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‘Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire’ review: The future is bright in the animated anthology series

By August 3, 2023No Comments4 min read

It is about damn time Western audiences take animated produced works from the African continent seriously. Due to the demand for content from untapped markets, there has been a growing number of African-based animation studios developing material for global audiences. One studio that is leading the charge to expand Africa’s impact in the animation industry is Triggerfish Animation Studios.

Based in Cape Town, the studio has partnered with renowned brands such as Sesame Street, Netflix, and The BBC to create world-class television shows and films like BAFTA winner The Snail and The Whale and Adventures in Zambezia. As the leading production company for Disney+’s animated anthology series Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire, Triggerfish highlights some of the most visually beautiful and innovative short stories that are on par with Pixar and Studio Ghibli.

Executive produced by award-winning director Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse) with Tendayi Nyeke and Anthony Silverston of Triggerfish Animation Studios, Kizazi Moto combines the rich culture and history of the African continent with science fiction and fantasy. The groundbreaking series features ten fantastical works from several Pan-African artists and storytellers. These creatives come from various countries across the African diaspora, including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, and Nigeria. With Triggerfish as the lead studio, the South African animation studio curates a selection of stories that covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to ancestry, technology, and spirituality.

It is wise for Disney+ to give Triggerfish and their collaborators the creative freedom to craft their animated shorts. It is one thing for a group of American animators to create a feature film that takes place in a fictional African savannah (looking at you, Lion King). Yet, it is another thing to let a group of talented Pan-African creatives tell stories that reflect their heritage and culture. With Triggerfish as the lead studio, the shorts on Kizazi Moto are true to the creators’ artistic vision. No two shorts are visually the same, which makes sense considering the writers and directors on each short have different lived experiences and, most notably, artistic influences.

In “Mkhuzi: The Masked Racer,” directors Simangaliso ‘Panda’ Sibaya and Malcolm Wope manage to mix Zulu culture, language, and iconography with the bombastic maximalist style of anime powerhouse Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia). The 2D animated short follows a young half-human, half-alien boy named Manzo (Nasty C.) as he saves his neighborhood by challenging the galaxy’s toughest racers to a grand prix competition. The zippy high-stakes race between Mando and Ogun (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) is an ingenious call back to Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races. However, the emotional core of the short belongs to Manzo’s relationship with his mother, Manomi (Carol Ofori,) and his spiritual connection to his ancestors. It is a thrilling tale that will delight Shōnen anime fans.

Another crowd-pleaser is the 3D animated short “Enkai” by Kenyan director Ng’endo Mukii. In the fantasy-based tale, a young magical girl named Enkai (Stycie Waweru) tries to gain her mother’s attention, who is busy saving Earth from human greed and corruption. What makes this story unique and highly specific is that it brilliantly explores how mothers and women will sacrifice everything to help others, including their well-being. Unlike the afro-futuristic “Mkhuzi,” the character movements in Mukki’s episode imitate a style that closely resembles stop-motion animation, and the visual designs are rich with blue, red, and orange earth tones. However, these two stories thematically connect as they touch on the importance of family and personhood.

Not every short in Kizazi Moto will resonate with every viewer. Some will gravitate to the more zany, cartoony episodes like “First Totem Problems,” which tells the story of a teenage girl receiving her digital totem. While others will relate to Ndahura’s (Blair Koono) quest to become a warrior like his older sister in the futuristic action-adventure “Herderboy.” Regardless of personal preference, Triggerfish and executive producer Ramsey does an excellent job at curating a list of beautifully crafted stories that capture the future of animation in Africa. As the old saying goes, Africa is not a monolith. It is a continent full of diverse countries with its own customs, history, and art. Fortunately, the animated anthology series depicts the Pan-African experience in all its multifaceted glory and more.

Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire is available to watch on Disney+

Feature image courtesy of Disney+

  • 'Kizazi Moto: Generation Fire' - 9/10
Phylecia Miller

Phylecia Miller is a quirky Black freelance writer and creator of the blog, Hi, Phylecia. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, she resides in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her lovely husband and lazy tuxedo cat. Her professional experiences include working for Rotten Tomatoes and Film Independent. When she is not agonizing over her first sentence, Phylecia takes long scenic walks at Stanley Park and the VanDusen Botanical Garden. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @hiphylecia.

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