• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
businessday logo


Meet the brains behind ‘Iwaju’, Disney’s new animated series set in a futuristic Lagos

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Walt Disney Animation Studios teams up with Pan-African entertainment company, Kugali, for an original animated series set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria.

Iwaju’, 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 Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, director; Hamid Ibrahim, production designer and Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku, cultural consultant 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.

Read also: How Kugali founder  “shared dream” gave birth to Iwájú, Disney’s new animation series

The series is produced by Disney Animation’s Christina Chen with a screenplay by Adeola and Halima Hudson. Featuring the voices of Simisola Gbadamosi, Dayo Okeniyi, Femi Branch, Siji Soetan and Weruche Opia, “Iwájú” streams exclusively on Disney+ Feb. 28, 2024, in a six-episode event.

Also debuted 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 Stu, Meet the brains behind.


Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku (Cultural Consultant) is a pioneer in the Nigerian video game industry and co-founder, president, and CTO of Kugali, the African-based media company formed in 2017, which publishes African comics from all across the continent and promotes African storytelling through augmented reality, comics, animation and games.

Drawing on his years of experience across various professional and artistic spaces, his current roles include directing the vision of Kugali’s narrative roster – when he’s not making video games. Among his top projects at Kugali is the long-form, science fiction-themed animated series in partnership with Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Iwaju,” debuting February 28, 2024, on Disney+.

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Olowofoyeku developed an interest in comic books, video games and animation from the age of five. His knowledge and curiosity were fed as a child by a set of encyclopedias (World Book International: Young Scientist Series), which initiated his focus on science.

“As the cultural consultant, my job is to ensure everything felt grounded and like real life Lagos which is something I have already been doing for years in the comic book space at Kugali.

” Whenever we are telling a story, whether the story is from Ghana, Zimbabwe or Kenya, I make sure that the story feels grounded to that particular location. The fact that I was raised in Lagos and I live in Lagos, it means that it was even easier for me to do it for this project. For other projects, I may need to consult a Ghanaian for stories from Ghana. For Iwájú, a story set in Lagos, because I am from Lagos, I know what Lagos feels like and i know what feels out of place in Lagos,” Olowofoyeku said.

Read also: Disney’s Iwaju to air on DSTV for African audiences

Olowofoyeku who is a comic book and animation lover, told BD Weekender that he loves video games but in all of these, video games are his biggest passion.

“I pulled together the community of video games developers across Nigeria. I have a platform where game developers just communicate with each other. I started this platform the same year I started Kugali. Because I want to make video games and I am based in Nigeria and I realize that trying to do such things from here presents it’s wonderful unique challenges that people in other parts of the world may not necessarily need to deal with, i then added to my mission the fact that I need to enable an environment where people can create these contents.

“We created Kugali so that we can promote the visual story telling across Africa. Iwájú will open the eyes of the larger society across Africa to what is possible. It has already opened the eyes of parents to see that their children can make comic books for a living,” Olowofoyeku added.


Ziki the Director/Screenwriter/Original Story is an award-winning international filmmaker and entrepreneur as well as co-founder and former CEO of Kugali Media. Adeola is based in London, but production on “Iwájú” has involved talent working remotely from Nigeria, Uganda, London, Montreal, and Burbank.

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Adeola spent the last years of his childhood in the United Kingdom. He studied creative writing at City University in London, where he found guidance and a community within the entrepreneurship team, and where he wrote his first screenplay.

Authoring his first graphic novel, “Iku” was the next milestone on his road to success. Among his earliest influences were cartoons, comics, and Disney Animation. He found the soundtracks and scores for Disney films resonated with him and proved to be inspirational in his creative process throughout his career. Adding to his desire to become a storyteller was a love of manga and anime, particularly shows like “Dragon Ball Z” and “Naruto.”

Also fueling his imagination were such manga series comics as “Fullmetal Alchemist” and “Berserk,” which showed him what was possible in terms of storytelling through art and animation, and shaped his own creative vision as a storyteller.

In an interview with BD Weekender, Ziki said Iwájú is the beginning of their journey into animation.

He said prior to Iwájú, they had done animations on a much smaller scale.

Read also: Disney Animation, Kugali new series “Iwájú” premieres in Lagos

“This is the first time we have done a full fledged narrative and I believe this will be the beginning of many. Once the world sees the quality and potential that Iwájú holds, everybody is going to want more.

“The themes of Iwájú exist along a spectrum. So there are themes that reflect a more harsher realities of Lagos, and there are themes that are more positive challenging the status quo, innovation and the spirit of Lagos, amongst others.

“The reasons why I had all of these things was because I wanted something that was authentic to Lagos and i also wanted something that people could watch and leave the screen feeling hopeful. Everything is rooted from my experience living in Lagos and the fact that I am an optimistic person who holds a lot of hope in Lagos,” he explained.


Hamid Ibrahim is the Production Designer of Iwájú.

Ibrahim was born in Uganda and moved to Kenya one year later, where he spent the next nine years of his life. His interest in art dates back to this period of time, when he saw a commercial featuring Mona Lisa, and began a lifelong fascination and appreciation for Leonardo DaVinci.

Another early childhood influence was Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 1994 animated classic, “The Lion King.” He felt a love and connection with the film even before he could fully understand it because the characters spoke Swahili. Revisiting the film in his teenage years had a significant impact on Ibrahim, and it remains his favorite animated feature of all time. It was then that his big Hollywood dream – a dream to make something that would touch people all over the world – was born, although he didn’t really believe it was possible for him.

After nine years in Kenya, Ibrahim returned to Uganda to live with his grandmother, while his mother moved to London in search of better work opportunities. Just before he turned 18, he was reunited with his mother in the United Kingdom.

Ibrahim shares some of his experiences with BD Weekender. “I grew up in Uganda and growing up in Uganda, there is a way you see the world and the system. There is a way you push for things in Uganda as compared to the UK. In UK, there is a freedom you get but Uganda is very strict.

Read also: Disney’s Iwaju: Made by Nigerians but not for Nigeria

“This created a balance inside me where I can work really hard but I’m not boxed in, in terms of how I think. I try to work really hard on unique things as much as possible. I take bold steps most people may not want to because I have a belief in myself,” he said.

Speaking on the approach he took to produce the series, he said, “In a science fiction world, people blend two elements. For instance there are no flying cars in our world but there would be flying cars portraying the future. This was not the approach we took. The approach is ‘what is something that would serve Lagos Nigeria’. The reason we used flying cars is that when you are stuck in traffic and you can fly over the traffic, then you would fly over the traffic.”

He disclosed that there were some hard things he had to do that were fun still. “You are working with Disney which is a very experienced company. The Original Lion King film inspired me to like animation.”


Christine Service, general manager, World Disney company Africa said Iwájú is a first of its kind because it is a collaboration between World Disney Animation Studios and Nigerian based Kugali.

“This is the first time we at Disney have collaborated in this way with film makers from Nigeria. Iwájú is a series. It takes place in Lagos, which is very exciting. It showcases the Lagos everybody knows and also the very futuristic side of the city.”

Service said at Disney, story telling is at the core of what they do, adding that in telling those stories, they focus on creative excellence, quality and innovation.

“We also take great care to make sure we are telling stories where audiences can see themselves and their worlds reflected. For us, this story was particularly compelling because we have never told the story that takes place here before and it very much aligns with Disney’s own objective.”