‘Nollywood’ Debuts Animated Nigerian Film

Filmmakers shoot  This Is Nollywood , a 2007 documentary analyzing Nigeria’s film industry. (Wikimedia Commons)

Filmmakers shoot This Is Nollywood, a 2007 documentary analyzing Nigeria’s film industry. (Wikimedia Commons)

Nigeria’s YouNeek Studios, in collaboration with Anthill Studios, has debuted its 100 percent animated film, Malika - Warrior Queen, a historical fantasy epic that takes place in 15th-century West Africa, inspired by the real Queen Anima of Zazzau. This film is one of the first animated films produced by Nigeria’s rapidly growing film industry. 

Malika is a warrior queen that unites the splintered Kingdom of Azzaz, ending a civil war. She goes on to lead Azzaz to greatness. The story was first published in 2016 as a comic book through YouNeek Studios. Following its success, CEO Roye Okupe, writer and producer of the story, adapted it into an animated film that debuted on September 25 at the 8th Lagos Comic Con. 

YouNeek Studios developed the film over the course of ten months on a $60,000 budget through Anthill Studios, a Nigerian-based visual media production company. It features voicing by top Nollywood stars Femi Branch, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, and Blossom Chukwujekwu.

Nigeria’s film industry, informally referred to as Nollywood, is one of the largest film industries in the world. In 2009, the United Nations reported that Nollywood was the second-largest producer of films in the world behind just India’s Bollywood. Moreover, in 2013, it placed third in the world in terms of revenue, according to Robert Orya, managing director of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM). Nollywood’s size and quality grows every year as filmmakers in the industry produce higher quality films with increasingly large viewership.

While Nollywood has always been a major player in live-action films, its animated industry has grown at a far slower pace. The animated film industry is currently dominated by a few countries, primarily the U.S. and Japan, which have large, internationally renowned studios like Disney’s Pixar and Japan’s Studio Ghibli. Nigeria’s animation industry has faced several issues impeding its growth. In Tayo Fasunon’s white paper on Nigeria’s animation industry, published by Quadron Studios for the Franco-German cultural fund, he outlines several issues and recommendations for Nigeria’s animation industry. He claims that lack of funding, unsupported innovation hubs, and piracy are major barriers to the success of Nigerian animation. He recommended increased investment in animation companies, collaborations between companies, and that the government work to tackle rampant piracy. 

This is why Okupe’s film represents great potential for Nigeria. As platforms such as Netflix stream more Nigerian films, the industry will grow rapidly towards international audiences, experts say. Netflix has also announced plans to launch an African all-girl superhero animation series through South African studio Triggerfish Animation. Films like Malika - Warrior Queen provide a peek into the future of Nigerian animation and Nollywood as a whole.

Okupe shares the same optimism about the future of Nollywood animation, saying, “I feel like when we talk about the Nigerian animation and comic book industry and even the video gaming industry as well too, this is the next frontier and I feel like we are going to follow in the footsteps of the music industry where in the next five to ten years we are going to see the same impact not just on the continent but overseas as well.”