Disney Announces Iwaju, An Afrofuturistic Series Set In A Wakanda-Like World
Disney Animation Studios is teaming up with a pan-African comics publisher to create Iwaju, a long-form animated series set in a Wakanda-like world.
Disney Animation Studios is teaming up with a pan-African comics publisher to create Iwaju, a long-form animated series set in a Wakanda-like world. The series was announced alongside a host of other Disney Animated shows, which will all debut on Disney+. The other four series, Moana, Tiana, Baymax!, and Zootopia+, are all based on existing hit Disney movies and expand on the universes in those properties. There were also a host of new Marvel and Star Wars shows announced and mainstream theatrical films.
The comics publisher collaborating with Disney on Iwaju, Kugali Media, is a company that has, in the past, specialized in comics that tell stories from an African perspective. The Pan-African company headquartered in London has produced several titles focusing on African stories, including Nani, Lake of Tears, Mumu Juju, and an anthology series that collects the work of artists from the continent. This series will be a watershed for Disney, as it will be their first animated series working together with a comic studio outside of Marvel.
Disney Animation announced that its only original animated series, not based on an existing movie or franchise, will be called Iwaju. The title is a Yoruba word, which roughly translated means “The Future,” and early concept art clarifies why it carries that name. Disney’s visuals reveal the series will feature a young boy and girl, one reference to the future. The other reference is the show’s setting. The visuals reveal a futuristic African city or country, similar to Wakanda in Marvel’s Black Panther, though quite visually distinct from that movie’s design. You can see the announcement, which says Iwaju will be released on Disney+ in 2022.
The sumptuous visuals give a taste of the aesthetic the show aims for, combining African motifs with sci-fi tropes. The fact Kugali is involved, a company that has roots in Africa, and works closely with African artists, should lend some authenticity to the setting, taking realistic depictions of authentic African culture into a sci-fi realm. Disney attempted that with Black Panther, succeeding on some levels, for example, having T’Challa speak isiXhosa, a real South African language. However, the film was also criticized for some of its other choices, combining dress styles from various African cultures.
The Afrofuturism depicted in the concept art is nothing new. Still, it will be the first TV series set in that genre, a step forward for positive representation of the continent in mainstream media, and a welcome addition to Disney’s content offering. With African talent on board, Iwaju sounds like it will provide a new and exciting take on sci-fi animated shows and bring some diversity to Disney’s animated offerings on Disney+.