Lwazi Msipha grew up watching shows on Cartoon Network like Courage the Cowardly Dog and Dragon Ball Z on local channel SABC. These shows would later inspire him to pursue a career in animation.
“I love seeing my characters come to life. And that was the spark for me. I was like, ‘this is what I want to do, I want to create, I want to see my animations’,” 28-year-old Msipha, from Boksburg, on the East Rand of South Africa’s Gauteng province, told Forbes Africa.
With the support of his mother, he pursued art in school and started out as a graphic designer but later quit because he wanted to go into animation full-time. He started by creating cartoons on social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok.
His breakthrough came when he won the 2019 Digital Lab Africa pitching competition. His quest to create something that could resonate with both the young and old, along the lines of The Simpsons, led to the creation of ‘My Cartoon Friend’ and arguably one of Africa’s first original hybrid comedy shows.
The show debuted on Cartoon Network in South Africa in August 2021, making him the first South African to get a full 13-episode series on cable TV.
The show, described by Reuters, portrays “Msipha as a young animator experimenting with some new software when he accidentally exports his creation into the real world. He is then stuck with Themba, his feisty, sharp-tongued animation, who he must accommodate into his life – which proves challenging.”
Detailing the relationship of the characters in the show, Msipha told Reuters, “(Our) relationship is like a ‘Tom and Jerry’ type of relationship. He’s a cartoon in the real world, and he doesn’t understand that in the real world the dynamics are different.”
The journey in the creative space has been bumpy and challenging as well, Msipha said. According to him, doing animation for kids is more daunting than one for adults largely because of the language used. He told Forbes Africa that it takes five months of pre-production and planning to produce a two-minute episode.
Msipha hopes that his journey will inspire many young boys and girls to venture into animation. In addition, he wants to grow the animation market in Africa and make South Africa the hub. He also wants to build the capacity of African animators to develop their skills and make animation more accessible as an industry.