Adventures in Zambezia, winner of the Best South African Feature Film award at the recent Durban International Film Festival, marks the first time that the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has invested in animation.
The IDC’s Media & Motion Pictures Division regards animation as a genre that the South African industry can produce as well as Hollywood at a third of the cost, according to division head Basil Ford.
“Triggerfish Animation Studios’ Adventures in Zambezia was the first animation project to resonate with us – it epitomises what we think South African animation should be. What’s really exciting is that the project was entirely locally developed, it has South African themes and is set in Africa. These are the factors that we believe will stand out from all the other animated films on the international market.
“There is an authentic African look and feel to Zambezia which you don’t get from the conventional Hollywood releases and this is what will give the film international legs.’
Written and directed by Wayne Thornley, Zambezia follows the adventures of Kai, a naive but high-spirited young falcon who travels to the bird city of Zambezia on the edge of the Victoria Falls.
The IDC got involved in Zambezia at script development stage. Ford continues: “When Triggerfish executive producer Stuart Forrest came to see us about four years ago we told him that he needed to attach an international sales agent, which he promptly did – Los Angeles-based Ed Noeltner of CMG.’
To assess the commercial feasibility of Zambezia Ford’s team used “the usual tools’ – sales estimates versus the film’s budget and evaluating the box office performance of similar projects (ie. animated coming of age stories and animated films with birds) from other territories.
“Ultimately the IDC looks for projects with economic merit that will provide return on investment for us and the other producers,’ explains Ford. “Ed Noeltner was very useful in this regard and helped Stuart Forrest set up test screenings overseas. It emerged that our local voices wouldn’t work in the international market.’
Hollywood names such as Samuel L Jackson, Leonard Nimoy and Abigail Breslin were subsequently cast, resulting in a North American distribution deal with Sony Pictures.
Interestingly, there are two US funders on Zambezia; the first is Wonderful Works, an American husband and wife team who developed the project with Forrest, and a company called 120Db.
“The only other investors are the IDC, the National Film and Video Foundation and the Department of Trade & Industry rebate. It’s in the public domain that the budget is under US$20m.
“We managed to secure international pre-sales off the back of the script and storyboard which gave us confidence about the project’s commercial viability.
Zambezia has already been successfully released in Israel, out grossing some Hollywood productions. Russia and Germany are set to release the film within the next month, with many other European territories to follow.
South Africans will get to see the film as from 26 December. Nu Metro Films is planning a big release with 91 prints, many of which will be 3D.
Ford concludes: “Zambezia has been a worthwhile project for the IDC and it is also our first family feature film. Significantly, it provided employment to about 120 people for over a year.’
By Linda Loubser
screen africa magazine – september 2012