Zambezia flying high to fame

SA-made animated film, featuring the voices of top US talents like Samuel L Jackson, Jeff Goldblum and Abigail Breslin, has been selected to close the Durban International Film Festival. by Wendyl Martin The production company responsible for the 3D film, Adventures in Zambezia, is Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios.

The film is set in a busy bird city on the edge of Victoria Falls, called Zambezia.

It is a story about Kai (voiced by the Bernie Mac Show actor Jeremy Suarez), a naive but high-spirited young falcon who travels to the bird city, where he discovers the truth about his origins and, in defending the city, learns how to be part of a community.

Co-writer and director Wayne Thornley is in Durban for the international festival, ahead of the film’s screening on Saturday.

“It’s a great honour to be the closing film on home soil. Not many South Africans have seen it yet and it’s about time.”

Thornley told Weekend Argus that Triggerfish had originally cast the film locally and recorded SA talent for the whole film.

“US audiences have quite specific tastes and very high standards. The feedback from the US was that it just didn’t measure up. We started looking at options and, by chance, a respected US producer, Mace Neufeld, took an interest in the film after seeing it in LA. He opened several doors for us to put together such a great cast.”

Having famous voice talent for the film was good for international marketing.

“Big names on the poster sell tickets and we need this film to do as well as possible so we can keep all these amazing local artists making world-class films... I met some of (the cast) in person in LA and some of them over the phone from Cape Town. It was a real blast. I learnt a lot from their professionalism and sense of fun. We had a lot of laughs. As I like to say, it’s a weird kind of honour to be sworn at by Samuel L Jackson.”

The film is set to release locally on December 26 and a US date has not yet been confirmed.

Thornley believes Zambezia will attract a broad family audience around the world and then become a “staple on the list of DVDs to keep the kids occupied”.

The architecture and artwork of Zambezia was drawn from all over the continent and southern Africa in particular, with just a few tweaks to make it more avian-like.

The character of Gogo (voiced by American actress Jenifer Lewis) is inspired by the perceived compassion, fearlessness and get-it-done attitude that SA gogos are known for.

Production lasted just over two years but, from concept to completion, the film took seven.

The film screened at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival last month in France.

* See www.facebook.com/zambeziamovie

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