Interview: O.J’s Smile 77
September 21st, 2015
Nigerian animator, Okogie John (O.J) Okosun, brings us several animated videos through his Smile 77 company. His videos tell about life, current events, and history of Nigeria. Some are comic, but some are also serious. Still, each one of them tells a different story about Nigeria. We ask O.J to talk about why he created these videos, and what the future holds for Smile 77.
Tell us about yourself
My full name is Okogie John Okosun. Friends call me ‘OJ’. I studied architectural design at O.A.U Ile ife (Nigeria) but I never practiced architecture a day in my life. I worked as a graphic designer and illustrator for a publishing house and several newspapers before I decided to go into 2D animation full time. In Nigeria, we have a great history, from our arts & culture to urban legends, even to religious beliefs and societal values. In film, the rest of the world portray Africa as corrupt and impoverished or rebels with child soldiers. I’m passionate about telling our stories, showing the rest of the world that Africa has a lot of creativity.
Much as we may enjoy Hollywood storytelling, it is not the only way. There are so many different stories to be told. Triggerfish Story Lab, a $3.5 million initiative between Cape Town-based Triggerfish animation studios, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, and the Walt Disney Company recently called for story submissions from African directors and writers.
How do you come up with ideas for your animations?
By observing my environment or looking at our history. People talk and share their experiences on social media. I find there’s more than enough material if you look well enough. I’ve also made videos from interviews with historical figures and even stand-up comedy.
Why is Smile 77 important to you?
I’ve always loved animation and until fairly recently technology has made it possible for animated films to be made without a huge budget. In Nigeria, animation is rapidly growing and embraced in advertising and public awareness campaigns. An emerging market if you will. Sadly a lot of people see animation in only one light: humour. With Smile 77, I make not just funny stories but also (stories) about our history, social commentary and even political statements. It’s much more than a tool to make people laugh.
Tell us about your creative process
I don’t have a particular creative ritual. Once I have a story I design the characters for the film. Voice actors are recorded for the dialogue. Then I animate the scenes while listening to the audio recording of the voice actors. Other artists create the background and environment for me and everything is then brought together to make the final result.
What’s your vision for Smile 77?
I’ve partnered with a few content creation companies to produce animated web and TV series. The main goal is to create a feature length animated and live action films eventually.
We thank O.J. for taking the time out to give us more insight into his work. Explore Smile 77 via the links below!