On Tuesday, December 3, Triggerfish Animation Studios screened their latest film Khumba for ASIFA-Hollywood and the cast and crew of the film, which included a Q&A session with Ned Lott, the U.S. Voice Director and Associate Producer, Loretta Devine, the voice of Mama V, and Jonathan Roberts, the U.S. Writing Consultant.
Moderated by Jerry Beck, the crew discussed some of the aspects to making an animated film in both South Africa and the U.S.
Set against the backdrop of the Karoo, Khumba (which means skin) tells the story of a half-striped zebra whose herd rejects him because he looks different from them. The hapless youngster is also accused of causing the severe drought that sets in shortly after his birth. Ostracised, ashamed and curious about the outside world, Khumba meets up with a motley crew of misfits and embark on a quest that entangles them with the ferocious leopard Phango.
The film’s director Anthony Silverston was unable to attend the screening but did forward a note about the production. In it he mentioned that the story was about differences, to not be ashamed of it and that in differences are we set apart in a good way. The great message in the film is that Khumba learns to celebrate his uniqueness and how to deal with feeling different.
Ned Lott discussed how Triggerfish Animation Studios wants to be the Pixar Animation Studios of South Africa. “Triggerfish wants to change the way the world views Africa,’ said Lott. ‘They want to show that Africa can produce excellent quality on par with any studio in the world, and put artists in South Africa to work.’
To the surprise of actress Loretta Devine, the part of Mama V was originally written with her in mind. Devine mentioned how much she enjoyed doing the voice for the film several years ago.
“I did the voice-over for the film about 2 ½ years ago,” said Devine. “It was so long ago I had forgotten some of the work I did until I saw it tonight.”
As the voice director, Lott described how he liked to work with the actors to get the best performances out of them. Jokingly, references were made to his insistence on doing the voice-over work in multiple takes. In the spirit of humorous banter, Jonathan Roberts leaned over to Devine after she answered questions and asked her to answer the questions again. Beck lightheartedly called Lott the “Kubrick of voice directors.”
Although the story was written in South Africa, the script was punched up in the U.S. When Silverston and co-writer Raffaella Delle Donne were in production, they enlisted the assistance of Roberts, one of the scriptwriters for Disney’s The Lion King, to punch up the script.
“I wanted to include some American humor in the story to keep the dialogue flowing, but keep the sensibilities of South African storytelling,” said Roberts. “I didn’t want to lose the original feel of the story, which made it unique.”
When asked about the music of the film, Lott praised composer Bruce Retief. “Bruce did extremely well with the soundtrack. He was able to mix the sounds of Africa with contemporary musical composition. He tied in everything together into a cohesive musical soundtrack.”
Khumba is the second animated feature produced by Cape Town-based Triggerfish Animation Studios, following the successful global release of Adventures in Zambezia last year.
The film features of the voices of Jake T. Austin (Khumba), Steve Buscemi (Skalk), AnnaSophia Robb (Tombi), Laurence Fishburne (Seko), Richard E. Grant (Bradley), Catherine Tate (Nora) and Liam Neeson (Phango). Other voices include Anika Noni Rose, Charlie Adler, Jennifer Cody, Phil LaMarr, Dee Bradley Baker, Jeff Bennett, Roger Jackson, and Ben Vereen.