Exclusive: How Disney+ animation ‘Kizazi Moto’ gives African creators a voice

Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire

Disney+ broke new ground this week with the launch of the streamer’s first African original animated series, Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire.

The Afrofuturistic sci-fi anthology, debuting globally on 5 July, is led by Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios, and comprises 10 short films from creators in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“It’s actual African creators getting the chance to speak and tell stories the way they want to tell them without preconditions. It’s the stories that those artists wanted to share with the world,” enthuses Peter Ramsey, the co-director of the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, who is executive producing Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire alongside Triggerfish’s Tendayi Nyeke and Anthony Silverston.

Speaking to TBI recently at the Annecy Festival, Ramsey said that the series explores themes of “reconciling the past with the present in a story set in the future.” These themes are explored through a sci-fi lens with each story presenting different futuristic visions of Africa and drawing heavy inspiration from 2018 Marvel superhero blockbuster Black Panther.

“Seeing Afrofuturism in Black Panther, and how it just impacted the world, we were like ‘well, what if we tell our own stories, using science fiction as a vehicle?’,” reveals Nkeye. “So Black Panther modelled that and showed that everyone could get behind stories told in this cool way, and so we just tried to do the same.”

Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire

Kizazi Moto’s wider diversity

Nkeye tells TBI that she believes the series will change perceptions of Africa around the world but highlights that while the show has been championed as an ‘African original’, it is representative of a much wider cultural diversity throughout the continent.

“We want the world to see Africa as diverse. Early on in the development, I started to become aware of how different I was [by] bringing my Zimbabwean identity to a Kenyan film – and that’s wrong,” says Nkeye.

“Even though I’m African, I’m not Kenyan and I’m not Ugandan, I’m not Nigerian, but I still need to support the way they tell stories.” Nkeye says that “building that cultural bridge” was a “really cool opportunity” and in the end “we feel like we’ve successfully supported that.”

Silverston adds that the series, which was commissioned by Disney+ in 2021, is an “extremely important” project “just for the continent to be heard.”

Shepherding so many creators across so many countries, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, was “definitely a complex project” he says. “There were a lot of different people involved from across the world. So just getting each team right, like the right dynamic or pairing of writers and artists and art directors, that was probably the main [challenge].”

As for what the future has in store for these futuristic stories, Nkeye says that “we’d love” to do a second season, with Silverston suggesting that “potentially any of [the shorts] could [become] more.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Disney EMEA’s VP of animation Orion Ross, who recently told TBI that: “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.”

Ross suggested that Disney could do more Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire “potentially from other regions or with other themes.”

Echoing Nkeye’s point about the wider cultural diversity of the continent, Ross observed: “We really just scratched the surface of it… 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.”

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