Following the successful outing of Marvel’s Black Panther (2018) and Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart (2018) acquired by Netflix as its first Nigerian original movie, it’s clear that the stage is now better set for Africa to serve the global audience her diverse and rich untold stories.
Within the last three years, African literature and biographies are gaining more grounds within the global film industry.
From Tim Crothers’ Queen of Katwe to Chimanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun to Tracy Farren’s Whiplash to Uzodinma Iweala’s Beast of No Nation, African stories are becoming a more attractive archive for filmmakers seeking to tell powerful and relatable stories.
Armed with digital tools and an eclectic mix of creative minds and artists, Magic Carpet Studios, an animation and games studio in Lagos, Nigeria is positioned to play in this niche and revolutionize the animation and gaming industry in Nigeria and Africa at large.
With a focus on African themed animation and games, this studio is determined to disrupt the industry. The studio is currently working on its first 2D animation feature film – an adaptation of the African literature classic – “The Passport of Mallam Ilia” written by Cyprian Ekwensi and published in 1960.
Also in the works is the creation of a combat game called Sanchi based on the story.
Over the years, children and young adults in Africa have had to depend on Europe, America and Asia for a supply of animation and games, but it seems like change is coming now.
In a recent interview with Ferdinand Adimefe, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Magic Carpet Studios to discuss on the exciting role of running one of Africa’s most audacious animation and gaming projects.
Can you tell us about your company and the projects?
Magic Carpet Studios, is an animation, illustration, and game development studio founded in 2017 and based in Lagos, Nigeria.
Africa has a reservoir of untold stories, legends and literature that can be adapted into great screenplays; rich history of myths, wars and warriors that can inspire a great TV and web series; empires and emperors that can make epic feature films and folktales and fables that can make great fairytales.
Our vision is to tell authentic African stories using the medium of animation and live action; the studio’s expressions include 2D and 3D animation, VFX, motion graphics and mobile and PC Games.
Most people knew about us from the hilarious online comic skit, Ego Oyibo which we released in 2017 and the critical satire of the Lagos city life; My Little Big City (now called Meet the Igwes).
We have had a modest level of success.
In 2018, some short film projects we worked on namely the ‘The Day Morning Never Came’, ‘The Reclamation’ and ‘Corruption: The Musical’, in partnership with the Creative Youth Initiative against Corruption (CYIAC), in collaboration with the Economic Financial Crimes Commission, beat over 700 nominations from 125 countries to win the Innovative category at the first UN Sustainable Development Goals Action Awards in Germany.
Magic Carpet Studios is a subsidiary of Imaginarium Creative Global Limited, a creative content factory and winner of BusinessDay’s 2018 Top 100 Fastest Growing SMEs in Nigeria award.
You guys are working on your first 2D full length animated feature film, an adaptation of Cyprian Ekwensi’s “The Passport of Mallam Ilia,” Why start with an adaptation of an African literature classic?
We wanted to tell a great African story in a format that the current generation understands – animation and most importantly, we want to add our din to the universe by creating cultural pride.
The book was chosen due to its significance in the Africa Literary space; a short, easy-to-digest, young adult book, covering the pre-independence realities of Northern Nigeria, the Northern emirate and the pre-colonial era.
We read it in secondary school growing up, and it was also part of the African Writers Series.
It was quite known across West Africa.
We also chose this story because we wanted to portray Northern Nigeria as it once was, before its current security challenges. Exploring the rich culture of the North.
It is important to note that during this era, the North was devoid of terrorism, insecurity, poverty, and sectarian violence.
This story is a reminder of where we once were and a massive celebration of Northern culture.
Can you shed some light on the movie without spoilers?
Since it is based on the book, that in itself is already a spoiler but without giving away too much, we are adding a little bit of our magic to the story!
The recently released official teaser trailer is a taste of what is to come in the movie.
It is a tale of love, conquest, betrayal, and one man’s unyielding resolve for revenge just as told in the book by late celebrated writer Cyprian Ekwensi. He was a recipient of the Dag Hammarskjöld International Prize in Literature.
Tell us about the gaming aspect of the project?
Sanchi is rooted in our desire to create authentic African games and stories. What we are seeing in movies is also true of the gaming industry; the world is ready for African themed games. African themed games remain largely explored. The texture of our narrative are unique. At some point in the creation process of the movie, we realized that the combat scene in the story is a perfect recipe for a game, so we decided to pull it out and storify into a game.
Sanchi is combat tournament, the best fighters on every generation, men and women, within and outside of Kano come to take part in the tournament. It is fought in the dark, with dangerous weapons and the last fighter standing wins the prizes, this formed the basis of the storyline.
There are several ideas we are working on and we would reveal the final one(s) in due time.
Our friends and well-wishers should follow us on social media and our website for updates.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Political Journalist, Analyst and Social Change Advocate with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.