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The cartoon that's giving young viewers new role models

POSITIVE MESSAGE: Bino and Fino creator, Adamu Waziri

What inspired you to create Bino and Fino?

I always wanted the first cartoon my company did to be an educational one for young children so when the opportunity arose I went for it.

As long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to do cartoons and have been drawing comics as a hobby since I was a kid. An interesting point is that when I was much younger I drew mainly white characters. It was only in my late teens do I remember making the switch. It was a natural process.

As a kid I was just drawing what I saw on screen but as I got older, I could now inject more of my culture and myself into my work. It was only much later that I noticed the absence of black African cartoon content. So the inspiration for Bino and Fino comes from my long-term passion of wanting to create a kids’ cartoon and also addresses the lack of such content featuring black Africans.

SUCCESS: The adventures of Bino and Fino have won fans all over the world

Your characters are amazing and so vibrant. Who are they based on?

The main characters, Bino and Fino, are not based on anyone in particular. Their grandparents are loosely based on my grandparents. I want to widen the Bino and Fino character universe to enable the series to handle a wider selection of educational subjects. In the coming full season expect more friends and family members.

What were the main challenges you faced coming up with the concept and launching your dream?

Funding, funding and funding! I wanted the cartoon to be entirely produced in Nigeria. We don’t have an animation industry in Nigeria but we have talented young animators with little organisational structure, as there are very few dedicated animation studios. So finding and training the animators was a challenge.

There was also the challenge of distributing the cartoon, piracy and getting a return on the investment in the production. There were and still are many more challenges but the important thing is we’re finding solutions to them.

What has been the response from parents and children around the world?

The response has been overwhelming! That’s why the whole team and I are itching to get more Bino and Fino content out there. Any criticism is always constructive and they want to see more episodes and subjects. We’ve had people from the US and UK and all the way to Japan via Lagos giving us feedback via Face book, YouTube and Twitter – its great!

Why do you believe it’s important for black children to have cartoons that reflect themselves?

One word, balance. We all know the world is getting more interconnected. A few years ago, most children in the world who had access to television were watching cartoons primarily produced by US, UK and European companies.

So that’s the only world-view they were getting. I believe children should be able to see positive representations of themselves and other cultures and races. If they don’t, a poor foundation is set where children literally don’t like their image. This can last up until adulthood and has dangerous ramifications. These include things like skin bleaching through to thinking one’s indigenous language, culture or accent is inferior.

Children need a positive representation of themselves in the media. It is also important for other children to see positive portrayals of children from another culture.

If you could use Bino and Fino to educate black children around the world, what three things would you like to advocate?

Education, tolerance and good morals! Education for me is crucial. That is why I decided on doing a modern educational series set in Africa. Children have to feel that it’s ok to want to learn and be a ‘nerd’ so to speak.

I want to associate education with Black Africa - let’s forget the well-known negative stereotypes for now.

The positive ones about Black Africa in the mainstream media are things like, culture, dancing, singing, Nollywood, fashion and sport, which are ok but do you associate the inventor of the next Facebook coming from Black Africa? For most people in the Black African community itself that’s not even a consideration.

Most people associate technological advancements with the U.S., China, India, Europe, and the Middle East etc. rarely with Africa, which is extremely dangerous. My aim is to challenge and change this playfield.

Do you think mainstream cartoon networks are failing black children?

I don’t think it is Disney’s job to look after the interests of black children. I used to think it was. It’s now our responsibility. By ‘our’ I mean the black community in all its various incarnations globally.

As producers we have to produce excellent content and aggressively push it out there. As African and Black networks you have to support such content and as individuals if you see something you like, be it a cartoon or a children’s book, buy it!

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