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Review: Disney+ Original Animated Series ‘Iwájú’

The Disney+ Original animated miniseries “Iwájú” premieres on Disney+ on Wednesday, February 28, 2024.  All 6 episodes from Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pan-African Comic Book Entertainment Company Kugali’s all-new series drop at once along with the behind-the-scenes documentary “Iwájú: A Day Ahead.”

IWÁJÚ Disney Plus Poster

Set in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria, the exciting coming-of-age story follows Tola (voice of Simisola Gbadamosi), a young girl from the wealthy island, and her best friend, Kole (voice of Siji Soetan), a self-taught tech expert, as they discover the secrets and dangers hidden in their different worlds.

Kugali filmmakers—including director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku—take viewers on a unique journey into the world of “Iwájú,” bursting with unique visual elements and technological advancements inspired by the spirit of Lagos.

Produced by Disney Animation’s Christina Chen with a screenplay by Adeola and Halima Hudson, “Iwájú” also features the voices of Dayo Okeniyi, Femi Branch and Weruche Opia.

‘Iwájú’ Review

This review is based on all six episodes.

First of all, “Iwájú” has stunning and innovative animation.  The vibrant scenes seem to leap off the screen and play with light in a unique way which is fascinating to watch.  The gorgeous landscapes in the background are a standout favorite.

Iwájú Animated Series

The storyline of “Iwájú” was a nice surprise with more depth than expected and extremely well-developed characters.  Each episode focuses on a different character’s point of view and backstory which helps us to identify more with each character.  A welcome approach!

MEET TOLA Iwájú” Disney+ Series
© 2024 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Tola is our main protagonist in the story who is high energy with an adventurous spirit and sees the world as it should be and not what it is.  Social, economic stature and income inequality are very much a part of the story.  Tola is almost blind to her family’s worth and amenities because what she desires most of all is to spend time with her work-focused father.  These aspects are displayed beautifully and delicately and can be emotional when Tola wants to be friends with Kole who works on the family property and the friendship isn’t deemed appropriate by her father.

MEET OTIN -- “Iwájú,”Disney+ Series
© 2024 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

On the light side, the futuristic high-tech gadgets are fun and showcase the imaginative minds behind the project.  OTIN, the AI high-tech robotic pet lizard provides much of the humor for the series and besides being cute has powerful capabilities.

BEST FRIENDS Iwájú Disney+ Series
© 2024 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The series’ authentic, colorful, and beautiful African-influenced music is by renowned Nigerian composer Ré Olunuga, whose credits include music for the 2022 Disney+ original movie “Rise” and the BBC film “Girl.”  A digital soundtrack will be available on Friday, March 1st featuring the brilliant score.

“I rarely bring my own emotions into writing a score,” Olunuga has said about the project. “I tend to inhabit the emotions of the characters or subjects and then translate them into music. In this case, it couldn’t be avoided. In addition to Tola’s adventurous spirit, Kole’s ingenuity and the many other fun and beautiful emotional threads explored in ‘Iwájú’—the score is steeped in my own very deep love for Lagos and its multiplicitous layers. It also includes many treats and winks for anyone familiar with or curious about the film music lexicon of Nollywood. Being invited by Ziki and the amazing teams at Disney and Kugali to help tell this beautiful coming-of-age story that explores themes of family, friendship and ingenuity has been an amazing adventure in itself.”

Disney Plus Inforformer had the pleasure of previously interviewing Olunuga for his work on the Disney+ Original movie “Rise” which you can check out here.

“Iwájú: A Day Ahead” Review

“Iwájú: A Day Ahead,” is a documentary special filmed across three continents that shares the story of the founders of the Pan-African entertainment company, Kugali, who made their dream a reality by creating an original animation series with Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Created by the ABC News Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios team that brought you “Into the Unknown: Making Frozen 2,” the documentary shows anything is possible when talent meets opportunity. “Iwájú: A Day Ahead” is directed by Megan Harding and executive produced by Amy Astley and Beth Hoppe.

The behind-the-scenes documentary shows what happens when three filmmakers have a dream and want to create authentic African storytelling, not by making up a new world but by portraying the good, the bad, and the ugly of the real world.

Director Olufikayo Ziki Adeola, production designer Hamid Ibrahim and cultural consultant Toluwalakin Olowofoyeku tell their own stories in the animated series and some are inspired by true events that happened to someone they knew.

“Iwájú: A Day Ahead” is a beautiful companion to “Iwájú” which shows the creative process and an in-depth look at how the entire story came together, beginning to end, and how Disney became involved in the project.

You can check out the trailer for “Iwájú” below:

Michelle Beck
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