By Egon Cossou
Editor, Africa Business Report
Tinga Tinga Tales bring African art to the small screen
Africa is rich in folklore and tradition. Now a Kenyan entertainment firm is hoping to turn the Tinga Tinga tradition of East Africa into a blockbuster TV animation series for children.
Nairobi-based Homeboyz Entertaiment is working with the UK's Tiger Aspect to produce Tinga Tinga tales - which has already been sold to the BBC and Disney.
The stories centre on the folklore about animals and their origins, as well as their various adventures.
The creators pride themselves on attention to detail, with each character starting life on paper.
Painters are used to render the initial images onto paper and once the paintings are complete the animators get their hands on them and, through a highly sophisticated process, bring them to life.
The company believes its association with Tiger Aspect is a valuable international showcase for burgeoning local talent.
Homeboyz is keen to develop that talent and offers a range of internships.
The company is also busy building up its connectivity. Improved internet connections mean it can now send its work all over the world more quickly and less expensively.
But despite its success in selling the series overseas, local broadcasters have been less enthusiastic.
"Based on buying patterns and trends in the past, local programming has never been a priority," says Homeboyz chief executive Myke Rabar.
"There is scepticism. It's like 'hang on, how sure are we it's going to be as good as Tom and Jerrry'," he laments.
"They are used to buying cheap programming that is sold in bulk by production houses in Europe and Asia. That's the kind of pricing they've been used to.
"It is very difficult to shift them away from that mindset. The number of zeroes doesn't add up," he adds.
Media analyst Otsieno Namwaya believes pressure is mounting for change.
"Viewers are demanding more local programmes," he says.
Local people are more concerned with basic necessities
"Nearly every station is talking about going local, but despite the talk, what has happened has been quite to the contrary because of the reluctance of the management at the media houses to go further and invest in local programmes. It's all about cost."
Although Tinga Tinga Tales is good news for the country's entertainment sector, it may not necessarily mean the industry is becoming more important to the country.
"In this part of the world, entertainment is not a priority. People are still battling with the fundamentals like running water, electricity and schools," Mr Namwaya says.
Hopes for the future
But none of this has dimmed the passion of the animators of Homeboyz.
"This will be my lifetime career," says one.
"The future is really bright for young animators," another says.
"We will be pace setters. Probably we will have our own Disney, one day."