It’s Black History Month here in the UK, and in an attempt to lift my spirits after everything that has been going on around the world, I decided to immerse myself in the world of Walt Disney Studios and the pan-African entertainment animation, and oh boy, the ride was fascinating.
So, here we are, in the year 2023 and I’ve come across something that’s legitimately joyous and exciting, a new original long-form Disney+ animated series called Iwájú. Now, before you scramble to Google Translate, let me drop some knowledge. Iwájú means “the future” in the Yoruba language. Iwájú, which arrived on Disney+ in 2023, is a fresh, original series developed in partnership with the Pan-African comic book entertainment company Kugali.
The whirlwind of emotions that overtook me while viewing the series on Disney+ was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. As someone who, during her childhood, was immersed in the timeless tales of princesses such as Snow White and Rapunzel, the anticipation surrounding the representation of people who actually look like me in these animations has been a rollercoaster ride like no other.
So, I want to take a moment to thank Disney, for taking a mere 27 years too long to understand what we’ve been missing all this time. There’s still a long way to go, but this is definitely a start.
Without further ado, let’s dive into not only the new Iwájú series, but also some of the other binge-worthy animations offered by Disney+ that I highly recommend for your Black History Month watchlist:
This groundbreaking masterpiece first graced our screens a few months ago. It’s not just any run-of-the-mill Disney production, it’s a Pan-African original animated series. This 10-part anthology series offers a captivating blend of mythology, science fiction, and Afrofuturism, all seen through a distinct African lens.
Produced by Triggerfish, Africa’s leading animation studio, the series brings together animators from six African countries. Drawing inspiration from their ancient histories, folklore, and urban landscapes, they’ve conjured up a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria, teeming with cyborg cattle, airborne minibus taxis, radioactive octopi, and robotic birds.
This delightful tale follows a multigenerational Colombian family residing in Encanto, a rural community blessed with magical gifts. But here’s the twist: not everyone in the family has these magical powers. Mirabel Madrigal, the exception and most vocal daughter, embarks on a quest to unravel the family’s vanishing magic.
What’s particularly charming is the representation of multicultural characters, including a young boy with a spectacular afro. His animated character took the internet by storm, going viral worldwide and striking a chord with kids from every nook of the globe. That’s the enchanting power of representation, my friends.
In this tale, we meet Tiana, a culinary genius and an unwavering go-getter. This gorgeous young woman embodies the spirit of chasing dreams against all odds. Her optimism in the face of life’s quirkiest curveballs has made her a beloved fan favourite. Tiana proves that when you set your sights high, anything is possible.
Meet the star of the show in Soul, none other than Joseph “Joe” Gardner, brought to life by the incredible Jamie Foxx. Joe is your quintessential African-American man, complete with a head of curly black hair and warm brown eyes. A music aficionado with an insatiable love for jazz, he’s not just a schoolteacher; he’s a mentor who nurtures budding musicians while fervently pursuing his own dreams. Joe’s journey of self-discovery resonates with viewers, both young and old.
Introducing the fantastic Alisha Hawthorne, the shining star of Lightyear. Not only is she Buzz Lightyear’s commanding officer and closest confidante, but guess what? She’s also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s safe to say that some not-so-cool folks had a fit about it when they realised that the movie features a same-sex kiss.
After their spaceship dramatically crash-landed on an alien planet, Hawthorne takes the reins, ready to rebuild their ship and experiment with mind-blowing hyperspeed propulsion systems. It’s an intergalactic escapade you absolutely won’t want to miss, especially if you enjoy adventures.