By Isaac Blessings
If you own a television in Kenya chances are high that you’ve come across the Faiba animated cartoon adverts that air in almost all the major TV stations. Everyone enjoys watching the hilarious characters but what most people don’t know is that the animations were done by a 33 year old university student. In this article we bring you the story of one Michael Muthiga – the man whose clients include Safaricom, Telkom Orange, ABSA among others.
Michael Muthiga journey
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Michael Muthiga was born and raised in Nairobi. While growing up, he loved watching cartoons so much that his friends and family would laugh at his obsession with the funny characters. He wanted to know how his favorite characters were made but with no access to the internet, he had limited information about animation. He later got a chance to pursue his secondary education at Alliance High school and that’s where his animation journey began. While at the school, he chose Arts and Design as one of his subjects and this is where he was first introduced to illustration and 3D animations.
After clearing his secondary education in 2005, he had made up his mind to pursue his passion for animation and nothing else. But his major setback was finances since he couldn’t afford to pay the fees to join the few colleges that offered animation courses. He spent a year after high school studying on the internet Autodesk Maya – a software that is used in creating animation video games and 3D applications. After learning the basics, he applied and got his first job.
The Job he got was as a junior developer at ‘Tinga Tinga Tales’ – a children’s cartoon series that aired on Citizen TV. With hard work, patience and determination he rose through the ranks and became the lead animator for the show. He worked for the show for about one and a half years before the curtains were brought down and the show closed. He became jobless again and it was at this point that his parents convinced him to go back to campus and pursue another ‘better’ career. He fortunately managed to secure admission at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus to study Civil Engineering. Although he had changed his career, this didn’t kill his dream. He continued juggling studying and learning animation techniques online and by the time he was coming back to Kenya he had sharpened and honed skills to the best.
In 2011 after jetting back to the country, he registered the company Fatboy Animations with its headquarters being in his bedroom. He started making funny characters like the ‘Huratete cartoon’ (which became a hit) and uploading them to his YouTube channel. His channel began to grow and attracted attention until one day in June 2012, the Chief Executive Officer of Jamii Telecommunications (JTL) reached out to him. The then CEO – Joshua Chepkwony dared him to create a short TV advert to push the company’s fiber project that was new in the country. Muthiga accepted the challenge and after a month of creativity and hard work, he resurfaced with the first 3D episode of ‘Faiba’ ads which eventually became famous in the entire East African region. By the end of 2012, he had created four episodes which not only became a hit but gave him his big break.
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With the ‘Faiba’ advertisements going viral and becoming a hit, big companies and corporates started to knock on his doors. Oglivy approached him on behalf of Orange for a five-episode animation creation which earned him Ksh 3.5 million. Then followed Safaricom, Barclays and many other companies in a span of just 6 months. Today, Fatboy employs 15 people and works on an average of 10 projects every month which he charges between Ksh 1 million and Ksh 1.4 million for a 60-second advert. He was named by Forbes in the 30 Most Promising Young entrepreneurs in Africa in 2014 at 27 years. Two years later in 2016, he was named by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 30 under 30 Entrepreneurs.
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