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ANNECY 2021: Disney Highlight African Animation Talents

Animation news has been coming thick and fast this week, thanks to the 2021 hybrid edition of The Annecy International Animation Festival. And it just wouldn't be Annecy without Disney. 

The Mouse House was represented by Disney EMEA (Europe, Middle-East and Africa) and their annual Studio Focus. Annecy 2021's theme is African animation, and Disney had some exciting material to share in that regard, announcing two new series and sharing more on two previously announced projects.

First up was Kizazi Moto: Generation Of Fire an African Sci-fi anthology. Overseen by Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse's co-helmer Peter Ramsey, it consists of a series of shorts from African animators based on the theme of what the future looks like from an African perspective. Ramsey recalls a visit to the Cape Town Animation Festival, where he was "blown away, reinvigorated by the people, work, the industry." He says there was a sense that "his place is a pot about to bubble over with creativity and the world is going to see something exciting coming from Africa.." The creators of the ten shorts took part in a virtual discussion as part of the presentation and teased their episodes. Kizazi Moto will be available on Disney Plus everywhere in late 2022.

The second new series was Kiff, a musical comedy from South Africa. Executive producers Lucy Heavens and Nic Smal joined the presentation remotely from Cape Town and introduced their new show. Aimed at older children, the musical comedy stars an energetic squirrel named Kiff and her bunny BFF Barry. According to Heavens and Smal 'Kiff' is contemporary South African slang for "cool, awesome or rad." The series is developed and produced by Disney Television Animation in LA, with Kent Osborne- a veteran TV animation writers with credits including Phineas and Ferb, SpongeBob, Adventure Time and Summercamp Island- as co-producer and story editor.

Also teased was the previously announced Disney Junior series Kiya and the Kimoja Heroes. Originally developed through Disney's African Story Lab initiative,  It features 7-year old Kiya and her friends who are able to become super heroes when donning magical headbands. The series is set to arrive in 2023.

In partnership with pan-African entertainment company Kugali, Disney shared the first images from their highly anticipated collaboration Iwájú. A first-of-its-kind collaboration between Kugali and Walt Disney Animation Studios it's being described as a 'Kugali-Disney Mash-up". "This is a true collaboration. It’s not Disney in some ways pushing our vision onto Kugali," said WDAS Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee. "It is a collaboration in that both companies are getting something out of it and supporting each other."

Set in a future version of Lagos, Nigeria- a sprawling metropolis divided into a densely populated mainland and separated by a lagoon from an island populated by the more affluent. The story will be rooted in this inequality and the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. Iwájú will- both in setting and in its story- present a vision of the future that is very much inspired by the issues facing Lagos today.

The series is a truly international affair and is being produced on three continents. produced by creatives in Burbank, Montreal, London,  Lagos, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Kugali was founded by childhood friends Tolu Olowofoyeku and Ziki Nelson with a mission to "kick Disney's ass"- a cheeky boast that caught the attention of Lee. Nelson is writer-director on the series, with Olowofoyeku on board as a cultural consultant. Natalie Nourigat, director of WDAS' upcoming short Far From The Tree is acting as head of story. Disney VFX supervisor Marlon West promises that the series will have a unique look- it won't look like a Disney movie but will retain Disney's high standards- "We're Going to Bring Our A-Game".

Disney's presentation will be available to Annecy pass holders until the end of June.