3 questions to Eri Umusu, the Nigerian digital artist shaping the scene

Young digital artist Eri Umusu has taken residency at Anthill Studios, one of the most exciting animation studios in Lagos, Nigeria. We talk to him about his journey so far, his favourite works and his take on the future of African animation.

Orange Pop: What was your artistic journey? And how did you end up at Anthill Studios?

Eri Umusu: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved animation. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid but it was only after my sister’s encouragement that I decided to make a career out of it. I started studying 3D animation after hearing about an opening at Beavers Studio back in 2011. While I was there, I met studio head Niyi Akinmolayan and pretty soon, we became good friends. When he finally moved on to launch Anthill Studios, he took me along too. It was actually while working on the Visual Effect project that I spoke to him about the possibility of directing THE SIM. Thankfully, he loved the idea and since then, we decided to really make a good of it in animation!

O. Pop: How was your project Plaything born? Did you have to adapt it to meet certain criteria?

E.U: While the studio was in the middle on working on a TV series, Nurdin Momodu, another animator, spoke to us about wanting to work on an animated short. He had no real ideas about the story or the characters; he just wanted to get to work. A conversation about animated greats like Toy Story and Ant Man reminded me of an earlier idea I had had for a future film. I presented my plan for the film Plaything, everyone loved it and the idea was born! While we’re still playing with ideas on the project, there is something in the works.

O. Pop: In your opinion, what’s the story with Nigerian and African animation?

E.U: In Nigeria, Lago has always been the capital of animation. I can’t speak for the rest of Africa, but generally, I don’t feel like we’re making as much out of animation as we should be. It’s for reasons like this that studios like Anthill are experimenting so much before releasing projects into the wider world. Today, the biggest difference between Nigerian animation and the rest of the world is the budget. We have incredible designers and CGI artists (Computer Generated Imagery) and there are tons of stories to be told. Without the right resources, though, the projects can’t go anywhere.

Animation’s future is in safe hands, thanks to the likes of Eri Umusu !