What you need to know:
- The 38-year-old studied Economics at Kenyatta University, and later took a certificate course in Art and Design at the Academy of Graphic Technologies (AGT) in Nairobi, and began creating animations.
- Growing up, Wambaa believed that he was going to be an astronaut and ride in spaceships while exploring the outer planets.
- This dream, he says, changed when he was in primary school, during a school excursion.
Wambaa Muiru, fondly known as The Toonman, is an illustrator, animator, and designer based in Nairobi.
The 38-year-old studied Economics at Kenyatta University, and later took a certificate course in Art and Design at the Academy of Graphic Technologies (AGT) in Nairobi, and began creating animations.
Growing up, Wambaa believed that he was going to be an astronaut and ride in spaceships while exploring the outer planets. This dream, he says, changed when he was in primary school, during a school excursion.
“My foray into animation and illustration was influenced by Godfrey Mwampembwa (Gado), who I met while on a school trip to Nation Media Group’s offices.
On passing his work station, I was mesmerised by his drawings, which were stuck on the wall. I stood there just staring. With a warm smile, he pulled down one, and autographed it for me to keep, and from that special day, my fate was sealed!” he recalls.
Wambaa creates animated content for children, and additionally, narrative driven work, animated advertisements and explainer videos.
He says it takes a lot of patience, some practice, and a great deal of creativity for one to succeed as an animator.
“You need to be a child at heart, and have a dash of weirdness to excel in this world.
“I run an animation outfit called Looku Diriba which translates to ‘A fresh look’ in sheng. Having dabbled for quite a while in corporate and also freelance worlds, I felt convinced to follow my passion and dream to curate and create children’s animation. That is what led me to create Looku Diriba,” says Wambaa.
This company brings together various creative talents who have a passion and vision to create insightful children’s cartoons.
Looku Diriba was borne of Wambaa’s love for animated stories, and his desire to be part of such a creative space.
“I saw a gap that needed to be filled with rich, educational, and entertaining animated children’s content, and I tried to fill it. This is what I love doing,” he adds.
His clientele varies from non-governmental organisations(NGOs), small and medium enterprises, individuals and corporates that need to use animations to communicate or pass a message.
He notes that the prices attached to his animated productions are determined by the standard industry rates, unless a client wants something bespoke.
“Our core business is to create unique animation content and we are in the process of creating our very own African series. Our tagline is, ‘Telling our African Stories’.
Wambaa adds that Africa is rich in history and culture, and there are many stories that haven’t been told and would be interesting to the rest of the world.
“My aim is to tell such stories using the medium we love most, animation,” he says.
Wambaa has two co-founders, with one doubling as the content writer, and the other being in charge of sourcing for funding.
“We have illustrators, storyboard artists, animators and compositors and a database of freelancers to lighten the workload when need arises,” he says.
Looku Diriba has bagged a number of recognitions, among them MTV Video of the Year award, a Channel O award for an animated music video, and the 2020 Kalasha award as well as the Kenya Film Commission pitch contest grant award.
According to Wambaa, a perfect piece is achieved when all principles of animation are followed, bringing together a perfect blend of music, sound, and progressive motion.
“My biggest project has been our flagship animation series titled Kiki na Ell, which is a story that revolves around two best friends Kiki (a human) and Ella (an elephant). The tale is set in a world where humans and animals exist side by side in peace and harmony, and nature stands undisturbed,” he says.
In the story, Kiki is always visiting Ella in her kibanda, where she learns a myriad of lessons from Ella in a fun, adventurous and exciting way. We will be creating a three-part miniseries of seven minutes per episode.
Wambaa’s dream is to someday tell African stories, and build a conveyor belt that can churn out multiple animated properties at a time.
“Our stories need to be seen and heard, from Africa to the world, through animation,” he concludes.