Netflix, the world's leading internet entertainment service, this week announced its first original African animated series, "Mama K’s Team 4," produced by Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios and leading London-based kids’ entertainment specialist CAKE.
"Mama K’s Team 4" tells the story of four teen girls living in the neo-futuristic African city of Lusaka, Zambia who are recruited by a retired secret agent still committed to saving the world.
"Mama K’s Team 4" is created by Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema, who was one of eight winners in the Triggerfish Story Lab initiative in 2015, a pan-african talent search. Designed by Cameroonian artist Malcolm Wope, it draws visual inspiration from retro-’90s R&B and hip hop girl groups.
IOL Entertainment chatted to Mulendema about her latest project.
Why did you choose Zambia as the location for your story?
I grew up in Zambia and never felt that entertainment on TV truly represented me. This is a wonderful opportunity to change this and to show off the beauty of this country and the continent.
Audience interest in superhero stories is on the rise, why do you think it's important to include teenagers, specifically woman and girls in the narrative?
Now, like never before it is so important to have strong female lead characters who are emotionally connected to their world and who can choose to change their world! Look at what is happening with the young people around the world regarding ‘war on plastic’.
If this confidence builds amongst young people can you just imagine what the world will be like in 20 years! It is such an exciting time to create strong female led content.
Why did you choose animation as the medium to tell the story?
I feel I was ‘invited into’ animation through Triggerfish Animation’s Story Lab in 2015 and I know see this as the perfect tool to share these characters with the world.
Tell us about the tone of the show? Why did you choose to draw visual inspiration from retro-’90s R&B and hip hop girl groups?
I think storytellers use their work to explore different aspects of their societies. My country, the continent, are very complex and I think it’s necessary to tell stories about them in as many ways as possible. It can’t be done in one way. Animation presents an interesting opportunity to do that. With this project we will use a fun action-comedy to explore Lusaka, Zambia.
The project has also been an opportunity to put four black girls and their community in the forefront in a way that for many of us will not only be a new experience but an overdue one.
When I was thinking of where I had seen young people coming together to do something that had an impact on so many people, I found it in music. I was inspired by their stories of using what they had, each other and their voices, to make an impact.
Tell us a bit about the production journey?
We are currently still in development and very excited to get into pre-production. It has been so refreshing to partner with Netflix and CAKE as their ambitions for the show are as huge as ours! Partners who want to explore every opportunity to represent diverse audiences are hard to find and we could not be more excited to go into production with the team at Netflix!
Who are the voices behind the characters?
We are yet to cast our lead characters and looking forward to doing this in the next couple of months. We are so excited that Netflix are first wanting us to cast talent in Africa and to try to make the series as authentic as possible making sure it remains appealing to international audiences.
Meanwhile, despite the show still being in its pre-production stage, it hasn't stop fans from creating a social media account dedicated to "Mama K's Team 4".
The series joins Netflix’s growing slate of original animated programming designed for kids and families everywhere, brought to 190 countries by artists from around the world.