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Animator brings Disneyland to Kenya

Andrew Kaggia took comical cartoons he watched on TV when was young a tad too serious and staked his life on them

While watching cartoons as a young boy, it became apparent to Andrew Kaggia that he wanted to learn how to make them when he grew up.

“I was always fascinated with the cartoons. I called them cartoons; I didn’t know it was animation. It made me envision myself behind the scenes coming up with the content that interested me,” he says. Without many resources available in animation, he ventured on a journey of learning the art on his own. “Ten years ago, there wasn’t much information about animation. I relied on my imagination and what I watched on TV to learn,” says Kaggia.

Today, Kaggia, 29, has emerged as one of the seasoned animators in Kenya with his work becoming a pacesetter locally and in Africa. In 2016, he developed several animated videos pitting various American fictional film superheroes against one another titled Herosmashers.   One of those videos featuring Batman, Superman, Ironman, Captain America, Hulk, Deadpool, Spiderman and Goku has received over 31 million YouTube views; notably one of the highest for a local video.

None of this was easy. For the self-taught animator the journey to building a name for himself in the industry has been punctuated with uncountable moments.  His secret is his knack to develop quality content for a global audience. “Sometimes I have spent sleepless nights developing animations. As I develop the content I always want it to generate the same excitement I felt when watching the Disney cartoons,” he says.

Born and brought up in Ngong, Kajiado county, the last born in a family of five had to freelance for several years before his work started getting noticed. At one point  in 2007 he dropped out of university to chase his passion.

“I was in second year pursuing a degree in Economics. But I realised that I didn’t like it; my heart was in animation. My parents objected, but I requested them to give me six months to prove myself and they agreed. It took me a year-and- a-half to do so,” he adds. Ever since, they have been of great support to his work. He joined XYZ show before getting a breakthrough in 2011 after developing a 3D animated film named Wageuzi.

The film, based on the General Election, shows Kenyan politicians battling it out for the presidency. It catapulted him to prominence. Besides animation, Kaggia is also a game developer. Under Black Division formerly, Africana Digital,  a company he founded in 2012, they came up with a game, Nairobi X. It is based on a futuristic setting of Nairobi where there is an alien invasion.

The players are tasked with protecting the city from aliens.  Even though gaming and animation are relatively new industries in Kenya, they have great potential. “The potential in the two is bigger than you can imagine. Globally, gaming attracts up to Sh2 billion per year,” says Kaggia.   In Kenya the potential is clear. Within the first one hour of releasing, Nairobi X he made Sh20,000 and over the three months the game was sold it made seven figures before being offered for free on play store. Herosmashers, which went viral the first day it was uploaded on YouTube is even making more money  from Google ads.

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