• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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JUNGLEMAN: An ambitious project eyes foreign-dominated animation market

JUNGLEMAN: An ambitious project eyes foreign-dominated animation market

Many African children grew up watching superhero animations from Disney and other Hollywood production companies. The animation industry in Africa has been dominated by foreign investors for many years despite its existence. Attempts at adding local content to the industry have been superficial because local investments are not able to match the scale of foreign investors.

The result is that the continent has no recognisable homegrown superheroes. In most cases, foreign studios have also attempted to create superheroes for the continent: Black Panther and The Woman King, among others.

One company is trying to change the story in Africa. TU Studios Africa may not have Disney’s $162 billion valuation nor its billion-dollar investment war chest, but it has an oversized ambition and a superhero character that when fully developed could potentially take on any Disney superhero.

JUNGLEMAN will be the first project under TU Studios Africa’s expanded broader vision for the creative industry in Africa. JUNGLEMAN’s creation is rooted in the desire to address the lack of a prominent African superhero in the global entertainment landscape. Superheroes tell a story about a people and often shape the narrative about them. In the case of Africa, the narrative has mainly been shaped by foreign production companies, which told the story of the continent from their understanding.

JUNGLEMAN is a storyline that seeks to build a comprehensive creative ecosystem around an original character. It is inspired by the rich diversity of African cultures, mythology, imagination and the desire to contribute to global representation. It aims to not only tell a compelling superhero story but also weave it into different aspects of popular culture, including animation, gaming, high fashion, and merchandise.

“To realise our vision, the concept had to be authentically African, relatable, and inspiring,” said the creator of the project Jeffrey Uzoma Fidelis, a multi-disciplinary creative designer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. “We’re currently showcasing the project through what I term ‘interactive teaser marketing,’ a method that involves our potential audience in building the brand. While we have a strategic plan, we aim to make our audience feel integral to the journey until the eagerly anticipated day when we fully unveil the project.”

TU Studios Africa, which is expecting that a captivating superhero storyline would attract large audiences to the project, would collaborate with established production houses to bring it to reality. Market research suggests that a successful film and television franchise can generate revenue of up to $500 million annually. JUNGLEMAN also projects annual revenue of $200 million in gaming alone. This it hopes to achieve by developing innovative, immersive video games with captivating storylines and engaging gameplay. It also expects additional revenue from in-game purchases, merchandise tie-ins, and licensing agreements. The company plans to leverage the popularity of the superhero brand to grow demand for a fashion brand that is expected to become mainstream as a result of the film. The company estimates revenue of $150 million from this unit.

“JUNGLEMAN establishes itself as a global brand, and the potential for franchising and licensing agreements becomes lucrative. Revenue can be generated through merchandise, toy deals, theme park attractions, and other partnerships. Based on industry standards and the success of similar superhero franchises, we estimate annual revenue from franchising and licensing to reach $300 million,” the company said in a pitch deck BusinessDay saw.

TU Studios Africa has many reasons to be optimistic about the animation market in Africa. According to the IMARC Group report on the Africa animation market, the market size reached $13.3 billion in 2023. The report notes the factors driving the growth in 2023 include the increasing adoption of advanced animation software that includes customisable characters, libraries of animations, automatic lip-syncing tools, and pre-defined sets. The animation market is also growing because the popularity of international animated cartoons has increased their broadcasting hours on cable and satellite channels across African countries.

In addition, several regional animation studios are also launching locally-produced content to cater to the traditional preferences of consumers, thereby further bolstering the market growth. Apart from this, the increasing penetration of numerous over-the-top platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, is also propelling the market for animation. Additionally, the growing utilisation of animation-based content in the education sector to create an effective and engaging learning environment is further catalysing market growth.

Some of the challenges that have posed a barrier for many local animation studios include funding, distribution, and inclusivity. Before TU Studios Africa, there were other animation studios like Kugali, Spoof Animation, Luma Pictures, and Fatboy Animations. However, many of them struggle to achieve the reach of foreign studios due to a lack of funding and poor distribution networks.

Fidelis says that JUNGLEMAN taps into the unexplored potential of creating a holistic African superhero-inspired creative ecosystem by intertwining animation, high-fashion clothing, and gaming. This approach helps to engage diverse audiences and opens up avenues for cross-platform storytelling. The sectoral synergy also allows for immersive experiences, fostering a deeper connection with the character and the narrative. Fidelis also notes the unique integration of animation that addresses untapped opportunities in transmedia entertainment, contributing to the evolution and expansion of African representation in global creative industries.

“We hope to implement a hybrid distribution model which will leverage the cinematic experience to create anticipation and draw audiences to theatres for the initial release, emphasising the immersive visuals and storytelling benefits of the big screen. Simultaneously, we recognise the importance of streaming platforms, capitalising on their global reach and accessibility. This dual approach will maximise revenue streams, cater to diverse viewing preferences, and extend the longevity of the animation film’s impact across different audiences and markets,” he said.

TU Studios Africa recently started shopping for the cast of JUNGLEMAN. It also asked audiences on social media to help select the actors they would want to see play the character of JUNGLEMAN. The company finally signed a deal with a top Hollywood actor for the voice of JUNGLEMAN.