In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the Zebra sleeps tonight – A Khumba Review

Khumba Poster

Despite being a big supporter of South African film makers, I’m not the kind of person who will turn a blind eye to a poor piece of work just because it’s a local production. A (South African) turd is unfortunately still a turd.

When I saw the trailer for Zambezia, which was released at the end of 2012 by South African animation studio Triggerfish, I couldn’t help but cringe a little. The animation was a major step up by South African standards, but it was still way below the level set by international animation studios like Pixar and Dreamworks. I had it on my list of movies to watch, but it wasn’t too long before it had gone off cinema circuit. I later heard mixed reviews so I didn’t really feel too bad about missing it.

Fast forward to October 2013 and Triggerfish has recently released their next big animated feature, Khumba. The word on the street is that it’s actually pretty good so I decided to take some time out of my week to go find out.

Khumba is the story of a zebra who is born with only half his stripes. Unfortunately for young Khumba, a drought happens soon after he is born and his unusual appearance is blamed for it. Khumba decides to venture out in search of a magic water hole that is rumoured to have the power to return his missing stripes, which he believes will also end the drought. Unfortunately Khumba’s trail is soon picked up by Phango, a ruthless leopard who has decided to make Khumba his next meal.

The Good

  • Much improved animation that is almost on an international standard
  • Second half of the movie is actually pretty funny due to the introduction of quirky and weird background characters
  • Wraps it up reasonably well

The OK

  • Predictable story
  • The obvious influence of The Lion King, minus some of the charm
  • I’m a bit torn about the voice acting… it’s good, but none of the characters voices really hit home for me

The Bad

  • Main characters are horribly generic to the point that I barely care about any of them, even when bad things happen
  • The 3D in the first half is also painful to watch
  • The story in the first half almost put me to sleep

Movie Rating

Khumba is much more pleasing to the eye than Zambezia was. Just from the Zambezia trailer I picked up many problems, inconsistent lighting and a bit of awkward animation being the main culprits. Khumba, while a little bit lacking in details such as facial animation, is a technically superior film in many, many ways.

Unfortunately Khumba does have one pretty major technical problem. It suffers from some pretty bad 3D in the first half of the film. Most of the first half of the film takes place in the Zebra home, which is an area around a waterhole that the Zebras have fenced off using branches. It’s hard to describe the problem, but it’s like the various sections of branches were given different 3D treatments, so you had multiple levels of focus. This really confused my brain and made certain scenes unbearable to watch. When the branches weren’t in shot, this problem didn’t exist. This is particularly noticeable once Khumba leaves the waterhole since the backgrounds are no longer a mind-numbing 3D mess. This could have been a problem specific to my viewing, but I’ve seen this problem on a much smaller scale in a few other 3D movies so I’m not sure if this was the case.

The story in Khumba is also pretty flat, at least in the first half. I went to watch this at the Kenilworth cinema (yes, it turns out they have 3D now), and almost got up at around about the 30 minute mark since my house was less than five minutes away. It’s not until Khumba leaves the waterhole and starts to meet some of the more interesting characters in the “outside” world that this movie becomes fun to watch. Thankfully the ending is also reasonably satisfying and wraps up the story quite well.

Overall, I find it hard to recommend this film due to the weakness of its first half. If you want to watch it, prepare yourself for the fact that it only kicks into gear in the second half. Otherwise, I recommend you wait for the next big animated feature for your animation fix, or check it out on a discount day.


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