My Cartoon Friend (Cartoon Network Instagram)
My Cartoon Friend (Cartoon Network Instagram)

  • Lwazi Msipha is a South African animator who has a show on Cartoon Network.
  • The 27-year-old artist loved drawing cartoons as a kid, and his mother pushed him to pursue a career in animation.
  • Msipha also created a popular character on TikTok called Nurse Thembi and it went viral in less than two days.
  • He quit his job as a graphic designer in 2018 and now owns a show on Cartoon Network called My Cartoon Friend.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

With no other plan of employment, this South African animator quit his job as a graphic designer to pursue animation, and he now has a 13-episode show on Cartoon Network.

Lwazi Msipha was born and raised in Johannesburg and has loved the art of animation from primary school.

"I always knew how to draw. I was very skilled when it come to drawing as a kid, and every Saturday I'd wake up early in the morning and watch cartoons while eating my cornflakes.

"I liked how they made me feel so happy at that time, you forget everything. When I realised I could draw I knew that this is exactly what I want to do," said the young artist.

Msipha gave drawing a lot of practice while watching one of his then favourite cartoon the popular Dragon Ball Z.

"It sparked something in me," He said

Msipha's mother was aware of her son's love for animation, and after he completed high school, she was determined to lead him to where his talent would be nurtured.

"It was my mother who pushed me. She was the one who said, 'you are going to study animation'", he said.

She took it upon herself to find him a school and a bursary, and after matric he went straight to The Animation School – and "the whole experience was a blast," said the 27-year-old. Three years later, he completed a Diploma in Animation.

After finally getting his qualification in 2017, Msipha got his first job as a graphic designer, but he absolutely hated it, so much so that he quit a year later with no other plan.

"Being in the work environment for me was very hard. When I got to that environment it was even harder because I worked for a year and was really depressed.

"That's when I thought I need to do my own stuff. It was solidified in 2018 when I got the job and I realised that this is not for me," Msipha said.

He decided to finally focus on his talent with no fear of failure. A month after quitting his job, he got funding from the National Film and Video Foundation to create a short film called Ringa Mzansi,  an animated talk show that looks at contemporary world issues through satire and comedy.

He uploaded the videos on YouTube but they didn't gain as much traction as he had hoped for.

Msipha moved on to creating the Nurse Thandi character at the height of the pandemic and it became very popular on TikTok.

"After I uploaded it on TikTok it blew up. People were loving it. I uploaded the video and went to sleep. When I woke up, it was all over Twitter," he said.

The character came from an experience he had with a local nurse when he wanted to get tested for Covid-19.

"I went to go test for Covid and this is the reception that I got from a nurse, telling me I can't test, I need to test closer to home. It was just a weird experience, and I thought I need to make this into a cartoon," said Msipha.

Cartoon Network deal

While working on Ringa Mzansi in 2018, Msipha attended an event where he met various artists, including people from Cartoon Network.

He showed them his work, but it wasn't a fit for their channel since it was adult animation.

During the hard lockdown around March last year, Msipha received an email from Cartoon Network asking him to make a show for them. The channel wanted more diverse content and needed something to motivate young viewers.

"I was like what?”, exclaimed Msipha. "I had never ever in my life done a complete show and Cartoon Network was asking me to make a show for them."

With the little experience that he had, the young artist gathered up his courage and agreed to work with Cartoon Network.

"I showed them three different concepts. Two very elaborate ideas and another one," he said.

They went with the third idea –  the one he spent the least effort on, and that's how My Cartoon Friend came about.

The show is about Lwazi, a young man who accidentality brought to life a cartoon character called Themba. It premiered on July 12 and has 13 episodes that each play for almost two minutes.  

Msipha is currently completing a masters degree at an animation school in Paris sponsored by Netflix, and he encourages aspiring artists to pursue their passion.

"Just go for it! Create and put your work out there. That's the thing with us creatives.

"You don't want to put your work out because you criticise yourself too much. Definitely put it out there and work on the next project. You don't know who's gonna see your work," said the animator.  

Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.

Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.