think outside the box like those great companies I spoke of above. I think when the right team up of financeers and production artists who unify to see this vision manifest will definitely create the next realm of entertainment that the world has yet to experience. I know for a fact taht the talent exists but the story is the same where the funds to lock down a team to focus on the production 24/7 has not been manifested yet . . . I say YET because it WILL!

    I, along with my family have created a comic entitled, Brotherman: Dictator of Discipline and the journey to break boundaries has been long and arduous (20 years since it’s inception) yet like George Lucas and other big media trailblazers I will not give up nor allow the next generation to think that quitting is an option. We have work to do despite the odds.

    • BinoandFino says:

      Hi Dawud,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I went to the Brotherman comic website. Till today I had never heard of Brotherman. You guys are obviously part of the pioneer/leader group I’m talking about who are going to be part of the solution. I need to go through your website in detail later in the week but from what I’ve seen you have been producing great work for over 10 years! Over 750,000 copies sold without major publishing backing is no mean feat. So you are definitely in a good position to speak on this subject.

      I would be interested in hearing more about how the journey has been so far and how much support you’ve gotten from the black community and beyond. Was it less or more than expected? Have you been approached by the majors? Any major powerhouses in black media/business approached you regarding investment etc?

      Great work and I aim for my studio to still be producing work in the next 10 years. Very inspirational.

  6. aboudiamond says:

    I just realised that your young girl’s hair style looks like Mickey Mouse ears…
    Maybe it’s a coincidence.
    We africans need to create our own entertainment for our own community,
    that’s true.
    As i can see, there is talented people thinking just like you and me,
    the solution is to gather them and start working on serious contents.
    Thank you for creating !

    • BinoandFino says:

      Yes she does. One of those coincedences. I wanted her to have some crazy afro puffs as her signature. I took a look at your blog and website. You are into 3D work. I like your ZBrush models. Our Lead animator Sageer loves that program.

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