'Khumba' earns its stripes overseas

Katharine Child

FOLLOWING the success of animated feature Adventures in Zambezia, a former Port Elizabeth man hopes the studio he heads will continue enthralling audiences with a new film, which will be released at the end of the month.

Triggerfish Animation Studios chief executive Stuart Forrest, an NMMU fine arts graduate, has taken on a new project called Khumba – a film about a Zebra missing half his stripes. Directed by Cape Town's Andrew Silverston, this 3-D animation was one of only five children's movies selected to be screened at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, which took place last month.

Khumba premieres less than a year after Adventures in Zambezia.

A hit in Russia, Adventures in Zambezia earned about R280-million at the box office, making it South Africa's biggest-grossing locally made film in 30 years.

Income from DVDs has not yet been added to these earnings.

Triggerfish partner Jean-Michel Koenig said he expected Khumba to do better than their first movie.

"It's a stronger story than Zambezia, which was not accepted into the Toronto International Film festival, while Khumba was.

"People don't even realise there is a fully functioning animation studio in Bergvliet, Cape Town. We aim to be the best independent studio in the world."

The film, while created locally and complete with South African jokes, includes Liam Neeson, Laurence Fishburne and other Hollywood names as voice artists.

First-time director Silverston said Neeson and Fishburne had added their voices to the cast after seeing the almost- complete movie. "It's a vote of their confidence."

South African comedians Nik Rabinowitz and Rob van Vuuren play the voices of two springboks.

Silverston, who studied biochemistry and microbiology and worked for a year in a genetics lab, said he had been writing the script part-time since 2005.

The story is about Khumba's journey through the Great Karoo to earn his stripes after he is blamed by his superstitious herd for a drought because he looks different.

"The film is about accepting one's individuality," Silverton said.

"I struggled at school with feeling different ... which is why I have been passionate about this story.

"We want kids to walk away with a message about feeling comfortable in their own skin."

Visual supervisor Karen Botha said it could take an entire day for an animator to give a character three seconds of movement.

The movie had a budget under R20-million, at least five times less than an American blockbuster animation.

Khumba received funding from Spier films and the Industrial Development Corporation.

Triggerfish has developed Khumba-themed apps for android devices and a computer game.

It will open at cinemas on October 25.