Exclusive: Disney only “scratched the surface” of African animation, says Orion Ross

Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire

Disney has “just scratched the surface” of pan-African animation with Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, Disney EMEA’s VP of animation Orion Ross has told TBI here at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

The sci-fi anthology series, which is led by South African studio Triggerfish, and comprises 10 short films from creators in six African countries, launches on 5 July as Disney+’s first African original animated series.

“Some of the films in the Kizazi Moto anthology have really rich and deep world building, and there’s potential for them to be spun off into future series or something like that,” said Ross.

“We’ve seen that some animated anthologies work really well on streaming services and the hope is that if this one connects and finds an audience, that we could do more of it – potentially from other regions or with other themes.”

Ross said that while the series includes original animation from Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe, Disney “can’t honestly claim that it’s comprehensive.”

“We really just scratched the surface of it, including some big gaps; there’s a lot of Francophone West Africa, which is not really represented in the anthology,” Ross explained.

“It’s heavily weighted towards South Africa, because that has kind of the biggest creative community and the most experience in terms of animation. So that’s kind of where you start naturally, but just looking at other countries in Africa there’s a lot of room to grow and a lot more potential for doing a similar thing.”

Dragon Striker

Broad appeal

Ross said that while nothing in the way of animation from the Middle East, with the region also falling under his remit, has yet been announced for Disney+, it is also “under consideration.”

“We’re always looking for new creative opportunities and partners in North Africa, in Israel, in UAE and other parts of the Middle East. In terms of animation, there’s some really interesting studios that are emerging there.”

Ross said that no matter the originating country, the show must have global appeal: “We’re always looking for the right pitch or the right opportunity, but it always has to be something that is going to play broadly.

“Even with Kizazi Moto, it’s not a local South African play; it was always intended to be a global production, and so whether we do a French show, or whether we do a Jordanian show, it’s got to be something that is going to play really broadly.”

Reflecting that broad strategy, Ross shared that the EMEA team is looking for “grounded comedies” that are focused “on the magic of everyday life” for pre-schoolers. “What is the next Bluey – everybody would like to know,” he added, pointing to the Australian animation that Disney+ acquired.

Meanwhile, for older kids, Ross said he was interested in “comedies similar to The Sunnyridge 3,” which was announced by Ross at MIFA earlier in the week, while “serialised adventures are still important,” pointing to the upcoming anime-style Dragon Striker, which was first unveiled at the festival last year.

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