Directed by Kugali co-founder Ziki Nelson, the new animated series will feature authentic stories inspired by African culture; show is set to premiere in 2023 on Disney+.
Cinesite has been tapped to produce the 3DCG animation for the upcoming Disney+ series Iwájú, marking the studio’s first animated project with Walt Disney Animation Studios. The upcoming series, a collaboration between Walt Disney Animation Studios and the African entertainment company, Kugali, is set to premiere in 2023 on Disney+.
Iwájú, a name that loosely translates to “the future” in the Yoruba language, is set in Lagos and will explore deep themes of inequality, innocence and challenging the status quo. Ziki Nelson, Hamid Ibrahim and Tolu Olowofoyeku established Kugali to tell "stories inspired by African culture using comic books, art and augmented reality," according to their website.
"This show will combine Disney's magic and animation expertise with Kugali's fire and storytelling authenticity," commented Nelson.
Cinesite’s London and Montreal teams will be working with Disney Animation and Kugali leadership. The series is directed by Ziki Nelson (Kugali founder), working with the Disney Animation team led by Christina Chen (producer) and Marlon West (VFX supervisor), under the helm of Disney Animation’s chief creative officer, Jennifer Lee. Cinesite’s production team is led by Joel MacDonald (producer) and Ellen Poon (VFX supervisor).
“There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Iwájú,” commented Cinesite chief of animation Eamonn Butler. “For one, it’s an entirely new, original story inventively set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. Secondly, to work with the best in animation with Walt Disney Animation Studios and fresh, new voices with the exciting storytellers of Kugali is truly a first-of-its-kind not just for Cinesite, but for all of us. The Cinesite teams have worked hard to continually raise the quality bar and working with Disney Animation is testament to everyone’s efforts. We’re looking forward to showcasing our crew’s innovation and creativity to Disney!”
Pre-production is underway at Cinesite with top talent being recruited by Cinesite Montreal to begin work on the series. During the production, it is expected that over 200 artists, technicians and support staff will be employed to work on the series. Iwájú is the latest animation project at Cinesite, joining MGM’s The Addams Family sequel, Aniventure’s Blazing Samurai, an animated comedy based on Mel Brooks’ classic film Blazing Saddles, alongside Aniventure’s Hitpig from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Berkeley Breathed, which are all in production.
Although this is the first time Cinesite is working with Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio previously worked with Walt Disney Studios on live-action features such as Mary Poppins Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.