The popular YouTube Originals series “Super Sema,” starring and executive produced by Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, has appointed UTA as its North American licensing and publishing agency. UTA will work alongside global toy licensee Just Play to focus on retail initiatives and key partnerships in publishing, apparel, home, and accessories for the program, which is the world’s first children’s animated series focused on an African kid superhero.
“The series follows the world-changing adventures of an extraordinary young African girl, Sema, and her twin brother MB, who are on a mission to protect their town Dunia from the villainous Tobor.”
Fueled by STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) superpowers, Sema knows that with determination and creativity, anything is possible. “Super Sema” is produced by the next-generation startup Kukua, shepherded by a female-led team including Kukua founder and CEO Lucrezia Bisignani and Nyong’o, who is a shareholder in Kukua.
‘Super Sema’ represents a historic step forward in the world of educational children’s entertainment, and we couldn’t be happier to help bring its characters to life,” Sid Kaufman, an agent in UTA’s Ventures department, said while announcing the partnership. “We are looking forward to working with Kukua and Just Play to license and publish products that embody the show’s positive themes.”
Just Play will first introduce “Super Sema” toys, including talking dolls and plush characters, with products expected to launch across North America in fall 2022.
“From the very beginning, ‘Super Sema’ stood out as one of those shows that had that special something. They don’t come around very often, but when they do, it’s phenomenal.”
“Like UTA, we were drawn to Super Sema, who embodies strength, curiosity, innovation, and confidence,” added Geoffrey Greenberg, co-president of Just Play. “We’re thrilled to partner with Kukua and UTA on this phenomenal franchise to bring the adventure-themed play of this inspiring African role model to kids all over the world.”
The animated series is the foundation of the growing edutainment franchise. “Super Sema’s” first season, made up of 20 five-minute episodes, premiered in March 2021. The second season of the YouTube Originals series, which will consist of 12 11-minute episodes, will debut this spring. Complementing the new season, Kukua will launch a series of educational videos on YouTube to help kids explore the STEAM themes and topics featured in “Super Sema.”
“From the very beginning, ‘Super Sema’ stood out as one of those shows that had that special something. They don’t come around very often, but when they do, it’s phenomenal,” noted Nadine Zylstra, YouTube Originals’ head of family, learning, and impact. “We’ve been so inspired working with the incredible Kukua team, and with tens of millions of views on their channel in just the last year, it’s been wonderful to see the rest of the world fall in love with Sema, too.”
‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder’ animated series greenlit at HBO Max and Cartoon Network
A 2D animated adaptation of ‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder’, a Dark Horse Comics/YouNeek Studios graphic novel series heavily influenced by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, has been announced by HBO Max and Cartoon Network.
By Justina Terhember
An animated TV series has been announced by HBO and Cartoon Network, to be based on the all-ages superhero graphic novel called ‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder’, which is set in a magical kingdom in Yorubaland. Created by Roye Okupe and Godwin Akpan, it tells the tale of the titular heroine, a teenage orphan who spends her days studying Yoruba history and ancient arts but yearns for everyday life. One day, responding to danger, she unknowingly triggers her divine powers, the likes of which have not been seen since the Age of Wonders. With newly discovered superpowers, she joins forces with two other teenagers as they embark on a remarkable journey to discover the truth about the evil lurking in her homeland.
Okupe will also write and direct multiple episodes. Lion Forge head of production Saxton Moore serves as supervising director, while Brandon Easton leads the writer’s room. Executive producers include Okupe, Doug Schwalbe, Carl Reed, Lion Forge’s David Steward II and Matt Heath, Impact X Capital’s Erica Dupuis and Forefront Media Group’s Ryan Haidarian.
“When I set out to create ‘Iyanu’ for a global audience, I wanted to develop a world that combined everything I love about the fantasy genre with the majesty and awe that is ancient West Africa,” said Roye Okupe.
“When I set out to create ‘Iyanu’ for a global audience, I wanted to develop a world that combined everything I love about the fantasy genre with the majesty and awe that is ancient West Africa,” said Roye Okupe. “On top of that, working with Godwin Akpan, who illustrated the books, as our art director and collaborating with a thoughtful studio like Lion Forge Animation that prioritizes authenticity and diversity, is beyond belief.”
The greenlight of ‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder’ is notable as it continues signaling the emergence of Africa as a player in global streaming. Much of this growth begins in the kids and family space — for example, Lupita Nyong’o became an equity partner in Nairobi, Kenya-based production company Kukua in 2021 and stars in its YouTube Originals animated series ‘Super Sema’.
“‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder’ has it all – vast world-building, authentic characters, a strong, African female hero at the center, and a first-class team of stellar creators and producers,” said Amy Friedman, head of kids and family programming at Warner Bros. “While created for kids, the series will resonate with anyone looking for an adventure filled with surprise, magic, lore, and legend. We feel so lucky to be the home of ‘Iyanu’ and partnering with this team.”
“The authenticity of the ‘Iyanu’ story means everything to us and aligns perfectly with our mission to create and deliver inclusive content to global audiences,” said Stewart, founder of Lion Forge.
#KickstarterWatch: Gorgeous ‘Black Rain’ animated short fully-funded, eyes stretch goals
An alien planet, an environmental disaster, and an unspeakable evil are part of this incredible project from Vortex Corp.
By Justina Terhember
VX Animation’s ‘Black Rain’ recently hit its goal on Kickstarter, and had an extra length added as stretch goals. If gorgeously-designed Afro-futuristic 2D animated 8-minute short films are your thing, then head on out HERE to make sure this brilliant project hits the mark. The world-building of this project is truly breathtaking.
‘Black Rain’ tells the story of Esan, a planet under siege by a corrupt conglomerate, and is told through the eyes of a young child named Boubini. Inspired by the tragic events surrounding the Ijaw tribe in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, it mirrors the reality in Nigeria of unprecedented environmental disasters caused by oil spills.
Spearheaded by VX Animation’s head honcho Somto Ajuluchukwu, the project also boasts of having a stellar team which includes Executive Producer Rad Sechrist (creator of Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts) and Supervisors Andy Cung (storyboard artist for Cartoon Network & Netflix) and Chris Amick (writer for Adult Swim, Dreamworks).
As promised by Ajuluchukwu early on during the project’s PR blitz, ‘Black Rain’ is slowly putting together an A-list roster of voice talent, including Nollywood stars.
According to official material, “VX Animation is a Nigerian-based animation studio dedicated to creating authentic, and compelling animation. With award-winning animated films screened across the world and recognized in the global press, we continue to push the boundaries of our craft bringing the spotlight to Africa while creating value for an emerging industry.”
#KickstarterWatch: 8 days left to support epic animated short ‘Ajaka: Lost in Rome’
With only 8 days left to the end of the Kickstarter campaign for ‘Ajaka: Lost in Rome’, here’s a strong recommendation to rush over there and give support.
By Justina Terhember
The Kickstarter campaign for ‘Ajaka: Lost in Rome’ is designed to raise funds to make possible a complete and polished 10-minute animated short film, which Spoof! will pitch to companies like Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video, with the future goal of turning it into a series or full-length film. Today, with only eight days to go, it is almost fully funded. However, your support will go a long way in making the project a reality.
Do click HERE to support the Kickstarter campaign, and to also view the action-packed trailer and other features and rewards.
The director, Ayodele ‘Dream Maker’ Elegba, is also the CEO of Spoof! Studios, and he heads an incredible team that includes some of the best animation talents on the African continent. He had some words about the project: “We are a team that believes everyone can benefit from understanding the world around them. We have created ‘Ajaka: Lost in Rome’ to give people the chance to experience this historical story with an edge of magic and fantasy.”