It is said a leopard can’t change his spots, but can a zebra change his stripes?
Movie-goers will soon be able to find out, as the latest computer-animated animal feature, with a zebra in the title role, hits the big screen.
Khumba is the second animated feature produced by South Africa-based Triggerfish Animation Studios, following the successful global release of Adventures in Zambezia.
The computer-animated movie features the voice of Liam Neeson as a malicious leopard, as well as the voices of Jake T Austin, AnnaSophia Robb, Lawrence Fishburn, and Steve Buscemi, among others.
The film, released in South Africa on October 25, tells the story of Khumba, a zebra who has only half his stripes. When he is blamed for a drought by the rest of his herd, he sets off on a daring quest to earn his stripes.
He meets a range of quirky characters and teams up with an unlikely duo – Mama V, an overprotective wildebeest, and Bradley, a flamboyant ostrich.
But he also has to come face to face with Phango, a sadistic leopard who controls the waterholes and terrorises all the animals in the Great Karoo.
The Cape Town studio is capitalizing on growing demand for animated movies, with the movie industry buoyed by the returns they can deliver.
This year will see the wide theatrical release of 11 animated movies — up from six a decade ago.
In total, 75 animated movies have been released since 2008, according to Hollywood.com, and an additional 13 movies are slated for release in 2014.
Helen Kuun, chief executive of Indigenous Film Distribution, which is distributing the film in South Africa, said animated films typically outperformed other types of movies at the box office.
“In an analysis of average box-office grosses by genre, industry analysts have found that animation consistently ranked second behind action movies in each of the last six years.”
Kuun notes that in the past few years, four or five of the top 10 highest-grossing movies have been animated films.
“In 2012, Pixar Animation’s Brave made more than half a billion in worldwide box office. Universal scored a massive hit with Despicable Me 2, which has made more than $US750 million since its release in July, making it the most profitable movie in the studio’s history. Disney also produced a hit with Pixar Animation Studios’ Monsters University, which has pulled in more than $US658 million in ticket sales since its release in June.
“It’s encouraging to see that DreamWorks, Disney and Pixar, which used to dominate the animation movie industry, are facing growing competition from other studios,” Kuun added.
“It opens up the market and signals that the industry is healthy – that bodes well for top-end local animation companies like Triggerfish.
“It’s a genre that is here to stay and is one of the most consistently performing. Animated movies also are appealing because they generate more revenue from DVD and toy sales than any other genre.”
Khumba is in 3D and is directed by Anthony Silverston. The film is also being released in its local market in Afrikaans.
Release dates can be found here.