Kenyan Animation Outpost

tinga tinga talesThe recent news that Playhouse Disney has joined with Britain’s Tiger Aspect Productions is co-producing a new animated TV series, Tinga Tinga Tales for preschoolers with Kenya’s Homeboyz Entertainment. The show, which revolves around African animals and is just starting animation,  is based on the Tinga Tinga art of Tanzania and was commissioned last year by CBeebies,(Children’s BBC).  What’s interesting is that the animation will be done in a studio  set up by Homeboyz in Nairobi.

A story notes that, “After production is completed in 2010, the studio will continue to provide jobs for the new animation industry in East Africa.” In addition,

Andrew Zein, Tiger Aspect’s MD, said: “This is one of the most ambitious projects we’ve ever taken on. On top of everything else it is truly inspirational to think that 50% of Tiger Aspect’s profits from the show will help make a real difference in improving the educational needs of children in East Africa.”

What interests me is what this may mean for animation in sub-Saharan Africa — will this really jump start animation in East Africa, or is just a one off deal?

Overseas animation studios have been around since the dawn of American television animation, when Jay Ward sent work on Rocky and His Friends to Mexico; in the process, it seems to have given a boost to the local Mexican animation.  However, Mexico did not last long as an destination for American TV work and, over the years, work flowed to countries as varied as Spain, Poland, Argentine, Japan, Taiwan, China and, more recently, India. The one continent that has been largely unaffected by this constant search for lower cost facilities has been Africa.

A small animation industry does exist in South Africa, though the only African outpost for overseas production I know of has been Pipangai Production on the island of La Réunion, a French colonial outpost off Madagascar. (Pipangai’s success seems due in large part to its political status as an overseas department of France, which allows for various financial incentives.) If Homeboyz can pull off its part of the bargain, and if Kenya can maintain some political stability, and if the show is a success, perhaps there might be some hope that East Africa can join the international animation fraternity.

P.S.: An update on Tinga Tinga Tales can be found here.