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'Iwájú' first African animated series on Disney transports viewers to futuristic Lagos

"Iwájú" marks the first African story from Disney,   -  
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When Hamid Ibrahim, the co-founder of African entertainment company Kugali, claimed in a press interview that his business would "kick Disney's ass," he never imagined he'd end up collaborating with the media giant.

"After the interview when I went home I was like, 'I shouldn't have worded it like that, I should have been a bit nicer the way I worded it', but thank God I did not word it nicer," saya Ibrahim.

But thanks to that comment, Disney reached out to him and the other Kugali co-founders, Ziki Nelson and Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku, about developing a project together and so "Iwájú" was born.

"Iwájú" is a show set in a futuristic Nigeria and tackles important themes, such as pay disparity.

While being "a love story to Lagos," it doesn't shy away from its negative side.

"There are certain harsher truths or realities that exist in modern day Lagos that were important to to reflect," says director Ziki Nelson.

There's were also some challenges creating an African story with an American company.

"There were definitely clashes of culture that manifested in differences of opinions when we were building and crafting the story. But I like to believe that ultimately because we're different, both Disney and Kugali, we both bring different things to the table. And 'Iwájú' as a series is a reflection of the strengths of what we both brought to the table," explains Nelson.

Also part of the "Iwájú" team is visual effect supervisor Marlon West, known for working in beloved Disney movies such as "The Lion King", "Frozen" and "Moana".

"When I saw what they were trying to do, the science fiction aspects of it, that it was set in Africa, that it was this crime story, it was this Afrobeat music. And I was like, it just checked all these boxes for me as a creative person. And it was something that Disney had never done before to make a long form series, to collaborate with a different studio. So I knew I had to be part of it," says West.

"Iwájú" marks the first African story from Disney, and the show's cultural consultant, Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku, explains the significance of this moment.

"Children are very imaginative and absorb a lot from what they see. It's not like I have one thing in particular that I want them to see or take away. There's no agenda per se. It's just, hey, I grew up watching anime. I grew up watching American cartoons. I knew about cities I'd never been to. And, I picked up on Japanese phrases. I just absorbed a lot from the things I consumed and I feel like I'm just doing the same thing."

"Iwájú" will be available to stream on Disney+ from February 28 2024.

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