‘Animal Games’ TV series for children in the 1970s to Return
Wole Akinosho, creator of the ‘Animal Games’ TV series for children in the 1970s, is looking to bring back the popular show
For a long time, Wole Akinosho was the face of childhood. Though not a child, Akinosho as host of the immensely popular ‘Animal Games’, on which at least a generation of Nigerian children was fed on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA. Akinosho is the creator and host of the rested popular children’s programme. However, not many people know that the famous TV presenter had nothing to do with the creative arts in school. He is a graduate of the British Boot and Shoe Institution, England, but was inspired into creating the TV programme while studying in England in the 1960s. Australian Ralph Harris’ show was the inspiration and Akinosho would eventually start the show, which brought him fame, with the assistance of veteran actor and TV producer, Dejumo Lewis. He said “let’s go to the Children’s Department at NTA. When we got there, I met the then head of department, Ola Edu. I told her I have the mind of creating a programme that has to do with animals, games and music for children. She said she would buy it and gave me an appointment for another meeting”, Akinosho recalls.
Though Edu was later transferred to another department, her replacement, Frances Adebajo, also bought the idea. Akinosho proposed two programmes, ‘Yankari Safari’ and the yet-to-be-named ‘Animal Games’ to Adebajo but she preferred ‘Animal Games’. She said ‘I’m listing the programme for next quarter’s production’. That was how we started and the very first programme we had, we had lions as the star animal because for each programme we always had a star animal for the week.“I had already prepared information about lions, so I invited a school and we had a rehearsal. I brought a school the following week but I just noticed that some other children already were there. I asked who invited them and they said they saw it on TV; that they are interested in it. In no time, the audience was gathering. At a time, there wasn’t enough space to contain all the children. We had to drive some of them to the canteen to watch TV and they kept crying.”
‘Animal Games’ would eventually run on NTA for more than a decade before it was rested. During the course of presenting the programme, Akinosho started playing the guitar and organ. He was also able to express his creativity with the challenges of churning out fresh ideas weekly. The entertainer, who had previously worked in shoe factories and thought combining his job as a civil servant with the Lagos State Government and presenting the programme was going to be easy, had a rethink when the stress became unbearable.Akinosho didn’t have problems with children. According to him, he loves “playing with them because they are innocent, they have fine spirits. They are easy to train and they give you good attention. They learn quickly and they respond positively. I enjoyed being with them. They make you happy once you make them happy. That was our focus, to make everybody happy.”
However, it isn’t a one-way thing for Uncle Wole. “A lesson I learnt is that you, the presenter, must be interested in what you are doing because if the animal for this week is Lion, I will look into books to get all necessary information on Lions. After that, I could write a script for a short drama sketch and I could even write a song on it. So, for each programme, I will write the sketch, the script for the sketch, the song that goes with the star animal for the week and even the games, I created a lot of them myself. Then for that programme, I will go to schools, rehearse the children and have a dress rehearsal before going on TV. It is interest that matters in anything one does. And I’m glad that the programme turned out to be very successful.”
Over time, Uncle Wole blossomed into a full time Emcee, anchoring events for companies including Chevron, Mobil, Unilever, Cadbury, PZ and Nestle, among others. He also established an entertainment outfit, which entertained weekly at children parties. “I had this party going on every week and sometimes we had about six programmes a week. Then I established the Animal Games Club. During Easter, we entertained people and during Christmas, we organisedprogrammes like Telematch, carnivals and so many things. I created Nido Games for Nestle to promote Nido.”Though it hasn’t been on TV in years, Akinosho hasn’t given up on ‘Animal Games’. “What we are trying to do is go back to TV and continue with the production of ‘Animal Games’. I’m trying to see which TV station will best handle the programmeas we are trying to put it back on TV. Technically, we still do party entertainment and schools programmes”, he said.