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Nigeria’s first feature-length animated film cost $1m

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Friday, 27 November 2020 19:02, updated on Monday, 30 November 2020 10:13

LBMM
Poster for Nigeria’s first feature length animation movie ‘Lady Bucket & The Motley Mopsters’ (twitter/@LBMMTheMovie)

Nigeria's first-ever feature-length film, 'Lady Buckit & The Motley Mopsters' with a $1m budget, was proudly "Made by Nigerian creatives, in Nigeria, for Nigerians". Its producers and creative team hope it will help share Nigeria's rich history.

The cinematic release of Lady Buckit & The Motley Mopsters (LBMM), will hit the theatres both locally and internationally on Friday 11 December. The latest teaser can be viewed here:

With a 30-member crew and a budget of $1m, the project took two years to complete.

Blessing Amidu is the CEO and founder of Hot Ticket Productions and was both the producer and executive producer for the film. She says her daughter inspired her to invest in and self-fund this project.

At a time when many people are turning to fantasy series, the film also grabbed Bisi Adetayo, who had experience on many international projects including the cult blockbuster ‘Game of Thrones’, as lead animator.

READ MORE Nigeria’s film industry: Millions of jobs, home and abroad

Ahead of the much-anticipated premiere, Amidu and Adetayo speak to The Africa Report. Presented here is a transcript, with light editing for clarity.

TAR: You are the CEO of Hot Ticket Productions, a mass media company involved in the production of movies and other forms of entertainment. Can you tell us a little about how you entered the entertainment industry?

Blessing Amidu: We have a parent company, Max Allegra Corporation, that provides location-based services like arcades, resorts and leisure centres. The company aspires to provide highly memorable, unique experiences for their customers, and by doing so hopes to gain prominence among the vast majority of entertainment companies around the world. Hot Ticket Productions is a sister company.

Blessing Amidu, CEO and founder of Hot Ticket Productions

Max Allegra has an entertainment facility in the South-South region of Nigeria. Initially, I wanted to do more with that facility. However, by spending time with my children and sitting in front of the television watching cartoons, and watching my children’s mannerisms, I got a new idea. I decided to put together some characters, then began to work on the plan.

My daughter, who was 12 at the time, sketched the first set of characters. This was five years ago. We were half-serious at first, but then I decided to go ahead with the 3-D modelling of these characters, and from there we began to get more serious, finding ourselves where we are today.

Is this your biggest film so far?

This is my first film on the big screens. However, I have done things to do with entertainment in the past, although nowhere near this level. I have written and directed plays for drama groups at church, but I always knew I would reach this stage.

The film is to have a cinematic release premiering in Nigeria and internationally on Friday 11 December. Do you have any worries about how COVID-19 might mean this does not happen as planned?

I don’t like to say the word fear, but COVID-19 delays have been one of our greatest fears nonetheless.

We have plans to debut in Canada that we are still hoping go ahead. We also have plans for Ghana and Cameroon. However, the latest lockdowns meant that we had to truncate our UK plans.

COVID-19 has really had its impact, but we won’t back down. We would have wanted something more international, especially with the quality of the work we have put together, but this is the way the world is right now.

Will all the main cinemas in Nigeria be showing the film?

Yes, the movie will be showing in Genesis Cinemas, Silverbird Cinemas, FilmOne, and all the other major cinemas.

If COVID-19 does mean that a cinematic release is not possible, do you have any alternate plans to release the film on streaming platforms, say for example Netflix or Amazon Prime?

Yes, we are working on streaming platforms. We are currently discussing with certain groups, and hoping to have the movie on those platforms as well ASAP.

How has this year been for the film industry?

This film is an animation, not live-action, so we did not have to shoot on site. However, the animators were in the studio day in and day out, working through the night, including during the coronavirus lockdowns and the #EndSARS protests.

READ MORE Nigeria: Beyoncé, Davido, and the #EndSARS pile on

It has been a difficult and challenging time for the film industry. People with families moved into the studio and simply stayed there through the lockdown. We had the generators running back to back, as well as solar panels, and so cost-wise it was huge. We also had to make sure the staff were well cared for while in the studio. All in all, it was a challenge.

More people have been watching movies since they were stuck at home during the lockdown. Has it come to the point that the closing of cinemas has had an irreversibly negative effect on the industry?

The closing of cinemas had its impact on the film industry [in Nigeria], but it has been picking up since their reopening in September. We have had to do our own research, and study information coming from the cinemas.

Come the December festive season, we are hoping for a good turnout. However, because of the pandemic, more people are inclined to watch movies online. That said, we sincerely hope that people come out in their numbers to go to the cinema. However, for those who do not want to go out, this is where streaming platforms will come in – everyone will be taken care of.

Do you think Nigerian history is a globally-demanded product?

I think that this film, in particular, would be a globally demanded product. It is set in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, which is the place where crude oil was first discovered in commercial quantities back in 1956. I think that this story is interesting and will appeal globally to anyone. Nigeria’s history is important, and we need to export our history and culture to the Western world.

We see through things like Beyoncé’s Black Is King that there is indeed a taste for African culture, but how much of a risk is it to hope for international interest in an animation based on Nigerian history?

A lot of movies are beginning to showcase African culture. Even the superhero Thor is rumoured to be exported from Nigeria – from Shango, the Yoruba god of lightning and thunder.

READ MORE Beyoncé’s new film ‘Black Is King’ is stirring up controversy

We need to showcase our African culture and history – this is the right time. The West wants to see it. Enough of us having to try to copy or import Western culture, this is the right time to showcase our culture to the world.

This movie has a lot of sides to it; there is something for everybody, and it cuts across all ages – family entertainment. There are a lot of things seen in this movie that most people did not know ever existed in Nigeria’s history, even Nigerians themselves. I would want everyone to come out and see this film.

You have experience on international projects such as Game of Thrones. What was your role there?

Bisi Adetayo, lead animator

Bisi Adetayo: Yes, I did visual effects on the final episode of Season 7.

How did this experience (LBMM) differ from previous experiences, if it did?

It was very different. This is the first feature-length movie I’ve worked on, and so the challenges involved were very different.

Before this, I had worked on animated shorts that were about three to five minutes long. This film is 80 minutes long, so it’s a different territory.

You say the film will teach children about Nigerian history. Do you think adults will also learn from it?

It is important to say that the movie’s point is not just to educate. It has a very good balance between entertainment and education. It is historic in the way it talks about our economy, and so it will also be very entertaining for adults.

How important do you think education is in children’s entertainment – do you think that every children’s show or film or song should be teaching them something, or it can be purely for fun?

For animation, education is not the most important. It is better to entertain, as this is the primary goal.

If you fail to educate, it is okay, but never fail to entertain. Entertainment is very paramount to this genre of film making, and that is what we concentrate 100% on, but in this movie, we get both.

Do you think that directing a project close to your heart, being about Nigerian history, made it easier for you to do a good job, or did it actually make it more difficult to ensure it was palatable for those who know nothing about Nigeria?

I found it easier than creating something completely fictional. However, I was not constrained to reality as we did not completely care about that. Animation gives a lot of flexibility to go wild and be creative. It was easy to relate to the story I was telling, and so the resulting product was very good.

How do you compare directing an animation to directing live-action? Do you have a preference?

It is very different. In live-action, all your cast and crew are real people compared to animation where everything is virtual – everything has to be created.

You usually start with a set in movies, but in this, you have to create everything, from plants to trees to pots. It’s like you are actually playing god and creating a new universe entirely.

The responsibility with animation is much different, and the terrain is completely different. The only physically human aspect of the entire production is that real people are doing the characters’ voices; everything else is generated virtually.

What does the near future hold for you?

There is already a part two of this film in the work, it will be a progressive thing.

It has been a very busy journey, but we did all the work, and I’m actually looking forward to seeing it.

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