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GKIDS Films Boards First 'Afroanime' Mfinda

are well known as a distributor of some of the world's finest animation in North America. But in more recent years they have also been getting more into co-producing. Now, as the company celebrates its 15th anniversary, they have announced their latest co-production.

GKIDS Films are teaming up with anime legends Producer Masao Maruyama and Director GisaburĊ Sugii and global multimedia company N LITE to produce Mfinda, which is being described as the world's first 'Afro Anime'.  N LITE is led by founder and CEO Christiano Terry and N LITE Japan led by CEO and Producer  Shin Koyamada and President, Shigeru Igari. Mr Maruyama has also joined the board of N LITE Japan to help build the company's in-house 2D animation studio for international co-productions and feature films.

NLITE will offer an in-depth look at Mfinda as part of the work-in-progress sessions at this year's Annecy International Animation Festival. Mfinda was also selected amongst the pitches at MIFA in the feature film category. 

The feature is created by Congolese-American artist Patience Lekien and co-created by Christiano Terry. The story centers on a 12-year-old Congolese girl who is transported to the Mfinda, a mystical forest inhabited by spirits, gods and ancestors. Joined by a girl from another time, she sets off on a journey to find the magical Nkisi in the hopes of finding a way back home.

As an international co-production, N LITE Japan will lead the development and production of Mfinda, with Masao Maruyama and Studio M2 in Tokyo.

Maruyama is a veteran producer, whose credits include Perfect Blue, Summer Wars and the upcoming Netflix series Pluto. He is the chairman of MAPPA and was a founder of the legendary studio Madhouse. Director GisaburĊ Sugii will be co-directing with first-time director Arthell Isom. Isom is co-founder of Tokyo-based studio D’ART Shtajio, Japan's first Black-founded anime studio, which is a production partner on the film. The screenplay is being written by Donald H. Hewitt, Patience Lekien, Christiano Terry, and Japanese writer Mika Abe.

N LITE Japan's production team includes Shin Koyamada, Shigeru Igari, and Tony Izumi. 

Masao Maruyama said: "Last year, my good friend Shigeru Igari whom I have known for many years from Madhouse and Shin Koyamada shared this new African anime film, Mfinda, with me. When Christiano and I met in Japan earlier this year, his enthusiasm for the film compelled me to join. I’m ready to tell a story about the positive power of spirits and community that will resonate in Japan and around the world."

GKIDS is on board as a producer, with founder and CEO Erick Beckman Executive Producing. Beckman says: "GKIDS is thrilled to be a part of the Mfinda team. From the moment we saw the first early drawings and treatment, we fell in love with the project and committed to helping bring Patience’s vision to life. As the Annecy audience will soon see, the world of Mfinda transcends the boundaries of geography and time with a deeply resonant story full of wonder, beauty, and ancient wisdom. We’re honored to be a part of the international team tasked with bringing this amazing film to a global audience.” 

This will mark GKIDS's third co-production, following Cartoon Saloon's The Breadwinner and Wolfwalkers.

N LITE was founded to tell untapped and authentic stories from black and indigenous creators to a global audience. They trademarked the name afrime to suggest the merging of Japanese anime with storytelling from Africa and the African diaspora. 

"We selected Mfinda as our flagship film because it’s not often that audiences are able to experience the power of storytelling through the journey of a young Congolese girl and her community. We look forward to transporting audiences to the Mfinda for an enchanting ride." said Christiano Terry, "Anime has a global fanbase amongst audiences of color, it’s an honor to work alongside legends of Japanese anime on this historic project.”