Chicken Core: The Rise of Kings Chicken Core: The Rise of Kings

Animation: The View from Nigeria

When an animated film is submitted from Nigeria, I sit up and take notice. That’s because it doesn’t happen often. In fact, it never happens. While Nigeria has a robust live-action film scene—so much so that its film community has earned the nickname Nollywood—animation has never figured into the country’s creative culture. That’s changing, however.

Earlier this year, I posted about a Nigerian children’s show called Bino and Fino. More recently, I received a submission for the animated short Chicken Core: The Rise of Kings directed by Oricha Aliyu. An extended version of the short was released a couple days ago:

The short is a remarkable accomplishment when one recognizes that the artists who made the film are self-taught and that they are creating cartoons in a country with no history of animation production. They are the pioneers who are building their country’s animation industry from the ground-up.

The studio responsible for Chicken Core is Sporedust Media. The company’s CEO Shina Ajulo spoke last month at TEDxVictoriaIsland about how he became interested in animation and decided to start a company with his friends:

I reached out to Sporedust and asked if they could tell me more about their studio and the general state of the animation scene in Nigeria. They responded with the following:

Sporedust Media is based in Lagos, Nigeria and began producing animation under the Sporedust brand in May 2012. We are still growing and currently have twenty-five personnel including animators, script writers, background artists, music composers/sound engineers, inkers, app game developers, marketing, strategy, finance and accounting. Some of our staff overlap especially across animation and inking. And one of our script writers plays several roles in voice direction, storyboard development and backgrounds.

As you rightly mentioned, there is little info about animation in Nigeria as the industry is practically non-existent. There are tiny silos of animators, but with little funding to meet animation standards, these groups create short clips and never really grow to their full potential. Without an industry, it’s hard to place a finger on animation schools. We’ve heard of a few but we aren’t certain of their capacity or content.

Our animators are self-taught. Our skills were built through observing styles of different animation cultures including Disney from the US and anime from Japan. Additional skills were amassed through tutorials online. But with true love for animation, we grab onto any learning opportunity we can, understand the fundamentals of weight and balance and attune ourselves to animation technology. We used Toon Boom software for Chicken Core: The Rise of Kings.

Interestingly, there is a huge animation community in Nigeria comprised of animation lovers and gamers. You see them at anime swap meetings or gaming tournaments; the latter is periodically organized by our marketing arm. However, this group feeds off foreign content. The love for indigenous creations is greatly supported when short clips like ours are released with numerous positive reviews cheering our cause. But with little backing from a broader industry, there is little continuity.

Regarding animation producers, it is difficult to say from our viewpoint. We know there are skilled animators within the region but there is no solid community aligning our collective ideas. Nevertheless, we are highly optimistic in our goals to “animate the future” and with continued support, we will move beyond these obstacles.

As their letter makes clear, Nigeria’s animation industry won’t pop up overnight. There are countless industry-specific issues to contend with ranging from animation education to widespread availability of digital technology to institutional support for the artform before Nigeria can have a robust animation scene. Nevertheless, it’s exciting to see shorts like C‪hicken Core: The Rise of Kings‬ and TV series like Bino and Fino. If not the first pieces of animation from Nigeria, these projects represent the birth of the animation industry in one of the world’s most populous countries, and it’s only going to grow from this point forward.

  • Chris Walker

    There’s a bigger story here than just animation cropping up within a culture that has no precedence for it. The more interesting story I feel is the effect that the Internet and technology have played in the development of this. I find the fact that they know about and enjoy anime astounding honestly, as I’ve never even thought about that possibility before, and you can for sure tell the influence it’s had through a lot of the choices made in the short. The fact that a group of renegade artists can band together and create something like this with little more than some computers with internet connections and some software available to almost anyone kinda exists as a supreme example of the cultural impact the internet is having on the world.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Great point, Chris. The role of the Internet and computers cannot be overstated. They serve so many roles from allowing people to view animation, teaching them how to produce animation, and then serving as a tool for animation production. With tablet prices having dropped to $20 in some parts of the developing world, it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing a lot more people entering the creative sector in the coming decades.

    • Oluseyi

      While the Internet has been a huge boon to content availability and distribution worldwide, there’s always been a thriving video exchange in Nigeria, dating back to VHS. I got into anime in Lagos back in the early 90s, watching Akira around 1991 and noticing that the same art style permeated Street Fighter II’s sprite work. Since those Manga Video tapes had extensive previews, too, we learned about a ton of other properties as well.

      There have always been a lot – a LOT – of Nigerians traveling between Nigeria and pretty much everywhere in the world, so once you became aware of something’s existence, you could get your parents/cousins/uncles/aunts/friends/whoever to pick a few up for you on their next trip – or, if you were fortunate enough to travel yourself, you could find specialty stores and browse them at length.

      What’s changing through the Internet is the breadth of this reach. So, sure, I saw Akira 20 years ago, but only because I happened to live and/or go to school in parts of the country with high international traffic and the attendant cultural import. Now, a young person almost anywhere in the country can discover the existence of these things, though bandwidth might make actually consuming a full-length video, for instance, challenging. Even more importantly, the Internet gives that young person a chance to PARTICIPATE in forum discussions, blogging, Twitter and more on the subject of their interest.

      Even more important than the exchange with foreign content and creators is the opportunity to discover and collaborate with local/regional peers. There’s a lot more interest in animation in Nigeria, and it’s great that it’s finding an outlet and getting some recognition.

    • ade

      It’s rather interesting that you are astounded that they know about and enjoy anime. As a 40 yr plus Nigeria, I could give quite a long list of animation series we used to watch on TV as far back as the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Among the most popular series probably in later years were Scooby Doo, Speed Racer (my favorite), Spider Man, Voltron, and several others that does not come to mind now. Unlike then, the younger generation with the advent of the internet and technology has more opportunity to express and live off a new vocation in that part of the world. Then I used to imagine how those images were created, but I understood you need to be a damn good fine-artist to make one. Now you don’t have to be one. I remember we used to have our own cartoon note-books, using note-books meant for our school work, with images and conversion texts created by us. And there was this very smart class-mate who was a “born artist” (literarily). He had the most impressive cartoon note-book. I still can’t forget his first name (Ismaila) even after 30 yrs. As unfortunate as the Nigerian situation could be sometimes, I often imagine that the “poor” guy with so much talent would have ended up working later in life on a scrappy job to survive.

  • Nic

    This is probably one of the best examples for self-motivation out there. It’s easy to /not/ get started in a field simply because there are no teachers in it. This is a pretty remarkable example of how far you can get simply by having the passion and dedication to work toward a goal.

    Great job, everyone!

  • Michael

    This is so great! Myself, I am from nigerian descent and i am very interested in animation!!

  • Henry Esekhile

    Hello Amidi, didn’t know people like you have taken notice of the short Chicken core animation….I am truly overwhelmed. it’s nice to know that we are slowly gaining some form of recognition out there. Thanks for everything.

  • Full-blooded Nigerian in the States here! Glad to see my home country is getting the artistic recognition it deserves.
    Keep it up.

  • Wow, that’s really cool and exciting.

  • It is so awesome to see this here. I have been enjoying this piece of work since I came across it on the net. As a Nigerian animation film maker who is trying to build a community of Animators in Nigeria, I was awed when I saw this some days back and have been watching it over and over…enjoying every second of it.
    Amid, you are right; such stuff does not come very often because the country is not so supportive of animation. As Sporedust mentioned, there is hardly any funding for animation. In Nigeria Secondly Animation is too slow for Nollywood where a 90 minutes film is shot in 5 days. This is why it is always a joy to see people who have pursued their dreams. It took me 27 years to finally realize this dream but I had to leave Nigeria in order to do that. Not just are there no support for animation, the infrastructural instability (power cut for days on end..amongst others) daunts the efforts of those who decide to forge on alone.
    There are a huge number of very talented people who unfortunately do not have production knowledge, so these people start something but drown along the way because they take the last steps first.
    Sporedust also mentioned the absence of a solid community for aligning collective ideas. Since 2009, efforts are being made (by me) to build such a community but it is not an easy task. In 2010, in co-operation with Animation History masters like Giannalberto Bendazzi, certain steps have been taken to see that these animators creating these small but commendable things get to be heard of. However, due to the lack of a functioning co-ordinating body, people like Sporedust were not involved in the action, because no-one mentioned them when I was researching on Nigerian animators, asking those known to me to pass on the word to others.
    These are issues that we are working fervently to and come March 2013, we will be holding a 9-months professional animation courses..going back to the basics and tackling every aspect of animation production; from the first story idea to post production. With a target of 25 people, it is hoped that at least 3 short films will emerge from this training.
    So, do give us time and come 2014, you will most probably be receiving further good news.
    Finally, let me mention something that not many people do like to hear: (The truth is bitter)
    Part of the reason why there is no functioning community of Animators in Nigeria lies in the MENTALITY of the people. People HARDLY like to share knowledge. The makers of Bino and Fino will confirm this because we have discussed a lot about it, trying to find a way to change this attitude, engaging some up-coming animators in our projects, trying to instil in them the importance of sharing as a learning process.
    So in surmise, until people learn to co-operate, a lot of Nigerian animators will continue to produce things which are only good for the drawers.
    Well done Sporedust! You have really done a great job.

    • Very well put.
      I just bookmarked your website, btw! Maybe we can collaborate one day.

      • Thanks Seni. By all means let us keep in touch. Collaborations are very neccesary if we want to animation to become recognized in Nigeria!

    • Pls i’ll really like to be a part of the upcomming conference come March 2013. I want to be among the 25 student you’ll take on the nine months course pls mr Okoye, i’ve nourished this desire of becomming an animation producer for years now and i feel that God just led me to you now. Pls notify me on details. Thanx.

  • Mapache

    You do realize those those are chickens. Right?

    • Henry Esekhile

      off course they are…hence the name Chicken Core

  • I think this is wonderful! There is a lot of cool stuff going on here. I like that animators are creating something that has a bit of an underground feeling not the work of a corporation. I think these guys have the right idea and I hope they continue.

  • Commendable work Sporedust’. Your short has a lot of polish to it that I haven’t seen in a lot of other Nigerian animated productions.

    In response to :

    ” If not the first pieces of animation from Nigeria, these projects represent the birth of the animation industry in one of the world’s most populous countries…”

    There have been other players who had been creating animation in Nigeria long before EVCL (Bino and Fino) and Sporedust Media like
    Lanre Oluwafemi and Ibrahim Ganiyu . You can see some of the animation Ibrahim’s studio (ICS) produced here

    I have seen other animated productions like Fusion Media’s “The O Twins” come and go without not much word about the status of their productions.

    • Oluseyi

      I had the opportunity to work closely with Ibrahim Ganiyu on preproduction for an animated tv show two years ago; unfortunately, nothing came of it, but I can vouch for his talent, vision and all-around-awesomeness. The founder of Spaceboy Nigeria, meanwhile, was my classmate in secondary school and is the one who introduced me to anime 20 years ago. As I said in my other comment, there’s a lot of passion for animation in the country, and I believe that it’s going to well up and start making bold statements soon.

  • joe-bide

    I am meniachally bewildered,i am stupendously overjoyed and in d words of peter pan i am “overgasted” and “flabberwhelmed”. My joyful amazement and cataclysmic happiness stems from the fact that at a time when all i see in my country are negatives such as public lootings, criminal activities at its peak and a youth generation wallowing in illegalities and violence, all which have dragged me into the doldrums of sadonism and hope loss,there are a group of young men who have decided to give me something to cheer about and put smile on my fast ageing face. The creativity, local content with international touch and the finese of the short animation clip i saw is a clear indication that u guys are in this for real. Never give up even when discordant things come ur way guys, with what i saw the future belongs to you guys and the future is here. Sporedust is spot on

  • It is definitely an interesting time in Nigerian animation at the moment. As Ebele Okoye already commented there are many issues and hurdles to face. Attitudes are changing slowly in our country though and technology is really helping us break barriers we couldn’t before. As long as the country itself keeps some semblance of stability I expect to see some interesting projects coming out of this part of the world. What I do love is the can do spirit. In a country with a high proportion of young unemployed talented driven individuals it is only a matter of time.

  • Robert Schaad

    That was really nice. Lots of pop culture references, and great little touches, that while unnecessary add so much. Thanks.

  • Khodu

    This is really a fine time in the Nigerian entertainment scene. Wish the Sporedust team success in their future endeavours. I just visited their website and Im sure we have not even begun to scratch the surface of what they have to offer. The future looks promising. Great work.

  • Mokugene

    These guys are the truth! This is the future of Nigerian animation! I can’t stop watching the chicken core reel Meehn! Seriously? Done in nigeria? Wooooow. Awesomeness

  • Iritscen

    That is some very nice work for self-taught animators! Who knew chickens could be so intimidating? It’s exciting to see the birth of an animation industry taking place somewhere new. Best of luck to these guys. I look forward to seeing a new voice on the animation scene, expressing a culture that we don’t get to usually hear from in the U.S.

  • Mister Twister

    Very good for the very first creation.

  • Awesome to see this here… the first time I saw it on the Animation West Africa Foundation (AWA Foundation) facebook group wall here – a CG community initiative where the CEO is a member and where one or two of those who responded above or whose names got mentioned in comments above are also part of – I immediately did my best to publicize this as to me although its not there yet, it sure stands above any other completed project or short I have seen in the Nigeria animation Industry… in this case talking about 2d animation.
    One or two assumptions might not have been particularly correct from the blog above about the hidden industry in Nigeria, yeah maybe we think we cant call it an industry yet by global standards but then what is an industry?
    Anime and the likes are not new to the Nigeria youth, neither is the technology of the internet and ofcourse there have been precedence to this effort by Chicken core, in fact I would say without these little but several efforts we wont have chicken core today, if for nothing else these other efforts must have helped Sporedust decide on their own direction and what in their opinion a local badly done production is.
    I really do appreciate the point of view of passion and culture set out by Amid Amidi and also the technology and internet culture views from Chris Walker this surely have also helped the 3d animation industry a big deal, this is my own industry even tho I dont not see any disparity among the two.
    A quick survey of the 2d industry in Nigeria for instance showed me that only a very few know or use toonboom… I have been in talks with toonboom for a while but it seem theta they got their attention on other things, however for me this is something happy to see that the Chicken Run was done with toonboom, being the second or 3rd studio who I know use toonboom in the country (most others are flash users), therefore I ask for the bigger industry to consider helping and contributing development into the budding indsutry in Nigeria and West Africa, dont leave guys all up to it trying to make animation progress when they are also looking out for other ways to make sustainable income from other sources thereby creating conflicting interests between passion and survival… this can really be a big challenge.
    I listened to the TEDx talk and the Sporedust CEO kept mentioning that his team were self taught and I know for a certainty how tough that could be in that environment plus how long and tedious it could have added up to, he also added that he lost his dad 2 years before the production happened and looking back it felt ”good” in a way because the man would have never allowed him waste his life trying to produce an animation when he studied Estate Management… as much as I know better, I cant blame the man, they dont see any real incentive or support around.
    I have being in contact with the autodesk 3d software makers and they were not ready to ‘begin a fight’ for the West Africa region of Africa where Nigeria would be a good foothold and potential market for them, autodesk needs no introduction to any Nigerian creative… so I wonder if this is an excuse not to do what is right or what because they would be expected to subsidize and greatly discount their prices to take over the market and foster development but this they may not be ready to do.

  • Higsman( a.k.a 3d sofware guro)

    i think, if you can animate current nollywood actors u”ll be able capture the crowd

  • moses

    finally i believe in nigeria, so we can make our own cartoon animation it great now i boldly saw nigeria is the giant of africa. Now we dont have import cartoon movie but rather we export. Am Moses i a script writter i wanted leaving nigeria to united kingdom to become a script writter, an actor, and a movie graphic editor but i think I’ll have to try the sporedust media this is my email i would like to work for you as any of the above listed my email is [email protected] i will be waiting to here from you

  • Bella

    It’s incredibly inspiring to discover animation in Nigeria.I’ve trawled the internet for a while now, remaining hopeful as I uncover more and more incredible works of daring and captivating creativity. Would it be an idea to set up a website to connect all animators and individuals who wish to and/or can contribute to furthering your endeavours to grow the industry? From your piece, it appears that there already exists a rich breeding ground of enthusiasts, attested by the various anime-centred events described, from which you can draw enormous potential. More power to your elbows.

  • Animaster Academy

    It’s heartening to read this. We are an animation academy based in Bangalore and have 11 students from Nigeria enrolled in our courses. They are all brilliant! When asked about their dream job, each of them said the same thing – “I want to teach this in my country”. Money is a constraint. We help them as much as we can. But they have borrowed money to be able to come to India and pursue this course and cannot go back home till they’ve earned enough to pay back. This struggle of theirs has made us begin with an online animation education programme. With this, we aim to make high education in Animation, VFX, Gaming and Graphic Design available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. We will be starting this course next year and hope to help, not just the Nigerian animation industry, but also take it to the most remote corners of the world.