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EIT | Te Pūkenga lecturer celebrates further success of animated series

April 5, 2023

Ako For Niños, an animated series co-produced and designed by EIT | Te Pūkenga IDEAschool lecturer James Smith (left), seen here with Sebastian Vidal Bustamante (director), and David van Vliet (stop motion set designer).

An animated series co-produced and designed by EIT | Te Pūkenga IDEAschool kaimahi (lecturer) James Smith, was part of this year’s Māoriland Film Festival.

Ako For Niños, (‘education for children’), is a three-part animated series that aims to help integrate Latin American Tauiwi (refugees and migrants) settled in Aotearoa New Zealand through the introduction of Tikanga Māori (Māori principles and values).

The festival, in its 10th year, ran from March 15-19. The Ako For Niños – King Tupac episode featured alongside more than 130 short and feature films from more than 150 indigenous nations.

“We’ve had a really good response from it. We entered it on a whim to a couple of different festivals and last year it was accepted into the Show Me Shorts International Festival and screened on opening night. Now to have it selected in the Māoriland Film Festival has been fantastic.”

Its continued success, since it premiered in October last year, has taken James by surprise.

“It’s been a pretty positive outcome overall – nothing that we actually expected. We thought it was just going to be by and for the community, but it’s grown legs and taken on a life of its own.”

It was directed by Sebastian Vidal Bustamante, and alongside James, co-produced by ALACINC (Aotearoa Latin American Community Inc), Foundation North, and Jordana Guerra.

“We developed it with the community. We made a social media post with a list of Tikanga Māori values with explanations and prompted the Latin American community to enter in a story writing competition to come up with an original narrative for children which responded to one of the Tikanga. When we received the stories, we created three different animations, one of which was King Tupac.”

He says there has been a lot of interest in the project further afield.

“We are planning in the near future to make the episodes publicly available; whether that’s on YouTube or another platform, we’re just looking into that. And the King Tupac episode has been picked up for distribution, so it should be released on a national platform, at some point this year or next year.”

They are also in the process of securing funding for a second season to keep the project going. 

“We learnt a lot from the process of making the first season, while still retaining that kind of community focus in terms of the methodology and the collaborative nature of how it was put together.

“We’re really excited to get as much feedback that we can and secure other opportunities to show our kaupapa to a wider audience. That’s the main goal for us.”

Sue Blackmore, the Acting Head of IDEAschool, says: ”The IDEAschool is excited that James has gained recognition for this across- region collaborative, community orientated project. We are happy to support his plans for further similar outreach activities.”