Malika: Warrior Queen, is a bold animation project by Youneek Studios and Anthill Studios. It was brought into the limelight earlier this year when it was announced that Adesua Etomi would be the voice of the lead character on the animated series. The series also promised to feature other popular Nollywood names like Femi Branch, Deyemi Okanlowon, Blossom Chukwujekwu, and Sambassa Nzeribe.
The Pilot episode was privately released to financial supporters of the project on the 24th of July. On the 29th of July, Youneek Studios announced the selection of the Malika Pilot episode as a semi-finalist in the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards under the Animated Short category. This is a big leap in recognition for Nigerian animation.
The Malika animation Pilot was produced by Niyi Akinmolayan of Anthill Studios, who also happens to be director of the highest grossing Nigerian film, The Wedding Party 2. The writer and creator of the Malika series, Roye Okupe, is C.E.O of Youneek Studios, the company that produced the graphic novels that form the background story of Malika’s life. The comics were released in two parts, the first in 2016 and the second in 2017. Roye Okupe created a fund-me account on the Kickstarter platform in 2018 to finance the production and release of the Pilot episode. Okupe’s vision is to create stories that are inspired by African history, culture, and mythology.
Before now, the only animated short film that has attempted to capture Nigerian culture and history in such an elaborate and intentional way is Dawn of Thunder, a 2017 proof of concept film by Komotion Studios which tells the story and mythology of Sango the Yoruba god of thunder. The Malika: Warrior Queen series runs through the story of a pre-colonial warrior Queen and military commander named Malika, who finds herself in charge of a volatile West African empire when her father dies. Malika’s kingdom of Azzaz is fictional, but the lessons, struggles, culture, and interaction of characters, as well as some of the other locations involved in Malika’s story are intended to be significantly African.
The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards (LAIFFA) is a monthly American Film Festival that celebrates short feature films from around the world. Winners stand the chance to have their film premiered at the award ceremony in Hollywood. There’s also the possibility of winning a specially curated LAIFFA trophy, which is given to the Best of the Fest “Best Picture” award winner. The next LAIFFA awards ceremony will hold on August 24 2019.
There is a lot of excitement in the Nigerian entertainment industry as investors push boundaries and encourage even more original content than has ever been put out in Nigerian cinema. On a continental scale the same is true. Since Netflix, the titanic streaming platform, announced that it would produce more original African content, it has not only acquired three Nigerian films, but has also added Mama K’s Team 4, an animated show created by a Zambian writer, to its streaming list. With that in mind, the possibilities of a Nigerian animated series making it on to Netflix are not so far fetched. We bet that fans of the Malika comic book series, and a lot of other viewers besides, would be pleased to see a Nigerian animated show on a streaming platform like Netflix. These days, everything is possible with black excellence. We wish Roye Okupe and his team the best of luck.
Special screenings of the 3D animated pilot Malika: Warrior Queen will be shown at the Lagos Comic Convention on the 21st of September 2019 and at the Ake Arts & Book Festival from the 24th to the 27th of October. The pilot episode will also be shown on EbonyLifeTV and DSTV in December.
The Nation Newspaper
Film Free Way.