As the first black student to study animation at Swansea University in the UK, David Masanso was inundated with good paying job offers in Europe.
The Ugandan filmmaker however chose to come back home and start up a career as an animator.
He now runs Crossroads Digital Multimedia, a leading local animation-production studio, and has since been passing on skills to young aspiring animators.
During a special workshop held at the ongoing Amakula International Film Festival, Masanso told participants that animation is Ugandan’s best bet at the international film platform.
“The creative industry can employ more people than the oil industry, and Animation is certainly the next economic wave in Uganda” Masanso told his class at the 3D Animations workshop held at Uganda Museum.
And it appears Uganda is lagging behind other African countries when it comes to fully embracing this film genre. There are for example existing animation studios in Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.
According to BBC however, only a very limited number of schools teach such techniques on the African continent.
But does Africa actually have the potential to one day produce popular animated movies to compete with American cartoons or Japanese mangas?
When he returned to Uganda four years ago, Masanso says he found no technical people who could do fulfill this dream.
He has since collaborated with Makerere school of Industrial Art & Design to train and empower a strong team of young animators to tell their own stories.
“Animation is a new industry and it requires learning as well as practice. You need the skills, passion and interest in this art,” Masanso pointed out.
Alex Musisi, the managing director at Crossroads, on the other hand says animation is embedded in each culture and has a deep connection with the people.
“Uganda has a competitive advantage over Nigeria if it can quickly tap into the animation industry,” he said, adding that Hollywood boomed because it embraced technology.
Musisi says Nigeria has already dominated the African film industry making it hard for films from other African countries to compete on the global market.
“Animation is the best genre to uplift the Ugandan film industry,” Musisi argues, noting that even Hollywood films heavily rely on animation.
Television stations are springing up every day and they are hungry for content.
Masanso says animation sells toys for kids, clothing and books hence rewarding financially.
Despite being profitable, mainly through advertisements which are a direct source of income, Masanso believes animation can also give visible achievements when audiences appreciate one’s work.
He said Uganda is moving into the middle class where technology will advance and creativity increase creating competition.
“The next world dictators will use technology like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the like, not guns. Luckily, Ugandans are creative and with the right skills and technology, they can achieve.”
Masanso nonetheless agrees animation is a very expensive art form. It’s even worse in Uganda given the weak education system that emphasizes theory over practice.
He decried government’s failure to recognize the potential of the local film industry.
Future of animation in Uganda
Masanso says with the availability of internet, Ugandans can do research and teach each other.
He says with vocational and technical skills, more people can be trained as animators to boost the industry.
“If you have skills, it has no limit. TV series for example give long-time employment,” Musisi said on the potential animation provides.