AREA! is a "little" animation experiment, and the idea behind it is to provide ingenious animation drawn from everyday life in Nigeria. The result of this experiment is just whoa! Even the word "viral" is not good enough to describe how far it has spread across the blogosphere since it was launched about 3 years ago.
For this year's animation day, I'll be strolling with the guy behind this sensation. Nnamdi is a graduate of University of Lagos, Nigeria, and he's part of the rising generation of young Africans who are pushing the boundaries of professionalism to create careers for themselves in their areas of passion.
We discussed the vision behind AREA!. how we can foster locally-made animation. Naruto. and much more. Here's our conversation:
Ebenezar: Thank you for making out time to stroll with me, Nnamdi.
Nnamdi: Thanks, the pleasure is mine.
Ebenezar: AREA! is one of the most original, and most ingenious, ideas I have ever seen. If it's an established fact that laughter increases one's life span, then I can say you have increased many life spans across Nigeria, including mine. What inspired you to start this animation series?
Nnamdi: AREA! began primarily as an experiment to see if Nigerians would like Nigerian animation. We got ideas for the material from popular Nigerian culture and behavior.
(Snapshot from ''Owo Money'', an AREA episode)
Ebenezar: Another thing I can notice is the great sense of humor in each and every episode. Your stories keep people laughing from the beginning to the end; something many stand-up comedians struggle to do. How did you develop such a sense of humor? Or do you have comedians working with you?
Nnamdi: We don't have comedians working with us, funny enough. Everyone on the AREA! team is either an animator or an illustrator/designer and all the scripts for the videos are developed within the team.
Ebenezar: (Hahah) Wow, really? That's interesting. Can you tell me a bit about your educational background? Did you study fine arts or something related?
Nnamdi: I studied Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Lagos from 2000 to 2006. Prior to that, the other design courses I did were Technical Drawing in senior secondary school and Fine Art in junior secondary school. While I always showed an interest in illustration as a personal hobby, I never really pursued it as a discipline.
Ebenezar: So how did you discover your talent for animation?
Nnamdi: It evolved naturally. I enjoyed animation as a kid, so the older I got, the more I wanted to find out how it was made.
(Snapshot from ''Lagimo'', an AREA episode)
Ebenezar: I also watched cartoons growing up as a kid; Scooby-Doo, Flintstones, Tom and Jerry, and the like, and most popular cartoons are based on the American and British cultures; so kids from Africa don't really have cartoons that teach them about their continent. What can be done about this?
Nnamdi: When it comes to animation or entertainment, kids don't particularly care where it comes from as long as they enjoy it. Yes, while I do believe that there's a gap for locally developed animation or animation developed specifically for the local market, I think it has to be done right. A lot of people think that just because a product is developed locally, people owe them a duty to consume that product. Unfortunately, kids are the one demographic that is completely impervious to this belief.
So whatever animated content that's developed locally for kids has to be just as compelling or even more so than the foreign shows. Even if the intent is to educate the kids using animation, it still has to be compelling enough to catch their attention. If this mix can be gotten right, I bet we'll see an increase in locally developed animation.
Ebenezar: Okay, that's great. October 26th is International Animation Day and many people feel animators and animation, is a childish affair. What can you say about that? How important is the art of animation?
Nnamdi: Of all the mediums of art and visual communication, animation is the most compelling as well as the most enduring, not just for kids but for adults as well. Animation created in the 1950s and '60s, like Tom and Jerry, is still being enjoyed today.
Ebenezar: What are some future plans you have for your animation? Or are you comfortable with how far you've come?
Nnamdi: Everything we've done so far has been exploratory. We're now just beginning to take a more structured approach to some of the ideas we developed and tested and we want to see how far we can take them. So, yeah, I'd say we're just about kicking off.
Ebenezar: What challenges do animators from this part of the World (Africa) face?
Nnamdi: In all honesty, I actually see no peculiar challenges. Animation is an extremely labor-intensive discipline everywhere so that isn't a unique issue. On the contrary, I actually see massive opportunities for telling amazing stories to the African audience using animation. This market is currently untapped and I believe there are sizeable rewards for whoever can create a sustainable means of telling these stories.
Ebenezar: Very Interesting...The Japanese comic "Naruto" has evolved into a global phenomenon with such a large following. Do you also follow Naruto? And what do you think is responsible for its success?
Nnamdi: Yes, I follow Naruto. And as for the reasons for its success, I'd say it's primarily due to its story elements. Naruto's author, Kishimoto was smart (or lucky) enough to infuse a number of really compelling elements into his story and into his characters. These compelling elements allow the story to resonate with different audiences from all over the world.
Ebenezar: These days many youths want to rush into music--whether they are gifted or not--because they feel that's where the money is, but you took time to discover yourself and hone your skill, and see how far it has taken you. What can you say to them about Self-discovery?
Nnamdi: I understand the of appeal of something that seems to reward minimal effort with a flashy lifestyle so I really can't blame young people who feel music would be their ticket to the good life even though the statistics say different.
Self discovery comes with time, and with constant application of yourself. This essentially means a lot of work as well as endless experimentation. The default advice I'd give a young Nigerian person would be to start working on their own projects as early as possible, by sixteen or seventeen. Regardless of whether these projects fail or succeed, they'll give the individual an insight into their own capacities and a better sense of what might work for them.
Ebenezar: Before we go, apart from animation are there other ventures you're involved in? And what is drofu? You seem to retweet them a lot.
Nnamdi: I'm currently part of a team that's building a number of projects and ventures with Animated content at its core. We've been launching some of them quietly and we hope to launch some more in the coming months. Drofu's actually one of these projects. :)
Ebenezar: Yeah, I thought as much. That's great bro. It was a pleasure having you on the stroll Mr Nnamdi, I hope we can do this again some other time?
Nnamdi: Thanks for having me bro.
This interview was first published on THE STROLL to #Observe International Animation Day