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David Masanso of talking cartoons

`I don’t admire anyone because our journeys are different’

Kampala, Uganda | AGNES E NANTABA | David Masanso is an animator who has mastered the art and science of making computers and cartoons work together. He runs Crossroads Digital Multimedia, a local animation production studio in Kampala, Uganda.

Masanso rose to fame after this short animation film, ‘Imitate’ won an award at the 2009 edition of the Amakula Kampala International Film Festival. It was also the first Ugandan and African computer animated film to screen at Swansea Metropolitan University in the UK, where Masanso attained a degree in Computer Animation.

`Imitate’ is a four minute film based on a story of a hawker of hats who takes a nap under a mango tree after a long walk. He places his merchandise close to him and not long before, two monkeys steal the hats leaving him with one on his head. Upon waking up, he sees the monkeys playing with the hats and in trying to get his merchandise back; he tosses his hand to the ground and sure enough the apes copy him. And that is how he gets his merchandise back.

Masanso has done several other short animation films like Maiden of Ja-luo and Mzee Ddiba. He is also the brain behind the ICEA TV infomercial featuring the popular Tommy Tombo and Know your world animated TV series.

Although animations seem a new and scarcely appreciated phenomenon in Uganda and East Africa, Masanso is still determined to make it work in Uganda. He was the first black student at the University of Swansea in the UK to study computer animations.

“Most people were doing just graphics designing and others feared that I couldn’t make money from animations in the African market,” says Masanso.

“I believe that the next big thing for Africa is animations because we have so many stories to tell to the world and how we tell them matters”.

In animation, the pictures are made to appear as though they are moving images. And Masanso goes an extra mile to give the cartoons an African touch.

Masanso is well aware that for digital multimedia to grow, there has to be a serious investment in skills, training as well as exposure of Ugandans to the global village.

His zeal to pursue a career in computer animations dates as far as his early years in secondary education. His initial career path was becoming a florist; taking on from his father. But they were cut short by the excitement from talking cartoons after an uncle brought a DVD player from the UK and two toy stories.

Masanso says, “I was wooed by how cartoons can talk as human beings”. He immediately saw that incorporating an African setting could actually work better.

Masanso’s parents were liberal and allowed him to pursue his interest in cartoons and animations at Amersham and Welkom College in Buckinghamshire. He says the initial stage was tough.

He says, “I was coming from a background where computers were scarcely heard of”.

His interest was reinforced by visits to animation studios to have a feeling of the reality. Two years later, he applied to pursue a degree in computer animations but was instead given multimedia. He pursued the degree in multimedia but kept applying for his dream course. For two times, he failed to secure a placement until he thought of an alternative.

“I attached a letter of interest to my application stressing my failed attempts and continued pursuit of my dream”, says Masanso.

“I also emphasized the fact that if given the opportunity, I would return to Africa and build the same industries as those built by Disney in America”.

The university was impressed by his desire to share animation skills back home. He joined Swansea University to pursue a degree in computer animations. To sharpen his skillset, Masanso worked in several animation studios for six years before returning home.

“I returned to fulfil my dream of moving Africa to the next level through animations,” he says. He started Crossroads Digital Multimedia in 2012. But his breakthrough was showcasing at the Amakula Kampala International Film Festival.

Masanso is the first of the five children of Daniel Luyinda Mukasa and Margret Nakimuli (RIP). He went to Nkoyoyo Boarding Primary school and Bombo SS before joining Amersham and Welkom College in Buckinghamshire.

He says developing animations in Uganda has largely been individual effort in selling the idea and its opportunities.

“Government only came on board after realising that I was winning international awards,” says Masanso.

He says there are still no polices to guide work of animations and animators are rarely considered for government contracts. But Masanso is happy that his animated cartoons made the government to realise that policies are needed.

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