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Techie turns animation hobby into commercial venture

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Fatboy Animations 3D-artist Michael Muthiga at his Film Studios office. The self-taught animator is famous for creating Jamii Telecommunications Faiba advert. Photo/DIANA NGILA

Fatboy Animations 3D-artist Michael Muthiga at his Film Studios office. The self-taught animator is famous for creating Jamii Telecommunications Faiba advert. Photo/Diana Ngila 

By David Herbling

Posted  Wednesday, February 6   2013 at  19:13

In Summary

  • The self-taught animation enthusiast has defied all odds to turn a hobby into a commercial venture, unlocking earnings in Kenya’s highly potential but largely untapped creative market.

Sometime in June last year, Michael Muthiga met the chief executive of Jamii Telecommunications who dared him to prepare an animated commercial for his company.

Mr Muthiga took up the challenge and, a month later, he had come up with the first episode of the 3D television animation ads, popularly known as ‘faiba’.

The television commercial went viral among Kenyan audiences, prompting the animator to convert the project into a series, producing three more episodes of ‘faiba’ by the end of last year.

“I draw my inspiration from music. On the particular day I was making that third episode, I was listening to Lingala music,” said the 26-year old techie.

The brief from Joshua Chepkwony, the JTL boss, was for the animator to develop a short television advertisement to drive the firm’s terrestrial fibre optic offering.

“It takes me about a week to conceptualise an idea, build sets and create characters,” said Mr Muthiga, the director of Fatboy Animations, a firm he founded in 2011.

His creations remain popular with Kenyan television audiences and the online community. Catchwords from the commercial have become part of Kenya-speak, with phrase such as ‘mboss’ being part of daily conversations.

“Faiba!!!! I love this advert, even if I am asleep I always wake up because of it,” comments YouTube user Beth ram.

The Faiba episode 3, uploaded on YouTube in November last year, has already registered 97,810 views.

The show features a dozing boss who is waiting for his slow Internet to download a file only to be slapped to reality by his junior who is enjoying fast Internet speeds from Jamii Telecom.

As a result, a Facebook group has sprung up titled ‘Make the faiba wakambaz into a series’ and it has gathered a following of 8,749 ‘likes’.

“Need more... I can’t get enough,” says Gins Tosh Ndung’u on the social networking site.

“Can IEBC do an ad akin to the famous #faiba ad by JTL, I tell you all will understand how to vote #ElectionsSimulations #IEBC,” says @blessedkal on micro-blogging site Twitter.

Interestingly, the art and design enthusiast did not grow up watching Cartoon Network and only took a keen interest in animated film while in secondary school.

The self-taught animation enthusiast has defied all odds to turn a hobby into a commercial venture, unlocking earnings in Kenya’s highly potential but largely untapped creative market.

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