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Lagos gets Sci-Fi treatment in new Disney+ series

A new animated Disney series set in a futuristic Lagos has won over its first viewers with a Sci-Fi play on life in the Nigerian megacity.

Hamid Ibrahim, co-founder of Kugali, said the series had left viewers 'mind-blown'
Hamid Ibrahim, co-founder of Kugali, said the series had left viewers 'mind-blown' - Copyright AFP/File Jim WATSON
Hamid Ibrahim, co-founder of Kugali, said the series had left viewers 'mind-blown' - Copyright AFP/File Jim WATSON
Kadiatou SAKHO

A new animated Disney series set in a futuristic Lagos has won over its first viewers with a Sci-Fi play on life in the Nigerian megacity.

From Lagosian slang to lagoon markets and traffic jams, Disney+ six-parter “Iwaju” captures everyday urban details and catapults them into a future bristling with high-tech gadgets where some the city’s present-day problems persist.

It marks Disney’s first collaboration with an outside studio and part of a drive to feature more African animations, which have long been neglected by big foreign entertainment companies.

Ahead of its release on Wednesday, AFP attended a preview with the series’ creators at the IMAX Lekki in Lagos.

“Iwaju”, which means ‘future’ in Yoruba, was dreamt up by the pan-African entertainment company Kugali, founded in 2017 by Nigerians Olufikayo ‘Ziki’ Adeola and Tolu Olowofoyeku, and Hamid Ibrahim, a Ugandan.

The three suited young men made a grand entrance on the red carpet at the screening on Tuesday night, which was also attended by Nollywood stars and Nigeria’s culture minister.

Head set designer Ibrahim said the series had left viewers “mind-blown.”

The 20-minute episodes are packed with recognisable features of the city, from its island geography right down to street vendors selling Lagosian cuisine.

“Futuristic elements are mixed with Lagos’ identity,” Ibrahim said. “It was important to us that Lagosians recognise their city and that others discover its specificities.”

– Kidnapping and curiosity –

The series tells the story of Tola, a 10-year-old from a wealthy Lagos family, and her best friend Kole, a 13-year-old tech whizz and domestic worker who lives in the poorest part of the city.

Their friendship is put to the test by Bode, a tech villain who runs a criminal kidnapping ring.

Kidnapping for ransom is rife in Nigeria and the “Iwaju” team drew inspiration from a real story about Adeola’s friend who escaped an attempted abduction by jumping from a bridge into Lagos lagoon.

Adeola said Disney had helped address the subject so “children can view it without being traumatised.”

“We are talking about kidnapping, but ‘Iwaju’ has several other interesting themes such as family love, curiosity, inequality, questioning the status quo,” he said. “It’s a film that’s fun to watch”.

The series delighted viewers at the preview.

“The first thing I noticed was how relatable it was with the accents and everything… they had actual Lagos slang and it was really funny,” said 25-year-old influencer Ella Gbinije.

Disney Studios says it has been seeking to include more stories about African characters for several years now.

“It’s a groundbreaking thing for our industry, Nollywood, for African filmmakers, for African animators,” said Femi Branch, the voice actor who plays Bode. “I feel very honoured.”

Jennifer Lee, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, said she heard about Kugali following a 2019 BBC story in which Ibrahim said the studio’s creations would “kick Disney’s ass in Africa”.

In a documentary accompanying the series’ release, she said she was convinced by Kugali’s boldness and work on African comics.

Streaming platforms are becoming increasingly popular and paid subscriptions are expected to more than double to around 16 million in sub-Saharan Africa by 2029, according to the firm Digital TV Research.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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