For entertainment fans, Disney’s Investor Day event will go down as one of the highlights of 2020 (though that’s not saying much). Amidst the onslaught of exciting announcements from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, some projects were bound to slip through the cracks. Among the most interesting is a long-form series by Walt Disney Animation Studios called Iwájú. Set in Legolas, Nigeria, Iwájú is a science-fiction tale that explores, “deep themes of class, innocence and challenging the status quo.”
Apart from being an original property in an era of sequels, reboots, and remakes, the most fascinating aspect of Iwájú is how the project came to be. As Jennifer Lee (chief creative officer of Disney Animation) tells the story, it all began in 2019 when Lee saw a video about a group of Nigerian and Ugandan storytellers with aspirations to outclass Disney. These three comic book artists—Tolu Olowofoyeku, Ziki Nelson, and Hamid Ibrahim—founded the entertainment company Kugali, whose mission is to create and share African stories by African voices. Lee was so taken by their talents that a collaboration between Kugali and Disney Animation was soon underway. And from this partnership came Iwájú.
There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Iwájú. For one, it’s an entirely new story being told by fresh, new voices. Sequels are fun, and even remakes have their merits, but neither can compare to experiencing an original story that isn’t bound by preconceived notions or expectations. Secondly, Disney Animation has rarely delved into African culture. This is a region rich with imaginative, thought-provoking tales worth telling in film and television. If you’re looking for inspiration, you could do a lot worse than turning to this vast continent.
Lastly, Iwájú will have the distinction of being Walt Disney Animation Studios’ first original series. Upcoming shows like Tiana and Moana are all continuations of popular movies, whereas Iwájú will be the first series not to be based on a preexisting film. Depending on Iwájú‘s quality and reception, this could be a game-changing move for the studio. As wonderful as movies have always been, I contend that the television format is the superior way of telling stories in a visual medium. It provides more time to flesh out your world, characters, and themes. And should these elements resonate, the audience has upwards of 10 hours to enjoy them, rather than a mere two and a half. To have the world class artists at Disney Animation working in this kind of structure does nothing but excite me.
Iwájú will premiere on Disney+ in 2022.
What are your thoughts about Iwájú? Let us know in the comments below!
Edited by Kelly Conley