Twende’s pilot screened in competition in 2021 at Annecy, the world’s premier animation festival. Since then, the bar for African animation has kept on rising, but as 702 entertainment commentator Yalezo Njuguna says on his All That Yazz podcast, “Twende is genuinely my highlight of things I’ve watched within African animation. It is so funny.”
To find out more, we caught up with showrunner Greig Cameron (Seal Team, Supa Strikas).
What’s Twende about?
Twende is a pangolin, the slowest moving animal in the savannah. His belief that, ‘life is about the journey, not the destination’ is constantly at odds with his job as a motorbike-taxi driver. He’s the kind of guy who gets you to your meeting three hours late, but you still give him a big tip because you loved hanging out with him so much.
Who is your spirit animal among the cast?
My personal favourite is poor old Boss, the perennially broke and exhausted hyena who owns the boda boda agency where Twende works. He’s delightfully unscrupulous.
He is also constantly tortured by his children, who are eating their own homework, their desks, and definitely their dad. As the loving parent of two young children myself, I don’t know if it’s just about getting people to suffer with you, but watching Boss’s kids harass him gives me joy every single time.
Twende is technically aimed at 6-11 year olds, but it’s definitely also for parents, because I’m working through my own parenting issues throughout this show.
How’s the feedback been from your kids? They tend to be the most honest critics.
My three-year-old has really started emotionally manipulating me because she knows she can’t watch TV after supper – so she wants to watch daddy’s Twende then. Which I suppose is a good sign.
You worked with an amazing writing team on Twende, including the likes of Supa Team 4 creator Malenga Mulendema and Kizazi Moto’s Vanessa Kanu, with Sheldon Bengtson as head writer. What’s it like working with Sheldon?
Sheldon is hilarious, a prolific writer, and a delightful weirdo – all of my favourite things! We totally resonate on the same frequency. I am so used to being the guy pushing the jokes further and further, so me having to be the person to say: ‘No, dude, that’s too weird. We can’t do that.’ was a really fun role reversal.
And your cast?
My last animation was a feature for Triggerfish called Seal Team, and I was very, very lucky to go to Hollywood and work with some A-list stars [we’ll namedrop for Greig here: think Oscar winner J.K. Simmons, Emmy winner Matthew Rhys, Emmy nominee Kristen Schaal, Grammy winner Seal and action legend Dolph Lundgren, among others]. With that in mind, I have been blown away by the comedic talent of our Kenyan actors. Some of these people were born to make cartoons; they are hilarious. We have Junior Nyong’o as Twende, so our tiny goal is to make him bigger than his sister by the end of the show.
What do you hope kids take away from Twende?
Twende’s really about the humour and hijinks, but we also want to introduce audiences to the colourful culture and traditions of East Africa, teach them a few Swahili catchphrases, and make them fall in love with pangolins, which are the most trafficked animals in the world and now on the endangered species list.
At its core, Twende is also about two unlikely friends – Twende and his navigator Nuru – who celebrate each other’s differences, even if they drive each other crazy sometimes.
And it’s about slowing down, which we feel is incredibly important for kids to recognise in a world that is increasingly disconnected and fast-moving.
Produced by London-based Braintrust and Johannesburg-based Mind’s Eye Creative, Twende will release two episodes every Friday after its premiere until 29 December 2023. Slow down and enjoy the ride.
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