By, Selome Hailu, July 11, 2022 (Variety)
HBO Max and Cartoon Network announced a 2D animated adaptation of “Iyanu: Child of Wonder,” a Dark Horse Comics/YouNeek Studios graphic novel series heavily influenced by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The project will be financed and overseen by Black-owned animation studio Lion ForgeAnimation.
“Iyanu: Child of Wonder” is a superhero tale set in the magical kingdom of Yorubaland, which draws from Nigerian culture, music and mythology. The series follows Iyanu, a teenage orphan who spends her days studying Yoruba history and ancient arts but yearns for a normal life. One day, responding to danger, she unknowingly triggers her divine powers, the likes of which have not been seen since the Age of Wonders. With newly discovered superpowers, Iyanu joins forces with two other teenagers as they embark on a remarkable journey to discover the truth about the evil lurking in her homeland. Throughout her adventure, she’ll uncover the truth about her past, her parents, and her ultimate destiny to save the world.
The series is created by Roye Okupe, who will also write and direct multiple episodes. Lion Forge head of production Saxton Moore serves as supervising director. The writers room is led by Brandon Easton. Executive producers include Okupe, Doug Schwalbe, Carl Reed, Lion Forge’s David Stewart II and Matt Heath, Impact X Capital’s Erica Dupuis and Forefront Media Group’s Ryan Haidarian.
The greenlight of “Iyanu: Child of Wonder” is notable as it continues signaling the emergence of Africa as a player in global streaming. Much of this growth begins in the kids and family space — for example, Lupita Nyong’o became an equity partner in Nairobi, Kenya-based production company Kukua in 2021 and stars in its YouTube Originals animated series“Super Sema.” African titles made for older audiences are also beginning to cross over, such as Netflix’s South African drama “Blood & Water,” which debuted in 2020 and made Netflix’s Top 10 list in the U.S. Netflix also recently released “Blood Sisters,” the streamer’s first original series from Nigeria.
“‘Iyanu: Child of Wonder’ has it all – vast world-building, authentic characters, a strong, African female hero at the center, and a first-class team of stellar creators and producers,” said Amy Friedman, head of kids and family programming at Warner Bros. “While created for kids, the series will resonate with anyone looking for an adventure filled with surprise, magic, lore and legend. We feel so lucky to be the home of ‘Iyanu’ and partnering with this team.”
“The authenticity of the ‘Iyanu’ story means everything to us and aligns perfectly with our mission to create and deliver inclusive content to global audiences,” said Stewart, founder of Lion Forge. “A powerful means of accomplishing and sustaining this is through franchise building, and the depth and layers of the Iyanu world allow us to explore and create a beautiful universe on-screen alongside tremendous partners.”
“When I set out to create ‘Iyanu’ for a global audience, I wanted to develop a world that combined everything I love about the fantasy genre with the majesty and awe that is ancient West Africa,” said Roye Okupe. “On top of that, working with Godwin Akpan, who illustrated the books, as our art director and collaborating with a thoughtful studio like Lion Forge Animation that prioritizes authenticity and diversity, is beyond belief.”