Creators of new Disney+ series 'Iwájú' bring vision of African storytelling to the streaming world

ByGeorge Pennacchio OTRC logo
Thursday, February 29, 2024
New Disney+ series 'Iwájú' takes us on animated adventure to Nigeria
Creators of the new Disney+ series "Iwájú" are bringing their vision of African storytelling to the streaming world with a new animated series.

HOLLYWOOD -- "Iwájú" is a six-part animated series set in a futuristic Nigeria. The men behind the production are co-founders of African entertainment company Kugali, a comic book and augmented reality business.

However, they also harbored big plans for the future. Enter Disney Animation.

"Iwájú" revolves around a young girl who goes on an adventure when she, her best friend, and her pet lizard leave their wealthy island to explore Lagos.

One of the founders of the creative company Kugali essentially "challenged" Disney about the prospect of working with them, and a fairytale collaboration was born.

"I buy into that this idea that in many ways, it feels like a fairytale, especially the way it all happened," said writer-director Olufikayo "Ziki" Adeola. "Because Hamid, we were interviewed by the BBC, he called out Disney. And the next thing you know, they reached out to us."

Adeola said the vision for their company was always huge. "You know, we wanted to revolutionize African storytelling. The comic books were just the first steps in a journey of 1,000 miles. So we knew one day we'd do a project on this scale."

Our main characters' adventures help them learn about the beauty and the dangers of their world. "Iwájú" weaves a sci-fi sensibility with the culture and traditions of Nigeria.

"I wanted this place to feel real. I wanted to capture the soul of Lagos," said production designer Hamid Ibrahim. "I hope a lot of the world gets to see what you can actually produce, when instead of looking at the soul from the outside in, you look at it from the inside out. And the spirit that captures the soul is captured. The authenticity that can come out of that, the nuance that really drives it. I hope the whole world can see it and be like, OK, let's make a lot more stories which are like this."

"If it's a good story, people are going to get drawn into the world that they are seeing, regardless of where they are from," said cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku. "They're not going to be like 'Oh, I don't know this culture. So I'm not interested.' Because in the same way, I've been consuming good stories created in other parts of the world. And as a kid I didn't care about oh, this is this country and that's that country. Wow. Giant robots fighting giant monsters. Awesome!"

All six episodes of "Iwájú" are streaming now on Disney+. They have a behind-the-scenes documentary "Iwájú: A Day Ahead" that also is available now.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of Disney+ and this ABC station.