Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cute Animation, Catchy Tune...

Oh boy...six months and no posts? Okay, time to wake things up a little. (or at least get a bit of a yawn 'n stretch.)

So here's something I found online while looking for animation with an Islamic/ Muslim aspect to it. It's from an album called I Look, I See by Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) who has spent the last few years coming up with songs for Muslim children - some of which actually manage cross religious boundaries I think.

This song is about going to the masjid (mosque) to pray and plays out one day with the different times the call to prayer is made.

However, the reason I posted it is because of the animation. I'm not sure where it was done, but I like the way it looks and it helps that the tune is really catchy. We played it at the office in the morning, and someone was humming it at lunchtime!

Enjoy and help resuscitate a blog. Make comments!

bint Ali

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pictures, Pictures Everywhere...

...But not a tale to tell.

I've been having hallucinations for months now. Either that or I've managed to traverse dimensions and can now see parallel universes with a blended vision. Personally, I like the latter theory better.

However, I get the feeling it's a common phenomenon amongst artists/authors/animators. (Anyone notice how all these uber-creative professions start with the letter 'a'?) Yeah, so basically, I'm seeing visions. Pictures. Visions of pictures? Everywhere and at the most unexpected times.

It's a kinda cool, I guess. To stare at the same old ceiling you have for the past five years, waiting for sleep to come calling and then suddenly realise that what had seemed like paint texture was actually an entire Scottish countryside vista. Or to put on your shoes and see that there's a gnarled old man glaring at you from the patterned terrazzo right next to your left heel. (This one's quite spooky, 'coz now he's always giving me forbidding looks as if he disapproves of my choice of footwear.)

I could look at it as something positive, because now there's loads of new things to see. There's the alien on my prayer mat that flexes its arms every time I unfold the well-worn cloth, the dragon on the bathroom tiles (the spray from the shower does nothing to quench its flames), the little kid doing something fun within the glue stain on the lino (from when I forgot to use a backing for a craft project) and the mystical googly-eyed creature on the mirror frame that keeps pleading for something, I don't know what. And those are just the regulars.

The strangers seem to enjoy popping up like mischievous imps, going peek-a-boo! and then disappearing forever, leaving me with a sense of loss each time they slip through my fingers. On a day when I'm late and can't stop to memorise details, I'll randomly look up and the clouds will briefly part and show me a fairy tale world of winged cherubs riding flying whales. Or the rain will drip a fantastic battle on the window, and I have no choice but to faintly smell dust, sweat and iron in the air before the watery scene melts into wet trails. A lady will walk past in the supermarket and a mermaid might surface from the folds in her skirt and then dive back in with the next step she takes. Even the vegetable aisle hides an assortment of creatures and scenes in the green leaves and coloured fruit displays.

All so beautiful, so fleeting....and so frustrating.

I can see the images and yet no matter how hard I try, it's rare for me to be able to capture any. Lack of high-level skill is a damper, but in addition to that I don't seem to be able to see the stories behind any of them. Drawing a still image is well and good, but if you want to animate it as well it needs a story, doesn't it?

The pictures that pass quickly won't stop to let me question them, and the ones at home won't answer when I do. I don't seem to know the Secret Language they speak. And if I try to stare at them and do a mind-meld, they simply stare back in uncooperative silence.

Is there an initiation rite to crossover into their world that I don't know about? Is all this a test to see if I'll keep knocking and asking to be let in? Or is it simply a quirk of the eye that I'm making too big a deal out of? I'm hoping I'll find out sooner or later...maybe.

Until then I'm thankful that I can see things where I never saw them before :) And I guess I should keep staring back at the pair of thoughtful eyes in the Formica right next to my laptop (they're watching me as I type this) and hope that at some point in time, I will pass muster and be allowed to hear - and hopefully tell - each picture's wonderful tale.

bint Ali.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tell Us What U Thought!

Hi One and All,

Thank you for attending and helping make the Animated:Kenya Seminar held at the Sarit Center on December 6th the biggest animation arts event in Kenya to date!

We would love to hear what you thought of the event, get any suggestions you may have on how we can make the next one even better.

We invite you to take some time to fill-in our feedback form located at this weblink:

Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.
Otherwise stay tuned for more.

In addition to Bint Ali's really cool review of the event below, you can read some other reviews on the December 6th seminar at the following links:

We have also posted a CNN iReport on the December 6th Animated:Kenya event which you can view here:

Thanks to Maina Mucoki for the superb video coverage of the event. Some more video clips of the event will be popping up online soon. Stay tuned.

Do not forget to send us you feedback on the event.

Otherwise, happy holidays and let's keep animating and make 2009, the year Animation Arts explode in Kenya!

Event Organizers
Michael Onyango/Peter Mute

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kenyans Animated?

So it’s been a week since the Animated Kenya seminar and with 6 days to digest everything, a post-in-hindsight is long overdue (as Daniel’s ‘enthusiastic insistence’ will attest to.)

There’s an official account of how the day went - although it’s missing the morning session - in step-by-step updates here so if you don’t mind, I’ll avoid the news-y vibe.

Was there early (thanks, Dan) and really hoping things would start at 8.30 as expected. However, ‘No Hurry in Africa’ isn’t a phrase that popped out of nowhere, and it was closer to 10.30 when the event did start. Few people scattered the room, and plenty of empty chairs that I didn’t really expect to fill up completely. We got front row seats, so it wasn’t really until lunch break that I actually looked around and realised how packed the room was.

There was a sense of something solid looking at the sea of faces all listening eagerly to whoever was on stage. Like there was finally proof that an animating community existed in Kenya and we weren’t just a small handful of creative geeks dreaming up big things on our own. The seminar was a means of solidifying the industry into a tangible group, I think.

I believe a lot of the audience were artists or in media, but the fact that there were so many curious about the process of animating and actually looking at it as a feasible career was...well, pretty cool :)

The morning had the bulk of the creative presentations, I think. Kwame Nyongo presented one of the Owen and Mzee clips he’s worked on and I liked the fact that he (and the others) showed the ‘process’ and not just the result. There was a lot throughout the day on conceptualizing, brainstorming, ‘noodling’ and just getting the creative juices to flow.

In fact, Celestine who’s a designer on the Tiger Tinga project actually summarized my entire year and a half’s worth of animation theory in her 20 min presentation! She also mentioned her initial misgivings at being able to actually be good enough at animation when she compared her work to that of others, which was heartening because it’s something I personally do all the time. And yet, there she was speaking to an entire crowd as a pioneer in Kenyan animation and working at on a Disney affiliated project!

Throughout the event, the thing that struck me was the total innovation of every presenter. Daniel spoke about writing your own stories, Jim Chuchu when asked why his work stands out from others said that he simply tried to create what he wanted to see himself, Wesley Kirinya had to find ways to learn game design on his own because there weren’t any courses available locally and Alfred Muchilwa’s journey to overcome the obstacles he faced in mastering stop motion were each facets of the same idea: if you’re creative and truly have something to say, then you’ll find a way to do it.

In all honesty, the little bit about business and government involvement that came up in the middle of the day kinda dampened the mood for me. It was necessary and important no doubt, but there was a certain inspired mood from the morning session that dissipated for a bit. Given a choice, I’d have skimmed over the business possibilities locally available to animators and then dedicated another session/workshop for the details.

I had good intentions to ‘mingle’ over lunch,but got a little...umm..distracted. Although some good came out of it (as you will see a few paragraphs below) in that I met with a couple of friends M&M who then joined (hmd)Deen and myself in the front row.

The afternoon session started at around 2.30 and had Gado and James Kanja take the stage with their XYZ Show. I’d seen a clip of it a year ago online, but getting a chance to see how they handled the huge puppets and set was a revelation. So much green!! :) The fact that two different people had to co-ordinate themselves to synchronise facial expressions with hand gestures and all the while keep in line with the audio dialogue gave ‘teamwork’ a whole new meaning.

Wesley’s presentation in his journey to the making of The Adventures of Nyagi was in some parts uber-geeky and perhaps would have benefited from some mad gaming tendencies like hand twitches or random shouts/maniacal laughter in the middle of the presentation! I know M2 and I gave each other looks when he mentioned that games designed for men and women differed in that women preferred games that required less play time - 15 minutes was what he said, I believe. I know we’ve both played games for hours and actually looked away from the screen wondering when the sky change we found that a little presumptuous.

But the highlight of the afternoon was Alfred Muchilwa’s take on stop motion. He even inspired hmd(Deen) and M2 to do a little impromptu stop motion clip with the camera - which was supposed to be snapping presenters - of which they were both very proud and hope to enter into the Kenyan Oscars next year.

Seriously though, the drum sequence he showed from Olokut was beyond amazing. I think it was one of those things that had everyone stop and silently watch, not just because it was so ‘fluid’ but also because of it’s authenticity and energy. When he said it took him two months to do, my first reaction was: “Only?”

And last, but definitely far from least was the joint presentation by Rahim and Pete. I wish they’d have been given more time and slotted in earlier because a lot of people were tired by then. The thing that impressed me a lot was the high quality of the work presented by Pete. And he did mention that compositing and the work put into polishing up the ‘final product’ once animation is complete is what makes it stand out. He also spoke working smart when having to meet deadlines without compromising on quality. There was a lot of international standard, jaw-dropping, 3-D work on display that caused a wave of appreciative murmurs to ripple more than once through the crowd.

At the end, because of time-constraints, the panel of speakers was sacrificed for a more informal one where guys just came forward and went around to speak to those they wanted to. And that worked out quite well in its own way. Got a chance to do some of the ‘mingling’ I wanted and also got a poster (they were waaay cool) of the event to bring home as a souvenir.

Looking back, I’d hope that future events would be more specific in nature and perhaps spread out over a weekend. It can be taxing to be bombarded with so much creativity for a whole day and in many cases it makes you want to share something in return. A morning of talks followed by an interactive workshop in the afternoon would be an interesting alternative next time.

The other thing I noted was that people tuned out at different times. Those who found 2D more appealing seemed to settle into a haze when it came to talk of render passes in 3D, while perhaps the 3D people listened to the 2D presentations with uninvolved curiosity. I’d like to think of a future event where I can participate in something more intensive and specific to my interest.

However, considering this was literally the Birth of the Animation Community, it was an fantastic success I think. Like discovering members of a long lost family you didn’t even know you belonged to! :)

Lots of inspirations, lots of itchy fingers to get something done and lots of incentive to just put your head down and head willy-nilly for that elusive dream of creating the Next Great Animation. :)

P.S. I'm having some issues with uploading images, so this is the wordsy version of events. A photo journal (complete with captions) will appear soon. And perhaps even a sneak-preview of The Impromptu Stop Motion Feature tentatively titled: A Star in the Sparkling...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Animated Kenya

This Saturday the 6th of December will see the first ever Animated Kenya seminar!

It'll be a whole day of talks and presentations about animation in the country. Speakers will include Kwame Nyongo, Pete Mute, Gado, Jim Chuchu and myself (!), showing and talking about our work, enthusiasms and inspirations...

Pete says, "This event will be an amazing opportunity for Kenyan design geeks and animation enthusiasts to meet up, share ideas and plot on how to take over the world with our own animation content starting 2009!"

The event will be held at the Sarit Center from 8.30 am. You can confirm your attendance and download the infopack here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Stated Opinion Show

We're pleased to present an interview with Musa Ihiga, who is the enthusiaistic young man behind The Stated Opinion Show, Kenya's first ever cartoon talk show.

Please introduce yourself, tell us what you do.

Musa Ihiga is a your normal everyday Kenyan citizen; a triple-diploma holder who has chosen to digress from the I.T. industry and get his hands dirty as he delves into the uncharted territory of the “animation jungle” here in Kenya, East-Africa as he forges ahead while endeavouring to develop “Musamedia Productions” which is a small company of three years since its inception on the 14th Day of December 2005. All the works made by Musamedia Productions are “Meditated Creatively”.

What do you mean by “Meditated Creatively”?

It is “Meditated creatively” and it primordially stems from nature of the animations and other creative productions at Musamedia Productions. It goes without saying, especially to those with a creatively inclined mind that unlike a majority of other professions (don’t I just love stabbing at other people’s professions) where you can basically go about your thing completely absent minded until you get jolted back to reality when somebody either nudges at you, accidentally bumps into you or after you disengage that “Auto-pilot” button on the cockpit dashboard (Oops! Did I just give that away?) Animation requires a sober mind that is sharp in addition to, as I mentioned before, bucket loads of creativity which as you may have figured by now doesn’t come by a simple “flick” of the button and therefore the reason and need if I may add for one to meditate.

How did you get into animation?

Whether I got into animation or animation got into me is apparently not very clear to me even till this very day though I must admit that I have an innate hunger for all things that are artistically inspired and animation is one of them, whether it be the in the crude form of a flip-book or a High end CGI animation my attention gets caught quicker than a bolt of lightning with the mass media playing a role in whetting my appetite through the years.

Why do you choose animation as your medium of expression (as opposed to something easier and/or more established, locally, like live action or even painting)? Do you do anything other than this to pay the bills/express


Allow me to correct you and many other people who for some reason yet to be known by myself are under the illusion that there are other easier media of expression.

Yes! I do agree that to a certain level that animation belongs to a certain class of individuals without sounding like a segregationist hence it therefore wouldn’t be fair to allude to there being other easier forms of expressions but to answer your question let me say that I have tried acting and painting (domestic and artistic respectively) at different levels through my educational and personal journey but none has ever quite had an appeal to me like animation. I am currently reviewing alternative methods of expanding my financial base.

What are your favourite animations and animators?

There are a number of animations that I would classify as favourites but off the cuff I will say that Ed, Edd and Eddy really cracks me up and with the story being based on characters living in an estate neighbourhood, a setting that rings true to many estate neighbourhoods in Kenya however there are the old classic animations like Tom and Jerry, Pink Panther, Wallace and Grommit etc.

As for animators, well Walt Disney, Blake Edward, Fred Quimby, Danny Antonucci, Genndy Tartakovsky are just but a few individuals I can remember at the moment whose animations are way up at the top of my list.

Tell us about the Stated Opinion Show. What was your inspiration, the driving force behind its creation?

The Stated Opinion Show is a daring animated talk show hosted by one witty “Oliver Otieno”. “Oliver Otieno” is a pseudo-character that borrows his name from the famous Kenyan celebrity Olivia Otieno. “Oliver Otieno” is a witty character that does not mind putting prominent members in the Kenyan arena like the politicians and activist’s on the hot seat to their great discomfort while the crowd roars with laughter at their attempts to dodge, verbally trip-up or totally decline to answer the questions.

The inspiration for “The Stated Opinion Show” came as a result of watching on the television and reading in the newspapers and noticing how good people in general, be they politicians or celebrities are at denying their proclamations at the drop of a hat which is just but one of the myriad of goof ups they find themselves in.

It is also a kind of wake up call to members of the Kenyan public to be aware of politicians and their off-hand pronouncements.

Impersonations of politicians are becoming quite popular nowadays. Who did your voice acting?

I believe you are familiar with the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention”. All the characters voices in “The Stated Opinion Show” were done by none other than yours truly Musa Ihiga, talk about having a big ego.

Which local politicians can we expect to see in other eps of The Show?

Well! Well! Do I want to let cat out of the bag yet? To be fair I will say that the idea behind “The Stated Opinion Show” is not to air opinions from politicians only but rather opinions from any period, any person/groups of people and any corner of the world and not just locally so having said that therefore you can expect opinions from people in other notable professions and countries and not just Kenya.

Why do you think that political commentary, humourous or otherwise, is such a popular subject, locally?

One highly respected CEO in Kenya and East-Africa by the name Michael Joseph was once quoted saying, “…Kenyans have peculiar calling habits.” which was in relation to mobile telephony industry but to add on to that I will put in my own contribution and say that for whatever reason Kenyans seem to like talking about politics so yes! Give them what they want and Oh! Don’t even mention the football craze, would you have any suggestion as to why Kenyans as are so engrossed in it?

Will the sporty side of life will always be out of reach for us computer arty types??? Heh...

Tell us about your process and tools. How long did it take to make the show? Did you have assistants?

The process engaged in the making of the “The Stated Opinion Show” is as listed below:-

• Creating a storyline.

• Carrying out an incisive research and gathering information of the subject upon which the storyline is based.

• Writing the scripts.

• Sketching out the storyboard.

• Character drawing.

• Background and colour scheming

• Creating and composing a jingle.

• Recording and voice morphing.

• Animation and Lip-synching

• Rendering

The major tool used was a high end user computer with a vector based animation software and Sound recording/editing software plus bucket loads of creativity.

The whole process from creating the storyline for TEN 3-minute episodes before finally rendering them took ONE year with no assistants.

How has the reaction been to the show so far?

On the local scene those that have previewed the show which ranges from a local Programmes Acquisition Executive to your every day TV buff the reception has been warm.

You showed the Stated Opinion show at KIFF last year, how was the KIFF audience? What’s your view on festivals? Have you investigated any other ways of getting the work out in front of the masses?

Yes! I did exhibit “The Stated Opinion Show” at KIFF and the audience was impressed more than anything else. My conclusion as far as film festivals are concerned is that they are a good venue for exposing ones film and a method of getting instant and real time feedback from the audience.

Yes! I have distributed copies of “The Stated Opinion Show” to a number of Exhibition Stalls locally albeit not yet recorded sales and I have also uploaded one episode of the same onto the world re-known social website you-tube where it has now hit a five-star rating since uploading it in the middle of last year.

Thoughts on the local industry. Any problems? What does it need to improve?

I think that the local industry is slowly warming up to local productions as is evident with the new entries on the some of the local television programme line down but it is only recently that the powers that be have showed concerted efforts to crack down on pirates by coming to the aid of the artists and enforcing anti-piracy laws.

As far as the Kenyan animation industry in particular is concerned what I have noticed is that the local audience is either ignorant of the goings on or are least bothered. This is my conclusion based on the good performance of “The Stated Opinion Show” internationally on the social website but lukewarm performance locally.

We hear you’re also teaching at NIT, tell us about the experience of passing on knowledge to eager young minds.

As for now I have taken a short break from teaching for a period of two months till the end of the year to attend to personal up comings although I hope to return fully next year all things remaining constant.

However my experience at passing on knowledge to eager minds has been like a breath of fresh air seeing that this happens to be my first time. It is also an eye opener to just how talented the Kenyan youth are which has in turn challenged me personally as a local animator.

Any advice for someone who would want to get into the industry?

Persistence! , persistence! , persistence! I can’t insist anymore than that but of course you know that a pinch of creativity goes along way so why not just have bucket loads of it.

Are you planning on making more episodes of TSOS or are you moving on to a new concept? In short, what's next on your plate?

I probably have already alluded to this in your previous question but I will reiterate and say that I have a flexible mind and therefore I am open to try any thing that I may have a gut feeling about. I am currently in the initial stages of putting together a more child-centred animated cartoon series with the goal being to have one running on one of the local television stations in due time so you can think of this as being two-pronged approach. A lot of things have taken place including the teaching job that I have taken up this year and therefore you will understand why I may not be able to give a clean cut answer in relation to when it is projected to debut.

Project a future for the local animation industry.

As the Creative Director of Musamedia Productions I project a future where due to the astronomical rise in the Asian economy and the boom in Information Technology of the Asian continent; which was once the hub of outsourcing of jobs due to its cheap labour Africa and especially more so East-Africa will begin to attract more investors in the creative industry and anybody in the creative field can look forward to getting well paid outsourced jobs, well at least by our standards.

Project a future for yourself.

At Musamedia Productions I envision better days ahead and I am placing all requisite infrastructures in preparation. Musamedia Productions projects to have a child-centered animated cartoon running on one of the local television stations in due time.

And now, here's The Stated Opinion Show! Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Making Hey

We just put out a new (partly) animated video for Just A Band! It's called "Hey." Wilberforce “Boflo” Kangwana and Betty Katunge star in a twisted tale of love gone horribly wrong.

For the concept, we were originally going to do a different take on the song, which is about someone who really misses his girlfriend. We were going to build little sets and have Boflo go travelling around different places, always thinking of Betty. When the time came to shoot it, though, we flipped it almost entirely and turned it into an episode of the Twilight Zone.

To help with planning out projects, I got a couple of nifty noticeboards so that now I can much more easily sort out the mess of ideas when I’m working on something. That really helps because of all the little scribbles I do on little papers all over the place.

Here’s some sections of the storyboard, including a scene we never shot:

Construction: Boflo is made out of an old pair of trousers, stuffed with anything I could find. (I had to get reacquainted with needlework for this! And you don’t even want to know the shops I had to go to to find puppet eyes. And the hoodie came from a stall that sold kids' clothes... Hunting down all this stuff was actually a lot of fun, and makes me want to use construction in animation, instead just drawing stuff all the time...)

By the time we were done with the day of shooting, Boflo really looked it. :( Here’s some pictures from the shoot, which was done in our house. Friends checked in to observe, and there was a lot of outtake-worthy silliness. It’s really weird how Boflo would come alive, like, we didn’t change his face or anything but when we wanted him sad he’d be sad and when we wanted him scared he’d be scared. Bizarre...

Then it was time for animation! I got to sit down and try to do some of the rough-edged, straight-ahead animation I had wanted to do since I got my tablet. Also, I got to do silly drawings and use lovehearts, which is a very cheap thrill, but hey... Jimmy put it all together in AfterEffects, then came editing sessions and last minute reshoots. We finished it only hours before its TV premiere!

This was some of the most fun I’ve had on a JAB project thus far, I think because everyone was involved in some way, pulling strings and holding up things in the background, it was very collaborative and lighthearted. There’s a lot of cool puppet videos out there but hopefully this one packs enough punch to grab people by the scruff of the neck and get them hitting Replay.

And here it is! Enjoy. And then let us know what you think.