Disney’s Coming New Original ‘Iwaju’ Journeys Into an Afrofuturistic Lagos 

Ugandan animator Hamid Ibrahim was probably biting the butt of his pen and smiling at the ingenuity of an African mind and the rare talents on the continent when he said his team’s work was “going to kick Disney’s ass”.

It’s over two years since he made that strong declaration but there’s no battle in sight, rather it’s a collaboration, the first of its kind, and one that is leading into greatness.

In partnership with African animation company, Kugali, Disney is set to launch an animation next year and it will be about a futuristic Lagos, Africa’s commercial epicentre and the most populous metropolis on the continent.

Titled “Iwaju” meaning forward or contextually, future in Yorùbá, the animation is a telltale of what a futuristic Lagos suggests if science is at its core. It is according to Disney a “love letter to Lagos and Nigeria”. 

The work is already a huge success in the making for young African animators Ibrahim and his Nigerian colleagues, Ziki Nelson and Tobi Olowofoyeku. 

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They said they are telling stories inspired by Africa using “comic books, art and augmented reality”.

“This show will combine Disney’s magic and animation expertise with Kugali’s fire and storytelling authenticity,” Nelson said.

“The idea was that in science fiction there were hardly any black people – it was as though they were passing on the message that there are no black people in the future,” Nelson told the BBC in 2019.

“Iwájú (which means “the future” in the Yoruba language) represents a personal childhood dream of mine to tell my story and that of my people”.

Iwaju steeped in the Lagos nightlife and Afroculture is an explainer of the characteristics of a typical Lagos life from an Afrofuturism perspective.

It tells the story of two friends, Tola and Kole, found at the extremes of socialism. Home to the extremely poor, the upper and lower middle class and the outrageously rich, Lagos’ money stays in Lagos and Iwájú told this in an exquisitely colourful manner.

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It dips into what life can be in a futuristic Lagos and the potential the city holds with flying cars and floating structures on the island and the ever precipitous yet bustling and hopeful mainland. An Afro futuristic tale of two worlds in one city.

The animation to be released in 2023 explains the mind of the average Lagos child and reveals a part to the creativity of the average African child. 

“Here were three talented comic book artists. Their dream was to bring African stories created by African artist to the world, highlighting the diversity of cultures, histories and voices across the continent,” Walt Disney Animation Studios’ chief creative officer Jennifer Lee was quoted as saying after watching a BBC short film on Kugali.

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“Their talents as storytellers blew us away.” 

Iwájú initially set to be released in 2022 will now be available in 2023 as a new Disney original series. 

It is the first time Disney will collaborate with an outside studio in 100 years and Iwájú is their company’s first original animated series. 

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