Africa has inspired countless animated films made in the West — think “The Lion King” and “Madagascar.”
Now a Kenyan production company is making a TV toon for Western consumption.
“Tinga Tinga Tales,” slated to bow this spring on BBC children’s web CBeebies, is a 52-part series based on the folk tales of Kenya and Tanzania.
Produced by the U.K.’s Tiger Aspect and Kenya’s Homeboyz, it’s an ambitious effort that both hope will lay the groundwork for a thriving animation industry in east Africa.
Tiger Aspect’s head of animation, Claudia Lloyd, says her inspiration for the show came from her travels in east Africa, where she learned Swahili by reading children’s books.
The stories were simple, colorful fables about the animal kingdom: Why do lions roar? Why do giraffes have long necks?
Lloyd, who won a BAFTA for her work on the U.K. hit “Charlie and Lola,” envisioned a skein that would transfer those tales to the screen.
The animation is inspired by the distinctive Tinga Tinga paintings of Tanzania, where Lloyd spent much of her time.
The show’s images are hand-painted by local artists, then computer animated in the Homeboyz’s Nairobi studio before being shipped to the U.K. for conversion to HD.
Homeboyz started life in 1992 when founder Mike Rabar and a group of music lovers set up a small DJ unit playing house parties and weddings.
It has now expanded way beyond that core business to include Homeboyz Producshizzle Studios, Homeboyz Record Label, Homeboyz Radio and Homeboyz TV.
Lloyd hopes “Tinga Tinga Tales” will provide a launching pad for writers, musicians and animators in east Africa. The production team includes close to 50 local animators, designers, musicians and artists.
Tiger Aspect has pledged to use half the show’s profits to create a fund for education in the region.
The toon will make its American debut in 2011 on Playhouse Disney. Entertainment Rights has been tapped for global distribution.