From How To Build An Animation Studio In Africa

The prodigal animator returns

I’m sorry. It’s been 7 months without an update! Let me catch you up on all that happened. Approximately 3 weeks after I posted my last update, on the 4th of August 2014 to be exact, I received an email informing me I had won a scholarship to study at Kobe Institute of Computing – in Japan! Read more

Traffic School Update: Scripts done!

Traffic School ScriptsAs I mentioned in my last post, I’m working on Yambi’s first series – Traffic School. Well, I thought I should give an update: I have some good news and some bad news.

I’ll start with the bad news: I applied for business grants from two different “startup support” institutions and, a few days ago, I got rejection letters from both.

The good news is, I am the type of person who is inspired by rejection – it makes me want to work harder to prove them wrong. So, weirdly, those letters have further¬† my determination to make this series a success. I completed the scripts for the first 4 episodes about a week ago and I am hoping to finish off the storyboards today. I’ll post some scans tonight, if possible.

How to make a cartoon series

Right now I am working on Yambi Animation Studios’ first project – a cartoon series called Traffic School to teach road safety lessons to children.¬†To create an animated series you need three things – tools, talent and time. All three can be quite expensive and since I’m working on a budget of close to zero, here’s how I am going to go about it:


I have a MacBook Pro from my other company (Shaking Sun) and graphics tablet that I bought a few months ago – both of which I am kindly donating to Yambi Aniamtion Studios. For the software, I’m using GIMP (it’s like Adobe Photoshop except that it is free and open source) to work on the assets and Blender (it’s like Cinema 4D or Maya except that it is free and open source) and create the animation. I was offered an illegal copy of Adobe After Effects but I am strongly against piracy. Having had a little experience developing software myself, I know how many sleepless nights go into developing an excellent product, so I think it is extremely cruel to steal from companies that have chosen to make that investment. If they wanted to make it accessible to the likes of me they could have made it open source – and there are other people who did. Okay – enough self-righteous ranting – on to…


I have worked on a few cartoon episodes in my day… okay, honestly, I’ve only worked on two. But – two is better than zero, right? I want to make the pilot episode on my own and Yambi Animation Studios can give me an IOU. I don’t want to develop the entire series myself because I don’t think I would finish it in…


I need a bigger team to finish the series in time for November 2014 – that’s when the National Police will hold a Road Safety Awareness week. To get that team I need money to hire more animators. I am hoping that Yambi Animation Studios will be able to partner with local institutions to produce the series – specifically, institutions that have campaigns targeting children but perhaps other larger corporate companies that have a corporate responsibility budgets. The plan is that once I have the pilot episode and posted online, I will have partners clambering at the door. If I manage to get those partners, I can easily recruit a bigger team. Plan B., is to fund by producing short adverts. This would work to just involve more work and less sleep… and who needs sleep when you are building a business?

How to build an animation studio

"how to build an animation studio" in search boxWhen I began working on a business plan and model for Yambi Animation Studios, I did an Internet search for “how to build an animation studio in Africa”, which gave me lots of links to websites of studios in Africa, but none about how they actually went about setting them up. Searching “how to build an animation studio” gave more useful results – some helpful and some not so helpful (oh, and I didn’t even bother trying, “how to start an animation studio in Rwanda”).

But who can write an instruction manual for building a studio – at least, a successful studio? The market and resources available within Africa alone varies in across different countries and continues to change in different cities and industrial sectors. I am sure anyone who has set up a studio has some common steps they took but many more that were specific to them because of their personal vision leave alone the unique conditions of the area they choose.

That said, I am sure that my own experience is still worth recording – the worst case scenario is it will be a fun read for me one day in the future and the best case scenario is that it will help other studio founders in the future – in Africa or elsewhere!

My goal is to write at least one post per week about this journey and include both successes and mistakes. In fact, this may turn out to be more of a “how not to build a animation studio” guide!

With all that in mind, happy reading – and if you happened to come across this post after doing in Internet search for “how to build an animation studio in Africa”, please tell me in the comments below – that will make my day!