Chief Okoro in the animated series by Quadron Studios
Having attended several film fora, festivals and academic discourses over the past few years and more recently, the C3 conference (read my previous post), I decided to take my film to the primary audience for animation and cartoons: children.
This exercise proved rather successful and my findings are what I am sharing here.
While working on my debut film, which I was advised against by some professionals working in the film industry because of the complexities and costs of animation, I knew I really wanted to get to children.
There was no way I was going to continue keeping a 23 year old dream/project within me anymore (I will give you the full story of the journey of Tejumade in another post).
I needed to get it out!
The market for African inspired family films, series and animation content for children is under served and I have chosen to work within this terrain.
On the last day of submissions to the 2nd edition of Real Time International Film Festival (RTF) 2017, I submitted the black and white animatics style version of my film and just hoped for the best.
I wanted to share the full project with people irrespective of the style as didn’t want to submit just a teaser trailer for Publicity and Advertising.
I was happy it made the final selection and happier that the head of the animation selection jury is an animator and a lecturer in this field at a University in Cyprus.
This was a major boost for me.
I was further encouraged by the reactions to the film and the comments I got from the audience at first screening during the festival (it was screened a 2nd time on another day). In total about 250 adults and some children saw it.
What I learnt from the audience was the fact that the story and the way it is told is key in any film project.
Storyboard panels for the animatics version submitted for RTF
My style was the least ‘polished’ among the other 2D and 3D animated films screened but people still connected to it. I told the audience before the screening that it was work in progress and I would love their feedback in the Q and A session.
I have worked on the film since RTF and taken it to colour.
Even though it’s not finished the way I would really want it due to lack of funds, I however, decided to share it with the world even in that state.
Tejumade has been submitted it to over 30 international film festivals and uploaded on Youtube and Vimeo.
It was tough working on the project and I am not done yet, but I am happy I embarked on the somewhat crazy journey. It has been a great learning curve and also put me also in a position of supporting and sharing information with other creatives.
Sorry I had to bore you a bit with tit bits from my animation journey but I thought it was important to share. Now back to the matter.
Pretty Lily poster
A still from PULL
In order to test the waters, I got invited to Nicademia screenings at some Summer schools. The first one I attended was at a private nursery and primary school and the boys and girls were between the ages of 3 and 10.
I went along with my film and those of 2 colleagues who worked my own project.
It was interesting to discover the kinds of stories and duration the different children could handle.
After Valentine of Nicademia did an introduction and usual ‘cute’ stuff with the children, he screened 2 episodes of his yet to be released 2D animation title; Pretty Lily which is an educational cartoon targeted at younger children.
All of them watched but I noticed the younger children paid more attention.
This was followed by a Q and A which came with gifts for correct answers.
It worked like magic! We all like presents don’t we?
Next, I screened Onome Egba’s PULL and Brian Wilson’s Water Wahala which are 3D short films without dialogue. These films are 4 minutes and 1 minute respectively.
All the children connected to them and they understood the message the filmmakers were trying to pass across. Lastly, my 19 minutes film screened.
After some 7 minutes, I noticed some of the younger children were restless but the older ones were attentive throughout.
When the Q and A session came up, many hands were up. Since my film was the longest, I wanted to know how they found the length and if they followed the story.
A 4 year old girl said it was too long and a 10 year old boy said it was too short.
My film has quite an amount of dialogue so I was happy to get feedback.
Interacting with the 3 to 10 year old children
Now concentrating on the older ones, I asked them how they found the films screened. They said Valentine’s Pretty Lily was for children!
I had to laugh and I asked them what they were exactly if not children as well.
They laughed and said they meant it was for ‘little’ ones.
They liked PULL a lot because it was humorous and the sound design and score worked well. Water Wahala was more serious but they liked it and talked about the lessons they learnt from the 2 films.
Coloured panels from Tejumade
Tejumade is mostly serious with some humour. Since my film was the longest, I asked if they prefer it broken up into a series or made into a full length animated feature.
Most of them said they wanted a series while some said they wanted to watch it like Moana and also have the DVD in their homes.
Interestingly, the teachers taking care of the children wanted the Pretty Lily DVD if available so they could use as teaching aids. How cool is that?
The children said that was the first time they were seeing productions done in Nigeria and would like to see them on Cable TV and free to air stations.
We were asked us to come weekly to their summer school for film screenings.
Most of them mentioned their favourite cartoons on Disney XD, Disney Junior and Cartoon Network. I didn’t take note of them but I will be more attentive next time.
Only a 10 year old had seen Nicademia’s Mudi Goes To School on Wazobia Max.
Prior to the Nicademia screening, I had given a mini Film Appreciation/ Introduction to Animation session to about 30 children between the ages of 11 and 13 from a mix of private schools .
It was a 2 hour session and I showed them some foreign animated short films and Behind The Scenes of some animated feature films as visuals for my plenty talk.
Lastly, I screened my film and they were quite attentive.
In the Q and A, they told me what they liked and didn't.
None of them had seen any Nigerian or African inspired animation on the channels they watch and said they would love to.
Most were also in favour of TV series over animated features, even though they had seen the likes of Zootopia, Moana, Despicable Me, Emoji Movie and Boss Baby in the cinemas. There is a limit to animated features that can be churned out yearly but they will always have the TV series with them in their homes.
They told me they would love to have a channel dedicated to animation series and films from Nigeria and Africa like Cartoon Network. The organizers of the Summer school where i gave the first session, told me the children included the main evil character in my film in the play they presented to their parents at the end of the camp. Cool stuff!
|Mudi and Scholastica|
|A still from Onome's CARWARZ|
The next Nicademia screening i went to was for about 50 children between the ages 10 and 17, at a Summer programme organized by an NGO for children from public and private schools. Since they were older children, Valentine decided to show his secondary school inspired educational title; Mudi Goes To School.
Before the introduction and screening, he asked them if they had seen any African animation on TV or elsewhere and about 10 of them said yes.
Interestingly, what they had seen on TV was his Mudi Goes To School.
He asked them if they knew the name production company and they mentioned it. They were asked who their favourite characters in the series were and they said it was Mudi and Scholastica and stated the reasons why. I was happy to see the faces of the children and the filmmaker during this conversation. When Valentine revealed it was he and his team behind the series, they yelled and gave a standing ovation!
Pure bliss I say! It couldn’t have been better.
Connecting with your audience doesn’t get cooler than this.
Moral of the story, children would love to meet the creatives behind productions.
Three episodes of Mudi Goes To School were screened and I was impressed many of the children took notes while watching because it is educational.
I learnt a few things myself.
Next, I showed them Brian’s Water Wahala, Onome’s PULL and his sleek new, work in progress production;CARWARZ which he was not so eager to show.
According to him, it was an experiment which did not really have a story.
I told him he had nothing to lose and that the children would give him the feedback he needed. The children loved the production values but said they could not really make out the story. One of them said he understood the concept which he thought was about competition. My film screened last. I normally take this position in screenings because of the length and like the audience to see the films of the others first.
They liked all the films screened and pointed out the lessons learnt from each one. Most of them said they wanted Tejumade as a series while some said they cannot bear suspense and just want to watch in one go. They asked if there was a continuation of the film and when I said no, their faces fell. A 15 year old girl said she loved all she saw and asked if the films were online. I told her mine was and that she should search for it. Hopefully it should come up. Nicademia also has an online VOD platform so by now she should have seen what’s on offer.
Moral of the story, suspense is good as it will keep anyone and especially children wanting more. It will also be great if animation creatives share some of their productions be it an episode, a teaser, clips or the full thing online to generate interest. If children like something, just like adults, they will share it.
Prizes in form of comics, educational DVDs and books on exam study tips were given out as prizes to children who answered questions correctly though in the end, every child got a gift.
Chief Okoro in 3D
The most recent screening I did personally was for 30 children between the ages of 10 and 17 on Monday this week. By this time, I had 2 episodes of the Chief Okoro series from Quadron Studios. I didn’t remember to ask Nicademia for theirs but I am sure I’ll be able share his work at other screenings I am invited to.
I screened PULL, CARWARZ, one of the Chief Okoro episodes, Tejumade, the second Chief Okoro episode and lastly Water Wahala. I turned things around this time.
These children are observant. After screening the first Chief Okoro episode they asked for the second one. I teased them saying there was none and they said they saw it among the titles in the flash drive I was playing the films from. They caught me! They liked all they saw and when I asked if they had seen any films or series from Africa or Nigeria in particular about 5 of them had seen Turtle Taido and Mudi Goes To School on TV.
A 12 year old asked if Walt Disney’s Lion King counted as African animation but I said it didn't. A few of them preferred the traditional 2D animation to 3D while most loved 3D. They liked the mix of the two in the Chief Okoro episodes.
Just like the other children, most prefer a series to feature even though they would not mind seeing some African titles in the cinema. I told them animated features are not a walk in the park.They said they normally checked end credits of the animation films so they knew a lot of people worked on the projects.
When I told them the production duration of each of the Nigerian short films I showed them, and that other big studio shorts like Disney’s Inner Workings, they were stunned. Their eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when I told them about some full length animated features.They liked the humour in the Chief Okoro series though some of them found the title character’s speech fast and sometimes inaudible.
They laughed a lot at his antics.
A still from PULL
They found the old man in PULL rather foolish and they were actually screaming what he should do at him.They could not understand the bully in Water Wahala and were annoyed with the two girls in the story. They hated the evil water spirit in mine, sided with Tejumade,praised her bravery and liked her side kick Tiroko who provided some of the comic relief.
An 11 year old said she liked the story because it was Nigerian and Yoruba in origin.
I asked what her tribe was and she said Igbo. I loved this! She said she noticed that the lead character’s look was inconsistent in some scenes but didn’t know if that was how it was meant to be. A 12 year old said the thrones of the King and Queen in the palace looked wrong and she felt they should have been switched.
The abrupt end in Tejumade
A 10 year old said she was sure it would end well because she saw Tejumade carrying her side kick Tiroko on the outfit I wore so she was sure they made it safely out of the dreaded forest. I told her that was not necessarily correct. Hehehe!
It was great to see their interactions with the characters in the films and their conversations among themselves. It was obvious they had a good time and they looked forward to seeing more. 15 of them said they wanted to watch Tejumade again if it was possible and I told them it was online and shared the links.
I have some invitations already to some schools when the new term begins so if any animation production company or individual is interested in getting feedback from children after seeing their films or series, send them to me while the offer is free.
I will soon start charging for these surveys.
Dear Nigerian creatives working in the animation industry, it seems we are a bit ahead, continue the work you are doing. Before long, you will get battalions of supporters and lovers of your creations and you will eventually laugh hysterically to the bank!
Now is the time to sow the seeds. I see a bountiful harvest!
Thank you for reading this rather long post. Phew!
I always have so much to say and this is even a summary. Peace out!
|Tejumade screening uniform|