A COLLABORATION BETWEEN A KENYAN ANIMATION COMPANY, A BRITISH PRODUCTION TEAM AND THE BBC HAS LED TO THE CREATION OF A NEW ANIMATED SERIES AND SHOWN HOW AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS CAN SUPPORT ACTORS IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES
Myke Rabar’s phone rings. “Excuse me,” he says, “that’s going to happen a lot.” And it does. Rabar’s Homeboyz Entertainment has just broken into the animation big time with Tinga Tinga Tales, a co-production with the UK’s Tiger Aspect Productions.
The 52-episode series was launched on the BBC’s pre-school channel CBeebies in February and has also been sold to Playhouse Disney.
For an animation company, it does not come much bigger than this. The news is even more surprising because the outfit is based in Kenya, a newcomer to the animation scene compared with heavyweights like South Africa and Egypt.
People in the business hope the country can build on its success to exploit opportunities in a digital world where movies like Avatar are redefining entertainment.
CHARACTERS FROM TINGA TINGA TALES
Tinga Tinga Tales brings African folklore to life, drawing inspiration from Tanzania’s Tingatinga art, known for its bright colours and vivid animals. Each episode is 11 minutes long and includes tales such as ‘Why the elephant has a long trunk’ and ‘Why zebras have stripes’. The characters are hand-drawn and then animated at Homeboyz Animation, part of the Homeboyz group that includes recording studios, radio stations and a TV and film production unit.?
So far, Homeboyz has produced 26 episodes. At its headquarters on Nairobi’s Baricho Road, young artists hunch over their computer screens, bringing the remaining stories to life. The company is due to complete production by the end of the year.
'Doing anything for Disney obviously raises a lot of attention worldwide, so we are already scouting for the next big project,” says Rabar, 40, who founded Homeboyz as a DJ-ing unit in 1992. “Tinga Tinga Tales has really made us a focal point in Africa.”
Claudia Lloyd, Tiger Aspect’s head of animation and children’s programming, dreamed up the show after visiting East Africa. Lloyd, who produced the award-winning Charlie and Lola series, originally wanted to do the animation in Tanzania, but Kenya’s neighbour lacks the necessary infrastructure.?
The great majority of the animation talent was in Nairobi,” she says from her office at Homeboyz. “Then I met Myke and he is massively forward-thinking. He bought 40 computers and ran a pilot at his own expense. I got here and everything was bought, networked, working.”?
Tiger Aspect provided equipment and studios, and Rabar easily found the extra animators and production staff – around 50 people in total. “They know their stuff, they are diligent, they are very techy, which is what is required in this industry,” he says.?
With Tinga Tinga Tales on the air, the challenge is to keep up the momentum. That means nurturing an industry that can develop local content as well as seek work from abroad.
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