Ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19, educating children about the virus has been a serious challenge. Explaining a virus to an adult can be confusing. Therefore, imagine how much more insane the phenomenon will sound to a child. After pondering awhile, Nigerian Filmmaker, Niyi Akinmolayan, found the answer in an animated green monster with sharp teeth. In an interview with VOA, Akinmolayan spoke about his challenge of explaining COVID-19 to his child. He said,
“There was a struggle to try and explain to my five-year-old what it meant for everyone to be on the lockdown. I kept failing at every logical attempt I made until I came up with the idea of the monster that was outside. And the monster would prevent you from going out to have fun. And I was like, ‘the only way we’re all going to beat this monster is by washing our hands.’ So, I think when I had that exchange with him, that was the light bulb moment.”
The coronavirus has infected over 7.1 million people globally. Over 3.47 million have recovered while more than 400,000 have died. Sadly, there is no cure or vaccine in sight. The 93-second video explains to children that the only way to beat the virus was frequently washing hands with soap and water. According to Niyi Akinmolayan, parents are complaining that they have to stock up on soap after their kids saw the cartoon. This was because they were always running to wash their hands.
A Peek into Niyi Akinmolayan’s COVID-19 Animation
In the animated video, Habeeb, a young boy wanted to go out and play football. However, his older sister, Funke, objected and warns him that there was a giant monster outside. Habeeb protests but Funke tells him to have a look. Habeeb opens the door and peeps to find a growling green monster. He slams the door shut and goes back upstairs.
Akinmolayan said he wanted to make the impact of the virus come alive in the minds of children. This explains why the giant green monster takes the shape of the coronavirus. The cartoon was voiced in Nigeria’s three major languages; Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba. However, it has also been translated into French, Portuguese, and Swahili.
Niyi Akinmolayan’s Anthill Studios was able to make the animation with a group of artists working remotely. He recalls reaching out to his friends and co-workers who were already working remotely at that time. Speaking to VOA, he said,
“And I said, ‘hey guys, you know what’s going to happen? I’m going to write a script. I’m going to do the voicing and all that. We’re going to voice it in all the four key languages in Nigeria and then we’re going to do the animation.’ And that’s what we did.”
Mr. Akinmolayan uploaded the animation to Google Drive and made it free for download and reuse. Consequently, it airs frequently on various Nigerian television stations. Also, it has received airplay in faraway Brazil.
A Grand Entrance into the Nollywood Industry
Niyi Akinmolayan made his debut into the Nollywood industry a few years ago. He started with short movie clips. However, he did not find much success. One of his short films, ‘Room 315’ had only 14,000 views on YouTube. The 29 minutes film talks about mental health. It pointed out at the beginning that ‘1 in every 5 people will experience a mental health problem’.
The story was different when he directed ‘The Wedding Party 2’. This remains the highest-grossing movie in the Nigerian film industry. His latest film, ‘The Set Up’ is currently streaming on Netflix. For those who want to share the coronavirus animation, Mr. Akinmolayan’s said,
“Let’s get it on all TV stations and if anyone can sponsor on YouTube, they should. Remember it’s free to use. Just acknowledge @anthillstudios_ many thanks to all my wonderful staff for doing this great work.”
And here is our favorite quote from Niyi Akinmolayan: Failure is an essential part of this journey but you will never understand that if you don’t get up and get started Click To Tweet