Growing up, when it came to kids’ entertainment, Disney was number one for me. Year after year, its beautiful animations kept my eyes glued to the screen and wanting more. With memorable songs and lovable characters, it was hard not to want to be a Pocahontas or an Ariel or a Cinderella. One thing I remembered was that the movies tended to follow a laid down format. Each one will begin with a book in view which the narrator will read from before the story came to life. At the end, we would see the same book close. Looking back now, the whole Disney thing doesn’t sound like Rocket Science; they were merely animating the stories contained in books.So why are we wasting time in Nollywood with poorly written scripts and rehashing the same old story when there so many books begging to be put on screen? Whether it is a fable or a folktale, the possibilities of adapting to screen are quite endless. With the successful release of Half of a Yellow Sun, an adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel also of the same name, there is hope for more book-to-screen movies.
Now back to my childhood, I remember watching Nigerian TV shows targeted at children such as Voltron, Super Ted, Ninja Turtles and Captain Planet, all of which are foreign. The local programming were manly educational (quiz, debate and literature) but one that stuck out was Tales by Moonlight. Each episode featured an acted out story interspersed with narration from an Aunty with children around. The stories had Nigerian characters and were shot in local settings. I could identify with that as a Nigerian. So my question is why hasn’t someone in Nollywood taken any of these stories to the big screen? It would sell. Let us face it, parents want good content for their children and are ready to spend. The same people watching Africa Magic and going to the cinema to see Nollywood features, all have children. Would it not make sense to create something that would appeal to the whole family? Or are we happy to have the big foreign players hold the monopoly on children’s entertainment?
The problem is that people tend to see Nollywood as an adult brand as most of its films are rated 18. I am still yet to come across a PG or U movie. It is sad that families go to the cinema and the only kids movie is a foreign one. For me, this presents a big opportunity. There is money to be made in children entertainment. Just think about Disney. Those guys are making it big. They are into retail, theme parks, radio, TV, film and theatre among others. You only need to visit a Disney store to see how one movie can sell in different forms (books, costume, merchandise and DVD).
Nigeria has so many beautiful stories, legends, folktales and myths. These can all be made into films. With the proliferation of mobile phones where young children having phones is common place; there is a market for kids content. If we cannot afford to create channels like Nickelodeon or produce features such as The Lion King, we can start with bite sized entertainment rich in local content available as apps. We could also have short films made to be screened in schools and public spaces. It is time to move away from a stereotyped adult Nollywood and give our children something worthwhile. We have had twenty years to practise, so really we have no excuses.
The Nollywood Review is a weekly column by Isabella Akinseye published in Saturday Newswatch newspaper.