How Black Panther opened the door for Disney’s Kizazi Moto
Afrofuturism animation wonder is coming to Disney+
By Hannah Cowton, Senior Entertainment Writer, Tech AdvisorJUN 26, 2023 11:30 am BST
Marvel’s Black Panther proved the mass appeal of Afrofuturism storytelling when the world of Wakanda was unveiled on the big screen in its 2018 release. Now, the upcoming Disney+ series Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire builds on that bedrock, and is certain to be popular both with fans of the MCU and animation enthusiasts.
Like Star Wars: Visions, Kizazi Moto is an anthology series, with each episode created in a distinctly different style of animation – there is a mix of 2D and 3D, with some taking influence from anime, others from stop-motion and many mixing and mashing styles to create something entirely unique.
The executive producer of the series, Peter Ramsey, is best known for his work on Into the Spider-Verse, for which he won an Oscar and Golden Globe, and the sequel Across the Spider-Verse, which is a smash hit at the box office at the time of writing.
That said, his work on these movies did not play into the creative direction of Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire: “The animation styles were really determined by the filmmakers themselves… I guess some of them could have been inspired by Spider-Verse, or some of the energy we tried to bring, but this was all straight from them.”
Production studio Triggerfish partnered with crew and talent from the likes of Zimbabwe, Uganda, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt to bring their own vision of fantasy and sci-fi from a distinctively African perspective. “It showcases how rich and diverse Africa’s talent is” says Catherine Green, who is making her debut in the world of animation as the co-director of the episode Surf Sangoma.
Each instalment has a vastly different setting – Surf Sangoma is set in a cyberpunk dystopia where criminals operate as a surfing gang, Hatima is based in an underwater nation that has an endless war with a tribe on land, and You Give Me Heart creates a utopia that selects its occupants based on the number of social media followers they have.
That’s just a hint of three different episodes – check out the trailer for a taste of what else to expect when it lands on Disney+ on 5 July:
Though Disney did reference Black Panther when it first announced the series, the Marvel flick is just one of many factors behind the creation of Kizazi Moto. Isaac Mogajane is a co-director on Hatima, and the co-founder of Diprente Films. He explains: “Black Panther kind of created a space for us to be able to make these kind of things… people saw a story told in Africa that was ambitious and high budget and one of the biggest hits of the year.”
Mogajane continues, “Some creators might have been influenced by Black Panther individually, but I know for ourselves (the team behind Hatima) we weren’t. We were really trying to tell our own story [and] reach into our own cultures in a way that felt true to us.”
He gave a shoutout to the Japanese cyberpunk film Akira for inspiration on his episode. Green also cited this movie as a frame of reference, though the overall animation for Surf Sangoma was not set in stone from the beginning. “Our style was more defined by the process. We originally wanted a 2D film, and we ended up shifting to a kind of 2D/3D hybrid… we wanted it to look much more tactile and textural.”
Many still hold the assumption that animation is strictly reserved for children’s cartoons. Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire once again challenges that notion, building ambitious and striking worlds that wouldn’t necessarily translate as well through live action and CGI. As Mogajane puts it, “With animation, your imagination is the limit.”
For Lesego Vorster, director of You Give Me Heart and founder of The Hidden Hand Studios, there’s more to it than that: “I think the question is when we write this kind of shows… if it can be shot in live action, why are you animating it? What kind of magic are you bringing?”
The magic of Vorster’s episode comes from balancing nuanced commentary on how social media is overtaking our self-worth with a quick-witted bunch of eccentric characters. It is in stark contrast to some of the darker episodes of Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, with themes of loss, war and abandonment all explored, once again dispelling the myth that animation is not a medium to delve into complex themes.
As these are short episodes (ranging between 10 and 15 minutes), there is a lot of lore to cram in a short space of time, and leaving things on the cutting room floor was hard to do at points. As Vorster puts it, “it was difficult to remove a lot of the world-building because obviously it’s the first time you get such a platform… you just want to pour the whole bucket.”
He referenced how Triggerfish helped with this process, and Ramsey told Tech Advisor more about this: “Everyone who came to this project had a very strong vision… my job, really, was kind of to support them in finding the clearest and most impactful way of doing that.”
“It’s great to see a story blossom as you take away the excess… it’s almost like you’ve got a block of marble and you’re finding the statue in it”.
Hannah Cowton is a Senior Entertainment Writer at Tech Advisor and Macworld, working across entertainment, consumer technology and lifestyle. Her interests and specialities lie in streaming services, film and television reviews and rumours, gaming, wearables and smart home products. She's also the creator of The London Geek, a geek culture and lifestyle blog.