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New Details on ‘Iwájú’ from Disney Animation and African Animation Studio Kugali

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Way back in 2020, Disney announced a groundbreaking new animation project, where Walt Disney Animated Studios would be collaborating with a newly formed Pan-African entertainment company called Kugali.

At D23 Expo in 2022, Disney shared a few sneak peaks about the highly anticipated project, Iwájú, including some character images and a beautiful floor display featuring the characters.

Today, Disney finally released more details on the a six-part original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The series follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds.

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This project is special on so many levels. It’s rare that Disney Animation collaborates with other animation studios, let alone a newly formed one like Kugali, which reflects the incredible talents of the Kugali founders, Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, Hamid Ibrahim and Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku.

With the record breaking success of Black Panther in 2018, followed by a hugely successful sequel in Wakanda Forever in 2020, I’ve often wondered why we haven’t seen an explosion of Afrofuturistic stories across all media. In an industry where most companies follow the leader, I would have expected to see many more of these kinds of projects, considering that there are clearly amazing stories to be told and a massive audience for them. While we haven’t seen that happen yet in the industry as a whole, it’s great to see Disney investing in more African stories and creators.

“Crafting the narrative of ‘Iwájú’ has been a journey of creative alchemy, blending the rich cultural tapestry of Lagos with imaginative leaps into the future. Collaborating with my Kugali co-founders and the visionary artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios has been nothing short of magical. The heartbeat of my hometown resonates through every scene, and I am thrilled for the world to experience this unique fusion of tradition and futurism,” Adeola said.

The series is set to release on February 28th on Disney+ in the United States, with release dates for Nigeria and other territories to be announced in the near future.

Check out additional details below, the new images from Iwájú, and a brief teaser shared by Disney Animation.

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Walt Disney Animation Studios’ collaboration with Pan-African entertainment company Kugali has culminated in the all-new six-part series “Iwájú,” streams exclusively on Disney+ beginning Feb. 28, 2024. Images are now available. 

Note: While the series debuts on Feb. 28 in the US, release timing and distribution platform for select regions, including Nigeria, will be announced shortly.  

“Iwájú” is an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria. The exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola, a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole, a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds. Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos. The series is produced by Disney Animation’s Christina Chen with a screenplay by Adeola and Halima Hudson. “Iwájú” features the voices of Simisola Gbadamosi, Dayo Okeniyi, Femi Branch, Siji Soetan and Weruche Opia.

Said Adeola, “Crafting the narrative of ‘Iwájú’ has been a journey of creative alchemy, blending the rich cultural tapestry of Lagos with imaginative leaps into the future. Collaborating with my Kugali co-founders and the visionary artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios has been nothing short of magical. The heartbeat of my hometown resonates through every scene, and I am thrilled for the world to experience this unique fusion of tradition and futurism.”

Also debuting Feb. 28 on Disney+ is “Iwájú: A Day Ahead,” a documentary special filmed across three continents that shares the story of the founders of the Pan-African entertainment company, Kugali, who made their dream a reality creating an original animation series with Walt Disney Animation Studios. Created by the ABC News Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios team that brought you “Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2,” the documentary shows anything is possible when talent meets opportunity. “Iwájú: A Day Ahead” is directed by Megan Harding and executive produced by Amy Astley and Beth Hoppe. 

About Kugali

With authenticity and creativity at its heart, Kugali is an African-owned and operated storytelling collective spearheading Africa’s modern emergence into the AAA media landscape. Founded in 2017 by Tolu Olowofoyeku, Olufikayo Adeola and Hamid Ibrahim with the purpose of taking African stories to the world, Kugali Media has attracted recognition from companies like Disney and the BBC, as well as paved the way for a generation of new African storytellers to find their voices in graphic novels. Their most notable achievements include record-breaking crowdfunding campaigns, a slew of award-winning graphic novels and their upcoming Disney+ series in collaboration with Disney Animation, “Iwájú.” 

About Walt Disney Animation Studios

Combining masterful artistry and storytelling with groundbreaking technology, Walt Disney Animation Studios is a filmmaker-driven animation studio responsible for creating some of the most beloved films ever made. Disney Animation continues to build on its rich legacy of innovation and creativity, including the first fully-animated feature film, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 2019’s Frozen 2, the biggest animated film of all timeAmong the studio’s timeless creations are Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Frozen, Zootopia and Encanto. 

About ABC News Studios

ABC News Studios, inspired by ABC News’ trusted reporting, is an award-winning, premium news and documentary original production house and commissioning partner of series and specials. ABC News Studios champions untold and authentic stories driving the cultural zeitgeist spanning true-crime, investigations, pop culture and news-adjacent stories. ABC News Studios’ original titles include critically acclaimed documentaries “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,” “Sound of the Police,” “The Lady Bird Diaries” and “Aftershock,” and popular docu-series and documentaries, including “Killing County,” “Wild Crime,” “Mormon No More,” “The Randall Scandal: Love, Loathing, and Vanderpump” and “Jelly Roll: Save Me.” 

About Disney+

Disney+ is the dedicated streaming home for movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, along with The Simpsons and much more. In select international markets, it also includes the general entertainment content brand, Star, and in the U.S., Disney Bundle subscribers can also access extensive Hulu content, including next day TV and Hulu Original titles, on Disney+. The flagship direct-to-consumer streaming service from The Walt Disney Company, Disney+ offers an ever-growing collection of exclusive originals, including feature-length films, documentaries, live-action and animated series, and short-form content. With unprecedented access to Disney’s long history of incredible film and television entertainment, Disney+ is also the exclusive streaming home for the newest releases from The Walt Disney Studios. Disney+ is available as a standalone streaming service, as part of the Disney Bundle in the U.S. that gives subscribers access to Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, or as part of Combo+ in Latin America with Star+, the standalone general entertainment and sports streaming service in the region. For more, visit disneyplus.com, or find the Disney+ app on most mobile and connected TV devices.

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Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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