Blockbuster animated films with an African theme like The Lion King and Madagascar have reaped rich rewards for Hollywood studios.
Now it is South Africa’s chance to shine.
Although not the first to be produced here, Zambezia will be the biggest animated film created in SA.
Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios, which has three full feature animated films in the pipeline, is already in pre-production on Zambezia, the first film of the three.
Last week, the Industrial Development Corporation, when announcing its financial results, confirmed that it has approved a R17- million investment in the film.
Triggerfish director Anthony Silverston said the pilot was produced in 2006 and it has been a long slog since then to perfect the script and to secure funding.
Both issues are at an advanced stage and Triggerfish is recruiting production staff for the film.
While Zambezia cannot compete with Hollywood budgets, Silverston said, in local terms, the creators were working with a comfortable budget financed largely by the IDC but also by US investor Wonderful Works, US finance group 120db Film Finances, Triggerfish itself and the National Film and Video Foundation.
Silverston said while it was not the first full-length animated film from SA (Lion of Judah has been completed, but not released), it would be the biggest, and pre-sales have already been extremely positive.
Zambezia, which will be directed by local writer and director Wayne Thornley, is a coming-of-age adventure about a falcon from the plains of Zimbabwe who travels to the big city, where he is tested to the limits when he has to protect Zambezia against a horde of aggressors.
While the scriptwriters are from SA, including Thornley, Silverston, Raffaella Delle Donne and Andrew Cook, they have been consulting with Kiel Murray from Pixar and an experienced UK Film Council script editor.
There is a lot of local talent on which to draw. Silverston said there has been a huge response to the call for applications. “We were excited by the level of talent,” he said.
The film is in pre-production where design, storyboards, characters and environment are being finalised and it will take 18 months to finish, with a 2011 release planned.
Since 1996, Triggerfish has been doing animation for commercials including the Royco Potato Bake potato head ad, and the Plascon Woodcare ad, and has done a lot of work for Takalani Sesame.
Silverston said the creators wanted the film to be authentic and wanted to use local voice talent, but American audiences struggle to understand the accent, so it may have to be dubbed for some international audiences.
Music also plays an important part, and will be a mixture between traditional and contemporary African music.
The Lion of Judah, the first CG local full-length animated film, was produced by Sunrise Productions and animated by Character Matters, both local, but was largely funded and is owned by an international investor.