Featured image: 'The Sim' animated short.
What’s it with Nigeria and the slow growth of her animation industry? This is 2016 and we still don’t produce a cartoon series with South Park-type graphics. Sigh.
I grew up watching lots of foreign cartoons - first on local TV stations, then on DSTV. To be honest, I didn’t start watching cartoons on DSTV till 2004. For the first few years, I had to settle for the cartoons they showed at 4pm on weekdays and Saturday morning. I’ll never forget Droopy the Master Detective, the many episodes of Tom and Jerry, Teletubbies and Tweenies - if they can pass for cartoons.
It wasn’t until 2005, when I was in secondary school, that I heard about a Nigerian-made cartoon: Chika and the Warriors. I remember this because the title sounded like a rip-off of Chike and the River; or maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks on me. Anyway, I was excited when I saw the trailer on Silverbird Television. It took another 8 years before Chika and the Warriors saw the light of day and it was a tad bit underwhelming. But that’s not the point of this short, unsolicited autobiography I have just thrown at your face.
During the weekend, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo delivered the keynote address at The Platform Abuja. In that address, he highlighted the Nigerian Federal Government’s plans for the tech ecosystem. He talked about a number of things, but the one most relevant to this article is his point that Nigeria’s animation industry needs the support of the Federal Government.
In his words, “the challenge is the size of the animation workforce and infrastructure to render long duration and high end animation work. The answer is to fix the scale and enable investment in infrastructure to support the animation industry.”
Allow me draw out the two problems he identified:
- The small size of the animation workforce
- Lack of infrastructure
His diagnosis is valid. Although the animation industry in Nigeria is growing - it’s now easier to find considerably accomplished animators - there are still a lot of things stopping it from exploding. It’s not like there’s a scarcity of stories and ideas. I mean, many Nigerians grew up hearing folktales about talking animals and omnipotent spirits. Our imagination isn’t limited.
Is third mainland bridge falling down or nah?
It’s just that there just isn’t enough interest in building the industry yet. And even if there is, the infrastructure is lacking
Animation requires skilled artists and illustrators as much as it needs equipment, solid financial investment and channels to broadcast the finished work. The last requirement is not too big a mountain to climb.
If we can get more people who have acquired the skills required to create full-length cartoons or cartoon series, and more willing investors to back up the projects, there will be remarkable growth in the animation industry.
Of course the Federal Government’s support is welcome, but it pales in comparison with the weightier and more impactful requirements highlighted. Nigerian music and movies don’t rely on the Federal Government for the kind of huge growth they are experiencing, I doubt the animation industry does.
What are your thoughts? Does the animation industry in Nigeria need the intervention of government? What other avenues could be utilized to spur the growth of this budding industry?