26 January 2016

Uganda: Bringing Disney World to Uganda

Richard Musinguzi poses with one of his characters at his offices in Lubowa, off Entebbe Road.

He has been nicknamed the Walt Disney of Uganda because his creations surpass curiosity.

We set off to meet 25-yearold Richard Musinguzi at his offices in Lubowa, off Entebbe Road. After making several calls and negotiating our way to the house, we are ushered into a 'baking ground' for the Uganda Disney production - Katoto. Katoto is a jolly character whose story streak tries to resonate with both Africans and a global audience.

I first met Musinguzi through my smartphone when a friend forwarded an animated clip of Katoto that had gone viral on social media. I was shocked and impressed both at the same time at a cartoon speaking one of Uganda's local languages. Could it have been produced from abroad and voices done here, I wondered!

The clip has since received more than 25,000 views on YouTube.

Musinguzi has done work on television commercials, with a famous one being the Crane Bank commercial educating the public about the importance of saving.

Musinguzi has a fascination for art. His studio walls are covered with different characters that he uses in his productions and commercials.

Musinguzi says he always had a penchant for art and creatives in life. Musinguzi is fascinated by drawings that come to life that he exemplifies in his paintings and in animations.

During his high school days at St Mary's College, Kisubi, Musinguzi says he sacrificed his love for sports, especially rugby, to spend more time in the art rooms.

"I found myself spending more time in the art room painting," he says.

Little did he know that this craft was going to guide him through his University days at Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi during his architectural degree.

"Architecture came naturally to me because of my love for art," he says.

Although he wanted to be an animator in real life, the katoto creator says he could not afford the high tuition fees that were required for the two year course at California Institute of the Arts, colloquially called CalArts, the top school of animation in the US.

"The course was going to cost me $60,000 [about Shs208 million]a year, so I couldn't afford that and it became even hard to explain to my parents," Musinguzi, whose three siblings are engineers and technical people, says.

When he realised he could not study animation since he could not afford it, Musinguzi decided to look for the next best thing because he knew he had to be in a creative career.

From the many options he had, he settled for architecture since it involves creating something which people can live in. "it had the appeal of helping people live in their dreams," he adds.

He excelled in architecture but deep down knew that he wanted to do animations.

In architecture, he learnt a lot of things from work ethic to cultural behaviours of people, knowledge that equipped him for what he wanted to do with his animation skill.

"I started practicing animation in 2010 and drawing has always been part of me," he shares. By the time he graduated, the digital age had caught up and he realised he could learn everything online.

So, he googled: "how to animate," and he landed on a tutorial about animation which has helped him practice the skill to this date.

Musinguzi says his company started while in high school, about five years ago.

"I didn't really invest any capital," he says, adding that he has always gotten money through doing what he loves. So capital has always come while doing other things he loves as an artiste.

Musinguzi believes under art, he has the skills to do architecture. He also has a painting career that he runs, and an animator, and he has done graphic design. All these disciplines are related.

Musinguzi has designed, among other works, the cover for the book "Under the Jacaranda," by Joy Odera.

Musinguzi says his pay fluctuates depending on his skill and level of work he is required to do.

Work process of animation

There are currently four people all of who have a special skill set.

Musinguzi explains that he first comes up with a story. He then makes a story board, a composition of different paintings to make a story real.

A story real is a collection of pictures brought to life using a voice. The voice actor will then review the story board and the voice to create the real. This is basically a sequence of images and sound.

After that, they look at their story as a team and also share with family to get their opinions on it.

Once they know all that - the story is funny and flowing - they begin animating, scene by scene broken down into different drawings.

They do a 2D animation which shows Katoto moving through different scenes, all of which are drawn. He explains that a scene can have more than 700 drawings.

Once the animation is done, they proceed to do the scene shading and compositing which is mainly putting the background and the animated scene together, generating a complete product like the famous katoto clip.

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