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Friday, 5 September 2014

Zimbabwean Cartoon Series Moves From YouTube To The Big Screen

Many are using the limitless power of the internet to influence lives positively, and also to kick start their businesses. One of such people is Zimbabwean animator Thabani Bruce Lunga aka Brucik Lungovich who has used this powerful medium as a cheap platform to turn his hobby into a business.

He is the creator of 'The Bulawayo Show', a series of animated cartoons, which he started as a hobby, and now thanks to social media, his comedic episodes are taking off as a viable commercial venture. Lungovich publishes episodes of short animations on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, before sharing them through WhatsApp. It's proven to be an effective route to reach the increasing numbers of people going online via mobile phones and internet cafes.

The Bulawayo Show is in both English and Ndebele, "With time we will spread our horizon and introduce shows in other languages spoken in Zimbabwe," says Lungovich. "The Bulawayo Show is a series of mini comedy clips and each clip has a different theme," he says. "For example, 'Sgwadi Mampara' tackles peer pressure, adolescence and dating. Another mini movie, 'Ntuthu' explores Bulawayo's life situations such as youth subcultures, drug abuse and circumcision. 'Alpha News' is about how topical issues are covered in the mainstream media."

Like most Zimbabwean children who grew up in the early 1990s, Lungovich got his cartoon dose via the country's sole public broadcaster ZBC. Over the years his appreciation for cartoons and their influence on society only grew. "I have been a fan of cartoons for as long as I can remember," Lungovich says. "As a kid I used to watch Tom and Jerry, Smurfs, Bugs Bunny and The Funny Company, among others. Later I changed to adult cartoons such as South Park, Family Guy and Boondocks."

"I always wondered how animators made cartoons, until I worked for, a Russian games developer for 4 years, while I was studying medicine in Russia. Things like 3D animation, graphic design and 3D physics engines became part of my day-to-day experience. This is when I started making animated cartoons as a hobby. My friends thought these cartoons were funny, so I kept making them."

The Bulawayo Show is currently transitioning from hobby into a fully-fledged business initiative. "The reaction has been overwhelming, as if it is what everyone has been waiting for," he says.
Ingwe Studios, a branch of Radio Dialogue, a community radio station in Bulawayo, has bought into the idea and The Bulawayo Show premièred on the big screen in August at the Rainbow Cinemas in Bulawayo.

"We will now come up with a solid business plan," says Lungovich. "Our interest is to use the show as a vehicle that companies can use to market their products. We also intend to work with non-profit organisations that seek to use our series to send out a positive message. The long-term goal is to go national with the project," he adds.

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