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African Animation: Banji Versus The Village storybook is moving forward into animation

The children’s storybook, Banji Versus The Village, is progressing into animation. It is a lush paperback and ebook written and illustrated by U.S. based Nigerian animator, Bankole Lasekan. The book is quite distinctive in narrative and visual storytelling, which embraces an African traditional style and motifs. In this interview, Bankole discussed his latest project.

Q: What’s the story about?

A: It is about a 7-year-old boy and his baby hippo friend, and their “creative solutions” around the village, which the village often finds challenging.

Q: Why initially a book and not straight into animation?

A: I originally conceived it as a TV series. Nonetheless, early feedback indicated the script and design elements would be great also in storybook format. So, they were developed simultaneously.

Q: How long did the book take?

A: Being a one-man project, it took about a year; particularly due to the 3D modeling, texturing and rigging of the characters, and the myriad set elements. Though, these assets will also go into the animation.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your animation background?

A: I studied Design Communication and Film/Animation back in college. I was eventually fortunate to gain employment with Pixar long ago, where I picked up a lot about the art form from those great guys. I was an animator on A Bug’s Life and the Oscar-winning Geri’s Game. I further worked at Electronic Arts in L.A. and some other local studios. I eventually started a small studio in Nigeria, focusing on TV commercials, ad concepts and graphics.

Q: Overall, what do you hope this project accomplishes?

A: For one thing, the book has good instructional value, and is a gainful addition to the larger efforts encouraging youth literacy. The content is as motivational as it is fun and entertaining. We expect the animated series as well to be of extensive value in an environment where nearly all animated TV programing is foreign. I also hope to use the opportunity to teach and mentor some Nigerian/African young folks who had earlier requested animation training opportunities.

Q: Are you working with any major studio on the project?

A: Not currently. We are still working independently. Inquiries are however welcomed.

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