Nigeria’s Kugali Media and Disney are partnering together to create a new science-fiction series: Iwájú.
Pixar’s ‘Soul’ was the studio’s first film to feature a Black lead. And it is just one of Disney’s many recent moves to produce more diverse stories.
Disney declared in 2019 that the company would make a concerted effort to focus more on diversity. In both its offices and stories.
Then, in a historic collaboration, Disney announced that Disney Animation will partner with Nigerian digital entertainment company Kugali.
Nigeria and Disney collaborate. But what is Kugali Media?
Kugali is the product of entrepreneur Ziki Nelson, CG artist Hamid Ibrahim, and also videogame developer Toluwalakin Olowofuyeku. The company above all else aims to bring authentic African tradition and storytelling to the rest of the world. And they will do so through beautifully illustrated graphic novels, animation, and augmented reality.
In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, Disney Animation and Pan-African entertainment company Kugali will team up to create an all-new, science fiction series coming to #DisneyPlus in 2022: Iwájú. Check out a first look at visual development art from the series. pic.twitter.com/9iuWFDr61T— Disney Animation (@DisneyAnimation) December 11, 2020
Together with Disney, Kugali will bring Iwájú, an animated science-fiction series, to Disney Plus in 2022. Based on the widely acclaimed cultural impact and success of Marvel’s Black Panther, Iwájú’s afro-futuristic style and also focus on African characters is set to be a crowd-pleaser.
More diverse stories to come
Nigeria and Disney’s collaboration with Kugali also isn’t the only thing Disney’s doing for those calling for more diverse properties.
Disney also announced a freshly diversified cast for a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. The film will feature Halle Bailey as Ariel, Awkwafina as Scuttle, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, and also Javier Bardem as King Triton. And even a soundtrack by Lin-Manuel Miranda, due to release this November.
An animated series based on Moana with the same title, and Tiana, based on The Princess and The Frog, will also be joining Disney Plus in 2023.
In addition, Miranda will be writing music for Encanto, a new movie still in development set in Colombia. These projects follow Pixar’s shorts Bao and Out and also the live-action remake of Mulan.
Disney’s resolve to champion diversity
Last summer, in the wake of national uprisings over the killing of George Floyd, Disney was among one of the many corporations claiming to make “real change” by taking diversity, equity, and inclusion more seriously.
In a now-public letter sent to employees, executives then promised to use “compassion, creative ideas, and a collective sense of humanity to foster a culture that acknowledges feelings and pain.”
Furthermore, Disney emphasized that its employees are held dear. The company’s 2019 corporate responsibility report then stated that “talent recruiting, retention, and development efforts prioritize the cultivation of a strong, diverse, and thriving workforce, with 44% of [Disney’s] U.S. employees identifying as people of color.”
Disney has clearly noticed it pays to appeal to a wider audience, and thus the coming years are only the tip of the iceberg for more diverse stories to come.