Adventures in Zambezia

ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA. Voiced by Jeremy Suarez, Abigail Breslin, Leonard Nimoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Richard E. Grant, Jenifer Lewis. Directed by Wayne Thornley. Rated G. 105 minutes.

An animated adventure for families and younger children. And from South Africa. Quite an achievement for the Cape Town studio which produced it. Not as elaborate in animation, characters and backgrounds as contemporary American big-budget productions, but effective nonetheless. There are rather naturalistic backgrounds, desert, rivers and waterfalls, jungle islands. The characters, birds and giant lizards, are traditional in their drawing style. A pity that the producers decided that most of the voice cast should be American rather than local. Marketing demands, one presumes.

And Zambezia is not so far from Madagascar, though it doesn’t have as many zany animals as the American series. The focus here is on birds. First of all, we see a young bird (voiced by Jeremy Suarez) and his widower father (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson), isolated from other birds, the father trying to protect his son.

There are some scavenger birds, quite ugly buzzard-looking – and with extraordinary Pommy accents courtesy of Richard E. Grant. Not only do they threat but there are huge, semi-dinosaur-looking lizards, who threaten the birds (and do a deal with the buzzards).

The young bird flies the coop and joins birds travelling to Zambezia, a kind of huge aviary Utopia, near a waterfall. All is delightful here, a whole range of birds and beauty, paradise. But then the lizards threaten. The battle proves that community works best together, even in heroics. ‘No bird is an island’. This message seems important for South Africa post-apartheid, that many groups can live together, work together, prosper together and defend itself common enemies.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Universal Sony.

Out 19th April 2013.

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