Life is not all black and white for Khumba, a young zebra born with only half his stripes. When his superstitious herd blame him for the sudden drought affecting the land, Khumba teams up with a sassy wildebeest and a flamboyant ostrich to find the legendary waterhole where the first zebras got their stripes. On his daring quest across the Great Karoo desert, Khumba meets a host of quirky characters and comes face-to-face with a tyrannical leopard in an epic battle to earn his stripes.
When little Khumba (Jake T. Austin) is born with only half his stripes, he is ostracised by all the zebras in the herd except for his loving mother Tombi (AnnaSophia Robb) and father Seko (Laurence Fishburn). Ridiculed by all, Khumba is also blamed by the superstitious herd for the drought that is ravishing the land. A chance meeting with a mystical mantis leads Khumba on an epic journey to find the legendary waterhole in which the first zebras bathed and came out striped.
Alone in the wilderness, Khumba has a close shave with an opportunistic Wild Dog (Steve Buscemi) and joins forces with a hefty, overprotective wildebeest called Mama V (Loretta Devine) and an insecure but flamboyant ostrich called Bradley (Richard E. Grant). Together they encounter a migrating herd of Springbok; a bohemian community living safely within the confines of a luxurious national park; an endangered riverine rabbit who's determination to survive has clearly gone to his head; a doomsday cult of dassies (rock-rabbits) and a loony, solitary sheep (Catherine Tate) living on an abandoned farm.
Every step of the way the trio is stalked by the tyrannical leopard, Phango (Liam Neeson) who believes the myth that the half-striped zebra will make him the most powerful hunter that ever lived. In a hair-raising, epic battle Khumba succeeds in defeating Phango and ultimately earns his stripes.
Khumba is a coming-of-age story about a zebra searching for his missing stripes as a way to be accepted back at his herd, but really his journey is one of self-acceptance.
“How many stripes does it take to make a whole zebra?”
This question is at the heart of Khumba’s quest. If - as the gemsbok healer implies with her question - Khumba continues focusing on his difference, at what point will he really be okay with himself?
The name “Khumba” comes from the isiZulu and isiXhosa word meaning “skin” and Khumba has defined himself by his exterior - his skin markings. He wants to get all his stripes, he wants to change, but instead, he needs to embrace his difference. It is in fact his difference that has set him apart from the rest of the zebra herd, and only when he sees his difference as a good thing, can he look beyond himself and find the courage to help the rest of the animals in the Karoo.
Khumba started off as a very personal story for me, but I quickly realised that the themes on which the story touches are universal. When telling people about the story, I only had to get as far as “It’s about a half-striped zebra…” before they empathised with the character – all they needed to know was that he was different, he didn’t fit in.
I believe the reason for this is that many of us experience a common struggle to feel comfortable in our own skin. There might be something about ourselves that we don’t like – be it external or internal – and we grow up thinking if it weren’t for that one thing life would be easier, everything would be okay. But as we begin to realise that there are certain things about ourselves which we can change and other things which we need to accept – even embrace - that is when we come to realise that it is perhaps that very thing with which we have struggled our whole lives, which has helped shape us… in a positive way.
At a crucial stage in the development of the script, I realised that I had been on my own quest for stripes and that, like Khumba, I needed to embrace my difference – because if it were not for my own struggles in life, the story of Khumba would not exist! But this is no longer my story alone. It has been an incredible honour to have the incredible team at Triggerfish join me as we embarked on our quest together, creating a fantastic world, filled with a host of unforgettable characters along the way - and I now look forward to sharing that journey with audiences around the world.
After all, philosophical themes aside, the key aim was to create an entertaining animated feature that encourages children to be not just tolerant, but also celebratory of difference: whether it is in relation to race, religion, culture, class or sexual orientation.
- Anthony Silverston
“Khumba” is a coming of age story about a young zebra who ventures into the unknown to “earn his stripes”. What initially spoke to you about the idea as a filmmaker?
The film tells the story of a half-striped zebra who has to learn that being different is not a bad thing. There are many themes on which the film touches – all inspired by my own experiences as a child growing up in South Africa, but ultimately it was inspired by a personal journey about learning to be comfortable in my own skin. The idea of a half-striped zebra was inspired by the fascinating story of the Quagga which was discovered to be a sub-species of zebra and could therefore be bred back from extinction. I was fascinated by the definition of this animal and how a name or identity could be defined by skin markings. The zebra became a visual metaphor that could easily speak to broader issues of difference as well as our common humanity.
As Triggerfish’s second film, what lessons could you build on from Zambezia?
I was mostly involved in “Adventures in Zambezia” during pre-production so going into the production design, storyboarding as well as voice work and edit and I felt like I had a better grasp of what lay ahead. Although we have very different directing styles, I was fortunate in that Wayne Thornley, director of “Zambezia” had cleared the path, so to speak.
From a production point of view, all of our systems ran more smoothly which helped us focus more on the actual quality and content of the movie. The whole technical team grew so much over the course of making “Adventures in Zambezia”, so it was really at every level that they could build on what they had learned. The results are visible on screen - from the animation performances to the richly detailed environments.
The film features an eclectic cast of well-known actors. What was it like working with them?
There were about 37 speaking roles, and we wanted South African, American and British voices, so casting was a big process, but Ned Lott our casting director did a great job and pulled it all off very quickly. Often, we unanimously knew who was the top choice right away because each of the characters already had a unique voice on the page.
We already had some actors, such as Catherine Tate and Loretta Devine in mind when we were writing the characters and were extremely fortunate to get them for the respective roles of Nora and Mama V, while others such as Joey Richter were great discoveries along the way. Jake T. Austin and AnnaSophia Robb both brought such a wonderful charm and warmth to their characters and they really worked well together as Khumba and Tombi.
Locally, South African comedian Rob Van Vuuren did a number of read-throughs and scratch recordings for us, basically playing every role in the whole movie! He informed many of the characters, so it was great when we could then cast him as the Springbok Captain. It was also fantastic to get the extra weight that celebrities brought to certain roles later in the process – I mean Liam Neeson as a malevolent leopard – what more could you ask for?
Every independent film has its own challenges – what were the greatest challenges facing you, as director of “Khumba”?
The initial concept for Khumba was conceived in 2003 so I had a long history with the project. I always believed it was a strong concept, but living up to my own expectations of what the film could be, especially as a first-time director was sometimes difficult. I am however incredibly proud of what we accomplished in such a short space of actual production time.
Every project has its own challenges, especially when budgets are tight, but the production definitely went a lot more smoothly than “Zambezia” with less overtime across the board. Making a quest movie in the Karoo required many large sets and designing, filming (and furring) a zebra herd and a hoard of other animals (17 different species!) definitely brought its own challenges too. We hope to continue improving our processes with each movie though and are already looking at starting our storyboarding process much earlier on.
What’s the funniest moment for you in “Khumba”? How did you come up with the funnies?
I have a few – many of them not so much scripted “funny” moments but rather just a moment where everything comes together – the character design, the voice, the animation and the timing. The dassie scene is one of my favourites where we took a real-life dynamic between two animals in the wild and turned it into a crazy situation with what is essentially a doomsday cult. The humour comes from the characters – my co-writer Raffaella Delle Donne and I often feed ideas off each other getting more ridiculous as they grow. Then, when the storyboarding and animation team get involved, they can just take it to a whole new level.
Can you talk a bit about the music in “Khumba”?
Music and sound play a key part in creating the unique atmosphere of the Karoo. The tactile quality of the Karoo can be conveyed with a soundtrack that really brings out the sounds of the landscape – creaking windmill, the buzz of cicadas.
A major theme of Khumba's story is the importance of difference so I wanted to emphasise the variety within the Karoo using different musical themes and instruments. The various characters Khumba meets on his journey are meant to reflect some of this variety, so it made sense to try and give each character and/or scene a different dominant instrument. The challenge – which our composer Bruce Retief managed to do extremely well - is to tie everything together into a cohesive musical soundtrack.
Act 1 is mostly inside the zebra fence so we looked to a more traditional sound - what is recognised internationally as "African". The Mantis is our link to the KhoiSan – the indigenous peoples of southern Africa - and so his sound is created from vocal “clicks” while Act 2 is mainly outside the zebra enclosure - Khumba's quest. It has a more local "Karoo" sound and is tied together with the “Ghoema” rhythm.
Act 3 is where everything comes together - the zebras join the rest of the Karoo animals in a dramatic (more orchestral) battle against Phango.
What do you hope for audiences to take away from “Khumba”?
The key aim was to create an entertaining animated feature that encourages children to be not just tolerant of, but also celebratory of difference: whether it is in relation to race, religion, culture, class or sexual orientation.
I’d also love for audiences to get glimpse of a uniquely South African aesthetic, the magic and allure of the Great Karoo – a land that captured my own imagination as a child. Oh and of course, I hope they’ll want to come back for more stories from our host of quirky characters.
Are you currently working on any upcoming projects?
We are exploring a number of options for our next feature including a sequel for Zambezia, but we have also been developing our most ambitious story yet! It features a sea monster... Plus, I do have an idea for a Khumba sequel up my sleeve. There are so many wonderful characters and it would be a pity not to see them again.
In addition to the narrative themes in Khumba, this film also provides an opportunity to present a uniquely South African aesthetic to the world, showcasing the magic and allure of the Great Karoo – a land that captured Silverstone’s own imagination as a child.
Khumba's quest takes the audience on a journey through this ancient land, a land of great variety and contrast that can be used to visually reflect Khumba’s inner journey. For example, when Khumba is feeling low, concerned only about his lack of stripes, he will see stripes in the clouds and in the landscape, whereas when things are going well for him, the filmmakers focus on the variety within the landscape.
On the surface, The Great Karoo is a vast, and seemingly barren and uniform landscape dotted with the odd “koppie” (a distinctive geological feature of the Karoo –a mountain with a flat top). But when one looks more closely, one sees an entire microcosm of plant and animal life that is rich in diversity. The natural wonders of the desert landscape create an epic backdrop for Khumba's daunting quest or they are honed in on a much closer level, reflecting how we often need to look beyond the surface to appreciate everything that is, in fact, right in front of us.
Many of the elements of Khumba’s story are originally taken from the real world, or inspired by animals, people, or stories from this unique South African setting. The Valley of Desolation for example is a real formation of rocks near the town of Graaff-Reinet; N!ao mountain is inspired by the folding rock formations seen near the Swartberg Pass; and the animals of course - from the endangered riverine rabbit to the rarely-seen pangolin are all endemic to the area.
The Karoo is also known for its succulents and has a diverse range of incredible, exotic and bizarre plants that gives the film a unique look. To survive in the harsh conditions (the Karoo is in drought for over 60% of the year) plants and animals have adapted in unique ways and diversity is key so the themes in the film have also emerged directly from the landscape. Khumba provides the perfect opportunity to showcase this incredible, yet overlooked uniquely South African setting
Whilst zebras are the main stars of the movie, there are a number of other animals and birds that play significant roles. Most of the wild animals that actually dwell in the Karoo are small, like the Bat-Eared Fox, Suricate (Meerkat), Barking Gecko, birds and invertebrates. Many are nocturnal and hide in burrows in the ground during the day to avoid the hot, dry conditions and a number of them are also considered endangered or at risk.
Khumba himself is inspired by the quagga. The quagga is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra that lived in South Africa. It was long thought to be a distinct species, but recent genetic studies have shown it to be the southernmost subspecies of the plains zebra. Classified as extinct in 1883, its name is derived from the plains zebra's call, which sounds like "kwa-ha-ha". As part of the research into the movie, director Anthony Silverston visited The Quagga Project based in the Western Cape This project, started in 1987, is an attempt by a group of dedicated people in South Africa to bring back an animal from extinction and reintroduce it into reserves in its former habitat. DNA analysis has shown that the Quagga was not a separate species of zebra but in fact a subspecies of the Plains Zebra. By selective breeding from a selected founder population of southern Plains Zebras an attempt is being made to retrieve at least the genes responsible for the Quagga’s characteristic striping pattern. It is hoped that if this revival is successful, in due course herds showing the phenotype of the original quagga will again roam the plains of the Karoo.
Another of the unique characters in the movie is the Ravine Rabbit – an animal that’s endemic to South Africa and Africa’s only digging rabbit. Riverine rabbits are critically endangered with less than 250 individuals left. They are South Africa's most critically endangered animal and the 13th most endangered animal in the world. None of their habitat is protected and most of it is on farmland. Riverbank degradation, riverine habitat destruction, overgrazing which leads to soil erosion, habitat fragmentation which prevents populations from mingling and therefore breeding and illegal hunting have all lead to the riverine rabbit's critically endangered status
Another critically endangered animal that features in the movie is the South African Wild Dog, who’s voiced by the American actor Steve Buscemi, Like the Ravine Rabbit, the Wild Dog is one of Africa’s most endangered mammal species. Various factors contribute to this poor conservation status. The main contributory factor to the decline in population numbers is persecution by mankind, until recently even within conservation areas. Other factors are diseases like rabies and distemper where Wild Dogs came in contact with domestic animals. Whilst the wild dogs in the movie live in the Karoo, in reality the Kruger Park is the only place that has a viable population of dogs and it is thought that there are between just 3000 – 5000 dogs in the country having been declared extinct in 23 other African countries.
Finally, the character of Phango, a South African leopard, represents another animal from the movie that in reality is struggling for survival. Currently classified as ‘near threatened’ they may soon qualify for the ‘vulnerable’ status due to habitat loss and fragmentation. They are becoming increasingly rare outside protected areas. A mysterious and beautiful animal, the leopard is rather elusive and is therefore rarely spotted. It is amazingly powerful, an accomplished climber, is fearless and has the ability to kill animals far larger than itself.
JAKE T. AUSTIN – ‘Khumba’
Whether appearing on TV/film or lending his voice to animated characters, 18-year-old Jake T. Austin is a multitalented actor who has showcased his talent across the board in the entertainment industry.
From 2007 to 2012, Austin starred on The Disney Channel’s Emmy Award winning series, “Wizards of Waverly Place,” as ‘Max Russo,’ the youngest wizard of three. The show aired its series finale on January 6th, 2012 to an audience of a record breaking 9.8 million, making it the series’ number one telecast ever. The hit show returned to The Disney Channel for a one-hour TV reunion special, “The Wizards Return: Alex vs Alex,” on March 15, 2013.
Jake will next be seen in 2013 ABC Family’s “The Fosters,” portraying the role of ‘Jesus Foster,’ a fraternal twin who’s adopted into the family of a mixed-race lesbian couple. He will star alongside Teri Polo, Sherri Saum, David Lambert, Cierra Ramirez, Hayden Byerly and Danny Nucci.
In 2012, Jake showcased his dramatic side with a guest role on NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU”. Additionally, he guest-starred on an episode of Lifetime’s hit series “Drop Dead Diva,” playing a 16-year-old multi-millionaire CEO and video game designer suing his father for emancipation.
On the big screen, Austin was last seen in Garry Marshall’s “New Years Eve,” starring opposite Abigail Breslin and Sarah Jessica Parker, and will next be seen in “Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,” starring opposite Joel Courtney as ‘Huck.’ Austin’s other film credits include “Hotel For Dogs” opposite Emma Roberts, and his first ever live-action feature film, “The Perfect Game.”
Austin has lent his voice to several movies and television shows. Most widely recognized for his starring role as the voice of ‘Diego’ in Nickelodeon’s “Go, Diego, Go!,” Austin’s voice can also be heard in films including “Rio,” “Everyone’s Hero,” and “The Ant Bully.” He will next return to the big screen, lending his voice to “Rio 2,” out in theatres April 2014.
A driven and talented young actor, Austin is equally committed to using his public profile to raise awareness for those less fortunate, supporting and devoting his free time to the Ronald McDonald House New York, as its first-ever Youth Spokesperson.
STEVE BUSCEMI – ‘Skalk‘
Steve Buscemi has built a career out of portraying some of the most unique and unforgettable characters in recent cinema.
Buscemi has won an Independent Spirit Award, The New York Film Critics Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in MGM’s “Ghost World” directed by Terry Zwigoff, co-starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson. He was also nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his role as Tony Blundetto in season five of “The Sopranos,” and received a Guest Actor Emmy nomination for his appearance on NBC’s “30 Rock”. He was recently nominated for a Lola, from the German Film Academy Awards, for his work in “John Rabe”, which was directed by Academy Award winning director Florian Gallenberger and stars an International cast.
He is currently starring in the HBO drama, “Boardwalk Empire,” which has garnered him a Golden Globe Award and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two Emmy nominations.
His resume includes Martin Scorsese's “New York Stories,” Jim Jarmusch's “Coffee and Cigarettes”, and “Mystery Train”, for which he received an IFP Spirit Award Nomination, Alexandre Rockwell's “Somebody to Love”, and the 1992 Sundance Film Festival Jury Award-winner “In the Soup”, Quentin Tarantino's “Reservoir Dogs” ,for which he received an IFP Spirit Award for his stand out performance as Mr. Pink, the Coen Brothers' “Miller’s Crossing”, “Barton Fink”, the Academy Award-winning “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski”, “Twenty Bucks”, Tom DiCillo's “Double Whammy” and his Sundance Film Festival Award-winning “Living in Oblivion” with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener, “Desperado”, “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead”, Robert Altman's “Kansas City”, John Carpenter's “Escape From L.A.” with Kurt Russell, Jerry Bruckheimer Productions’ “Con Air” and “Armageddon”, Stanley Tucci's “The Imposters”, the HBO telefilm “The Laramie Project”, “Love In The Time Of Money”, Tim Burton’s “Big Fish”, Michael Bay’s “The Island”, Terry Zwigoff’s “Art School Confidential,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” with Adam Sandler, “I Think I Love My Wife” with Chris Rock and numerous cameo appearances in films such as “Rising Sun,” “The Hudsucker Proxy”, “Big Daddy”, “Pulp Fiction” and “The Wedding Singer”.
Buscemi has provided the voices for characters in many animated features including Pixar’s “Monsters Inc”, Columbia Pictures’ “Final Fantasy”, and can be heard in the feature version of the children’s classic “Charlotte’s Webb” as the voice of “Templeton” the rat. He was the voice of Nebbercracker in Sony Pictures’ Oscar nominated animated film “Monster House,” executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, and the voice of Scamper in MGM’s “Igor” opposite John Cusack. His other voice credits include “G-Force”, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer for Disney, and Columbia Pictures’ “Hotel Transylvania” as the voice of “Wayne.” Buscemi will next be heard reprising his role as the voice of Randall Boggs in Pixar’s “Monsters University”, the much anticipated sequel to “Monsters Inc.”
LORETTA DEVINE – ‘Mama V’
Equally at home on stage or on screen, award-winning actress Loretta Devine has created some of the most memorable roles in theatre, film and television. Devine first captured national attention in the role of Lorrell, one of the three original “Dreamgirls” in Michael Bennett’s classic award-winning Broadway musical of the same name. She followed that performance with a fiery portrayal of Lillian in Bob Fosse’s critically acclaimed stage production “Big Deal.” Subsequent work in George C. Wolfe’s “Colored Museum” and “Lady Day at Emerson Bar and Grill,” cemented Devine’s status as one of the most talented and versatile stage actresses.
Film roles soon followed including a poignant turn as a single mother opposite Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett and Gregory Hines in “Waiting to Exhale” which earned her a NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress. Devine also won an NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Penny Marshall’s “The Preacher’s Wife.” Devine also received an IFP “Spirit” Award nomination for Best Actress for her work in “Women Thou Art Loosed.” Devine was featured in the Academy Award-winning film “Crash” and the hit movie of “Dreamgirls.” Additional film credits include appearances in the successful “Urban Legend” franchise, “I Am Sam” opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Pean, “Kingdom Come”, “What Women Want”, “Punks, “Hoodlums”, “Down in the Delta” and “Stanley and Iris.” Devine also appeared in “Sticky Fingers”, “Amos and Andrew”, “The Breaks”, “The Price of Kissing”, “Lover Girl”, “Class Act”, “Living Large”, “Caged Fear” and “Little Nikita” and “Dirty Laundry”.
In 2009 Devine co-starred in “This Christmas” and “First Sunday” both of which opened Number 1 at the box office. Ms. Devine voiced the character of Delta the chocolate brown toy poodle in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” for Disney starring Drew Barymore. Her most recent release was Sony Screen Gems remake of “Death At A Funeral” with Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Danny Glover and “Lottery Ticket” for Alcon/WarnerBrothers. She also appeared in “For Colored Girls” directed by Tyler Perry, in “Broom” with Paula Patton, Laz Alonso and Angela Bassett, and “Madea’s Big Happy Family”.
LAURENCE FISHBURNE – ‘Seko’
Laurence J. Fishburn III has achieved an impressive body of work not only as an actor but as a producer and director. In 1992, he won a Tony, a Drama Desk Award, an Outer Critic's Circle Award and a Theater World Award for his portrayal of Sterling Johnson in August Wilson's "Two Trains Running." His appearance in the 1993 premiere episode of Fox TV's "Tribeca" landed him an Emmy Award. And to complete the Triple Crown, he was nominated for an Oscar in 1993 for his portrayal of Ike Turner in “What's Love Got to do With It.”
Fishburne received another Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Thurgood Marshall in the HBO adaptation of his one-man show, “Thurgood.” He originated the role in the 2008 Broadway debut of the play, earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor and winning Drama Desk and Outer Critics’ Circle Awards.
In 2010, he reprised the role at Los Angeles’ Geffen Playhouse and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Most recently, Fishburne has completed production as the character Perry White in the upcoming Superman film “Man of Steel” from director Zach Snyder, scheduled for release this June. Fishburne also stars alongside Bill Paxton in “The Colony,” a Sci-Fi Thriller directed by Jeff Renfroe, which was released this April. Fishburne will also appear on NBC’s drama “Hannibal” as Jack Crawford, head of the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit. Fishburne is currently filming “Ride Along,” directed by Tim Story for release in 2014.
RICHARD E.GRANT - Bradley
Richard E. Grant rose to fame starring as Withnail in the cult 1987 film Withnail and I. Since then Richard has appeared in over 40 feature films including Henry And June, How To Get Ahead In Advertising, Age of Innocence, Dracula, Jack And Sara, Twelfth Night, Portrait of a Lady, The Player, L.A. Story, Bright Young Things, Gosford Park, The Corpse Bride, Colour Me Kubrick, The Nutcracker and he wrote and directed Wah Wah.
More recently Richard has been seen on the big screen in the films Cosi, Zambezia and The Iron Lady.
Richard has hosted the Empire Film Awards, Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards and The D&AD Advertising Awards. He also recently presented three documentaries for the BBC - Dear Diaries, History of Safari and History of the Arabian Nights as well as Popular Classical Music on Sky Arts.
More recently, Richard has recently finished filming a new luxury travelogue series for Sky Atlantic which sees Richard travel the world in search of hotels known for their glamour and infamy. The series aired on Sky Atlantic in October 2012.
ANIKA NONI ROSE – ‘Lungisa’
Anika Noni Rose, who received her MFA from American Conservatory Theater, shot to prominence in her Tony Award winning performance in Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s Broadway musical, Caroline, or Change. Anika's first major film role came when Bill Condon chose her to play 'Lorrell Robinson' in Dreamgirls. The movie received an AFI ensemble award, as well as a SAG Award nomination and both the soundtrack and the song “Patience” were nominated for Academy Awards. One of Anika’s greatest joys came when she was selected to voice ‘Princess Tiana’ in Disney’s The Princess And The Frog, the first African American Disney ‘Princess.’ The film received three Oscar nominations and she became the youngest inductee to ever be honored as a Disney Legend.
Anika starred in Anthony Minghella's "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" for HBO/Weinstein Company, for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series". The series also received the prestigious Peabody Award. Other NAACP Image nominations include: her work on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC), and Hallmark Hall of Fame: "Mitch Albom’s Have A Little Faith" (ABC).
Besides the Tony Award, Anika has also received The Theater World Award, The Clarence Derwent Award, a Drama Desk nomination, the Los Angeles Critics’ Circle Award, an Ovation Award and an Obie Award . Other stage work includes Juliet opposite Orlando Bloom with Gustavo Dudamel conducting Tchaikovsky live with the LA Philharmonic, 'Maggie' in Deborah Allen's Broadway revival of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, opposite James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad , Footloose, the Off-Broadway production of the Laura Nyro musical Eli's Comin' and the recent revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company for the NY Philharmonic and PBS.
ANNASOPHIA ROBB – ‘Tombi’
Actress AnnaSophia Robb is a spirited and intelligent, blond haired, green eyed, 19 year old native of Colorado. Revered for her stand-out performances in the films Soul Surfer, Bridge to Terabithia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sleepwalking, Robb has performed under the tutelage of directors Tim Burton, Doug Liman, Stephen Hopkins and Wayne Wang.
AnnaSophia currently stars as the young Carrie Bradshaw in the CW’s The Carrie Diaries, based on the novel by Candace Bushnell. The series is a prequel to Sex and the City, and follows the character of Carrie Bradshaw during her high school years as she ventures to New York City to become a writer in the 1980s.
In 2011, Robb received the “Emerging Maverick Award” at the Cinequest Film Festival and was also selected as one of the “Ten Women To Watch” at The White House Projects Epic Awards. In 2009, Robb received the “Horizon Award” from the Palm Beach International Film Festival and the “Rising Star” Award from the Denver Starz Film Festival, both honoring her emerging talent and excellence in film performance. For her role in Bridge to Terabithia, she received a Critics Choice nomination for "Best Young Actress in a Drama" and won “Best Leading Actress in a Feature Film” at the 2008 Young Artist Awards, as well as a CAMIE Award for her dramatic role. Her recording of “Keep Your Mind Wide Open” for the film’s soundtrack charted in the top 100 in 2007. Robb is passionately involved with several non-profit organizations, including Make-A-Wish Foundation, TrueSpark, There With Care, PeaceJam and The Dalit Freedom Network.
CATHERINE TATE – ‘Nora’
Catherine Tate is currently starring in the American series of "The Office" - for NBC, as series regular "Nellie Bertrum".
Her vast acting credits include the multi-award-winning BBC series, ‘The Catherine Tate Show’, which showcased her chameleon-like talent for character transformation. In addition to playing ‘Donna Noble’ (the Doctor’s companion) in the 4th series of BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’, Catherine also co-stars in the feature films: ‘Gulliver’s Travels’; ‘Monte Carlo’, ‘Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution’; 66 and ‘Starter for Ten’.
Catherine’s theatre work includes the co-lead role of Beatrice in record-breaking West End production of 'Much Ado About Nothing'; the lead role of Belinda in the National Theatre production: ‘Season’s Greetings’ and; David Eldridge's ‘Under the Blue Sky’; ‘Some Girls’ and ‘ A Servant to Two Masters’ for the RSC.
Catherine wrote, directed and co-starred in the acclaimed short film, 'My First Nativity' for the Sky 'Little Cracker's' season.
LIAM NEESON – ‘Phango’
Liam Neeson is one of the leading international motion picture actors today. Whether it is his Academy Award nominated role of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s highly acclaimed “Schindler’s List” (1993), his award-winning portrayal of legendary Irish Republican hero in “Michael Collins” (1996), or his role as controversial sex therapist Alfred Kinsey in the critically acclaimed “Kinsey” (2004), Neeson continues to display an acting range matched by few.
He has just completed production on “Non Stop,” directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, scheduled for release later this year. This thriller is centered on an air marshal who must spring into action on a domestic flight.
Neeson is currently filming “The Third Person,” directed by Paul Haggis – also scheduled for release later this year. Neeson will also start filming Universal Pictures’ “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” directed by Scott Frank – scheduled for release in 2014.
Liam has also lent his voice to Millennium Entertainment’s animated film Khumba, directed by Anthony Silverston – set to be released later this year as well.
ANTHONY SILVERSTON – Director / Writer
Anthony Silverston is the writer/director of the animated feature “Khumba” for which he won a major UK scriptwriting competition in 2006.
In addition, he was one of the writers of “Zambezia”, Triggerfish’s first feature.
Silverston has also completed 3 independent shorts, one of which, The Slipper Cycle, won Best Independent Animation at The Independents’ Film Festival in Florida, USA.
He is also one of the co-founders of Animation SA, the representative animation body of South Africa, and is still actively involved in a number of the organisation’s projects.
STUART FORREST – Producer
Stuart Forrest is CEO of Triggerfish Animation Studios which Forbes referred to as “Africa's answer to Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar”. He is the Producer of ‘Khumba’ as well as Triggerfish’s box office hit, ‘Adventures in Zambezia’.
With a background in Fine Art and software development, Forrest has been producing and directing animation since 2001. His previous work includes 6 seasons of ‘Sesame Street’ animation, and production of several animated shorts ranging from commercials to a half-hour DVD special.
Forrest won the 2012 Sanlam/Business Partners Innovator of the Year award. He is a member of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and was selected as judge for the 2012 International Emmy Awards.
EDWARD NOELTNER – Executive Producer & President of CMG
Edward Noeltner is a seasoned and well-respected executive in the field of international motion picture licensing, distribution and sales. He has licensed worldwide many major Academy Award winning feature films such as “Chicago”, “The Hours”, “Frida”, “Shine”, “Kolya”; award winning foreign language arthouse titles such as “Faithless”, “Under The Sun”, “Tango”, “Four Days in September”, “Owl and the Sparrow” and prestigious film libraries such as SF’s Ingmar Bergman collection, The Douris Corp’s Buster Keaton collection and The Rohauer Collection.
His international and domestic clients include some of the best-known companies in distribution (Lionsgate, Samuel Goldwyn Films, Pathé, RCV Ent., Central Partnership, Lucky Red, BAC Films, Videocine etc..) as well as television broadcasters (Showtime, Sogecable, Canal Plus, BSkyB, SuperChannel). Mr. Noeltner has 25+ years of experience distributing feature films internationally, negotiating all forms of international distribution and acquisitions agreements and has most recently co-executive produced a 13 x half hour animated series for DVD distribution and TV broadcast.
Mr. Noeltner’s has held the following positions: President, Senator International (Berlin), Head of Television at Pandora Cinema (Paris), Sr. Vice President Int’l Distribution at AB Svensk Filmindustri (Stockholm/Paris), Sr. Vice President and Head of Sales at Miramax International (New York) and is now President and Managing Director of Cinema Management Group (Los Angeles). Mr. Noeltner has a Master of Arts degree from USC Cinema in Critical Studies and is perfectly trilingual in English, French and German.
MICHAEL AURET – Executive Producer & Managing Director, Spier Films
Michael is the managing director of Spier Films, a finance and production company with offices in Cape Town, London and Reykjavik. He has also established the Spier Film Fund which has provided equity, gap, pre-sales and rebate finance to a variety of projects.
Michael is an award winning feature film and documentary producer who has produced, co-produced or executive produced 10 feature films and 2 documentaries since 2009.
Prior to taking over Spier Films, Michael was the Festival Director of the Cape Town World Cinema Festival and CEO of the Sithengi Film and TV Market from 2001 to 2007 during which time the events grew into the largest film and TV industry events in Africa.
A lawyer trained at the University of Cape Town, Michael gave up practice in his native Zimbabwe, to set up an ad agency, design company and a television production company producing commercials and corporate documentaries. In 2000 he took on the State broadcaster in Zimbabwe and challenged their monopoly on broadcasting in the Supreme Court. After the Broadcasting Act was overturned, Michael established the first private radio station in Zimbabwe. As a result of this and other activist work, Michael was forced to leave the country in 2001.
JAMES MIDDLETON – Producer & Technical Supervisor
James has over 20 years of experience, a Producer on Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba. He is a Triggerfish co-founder and entrepreneur.
He was the founder of post-production facility, HDHUB, where he provided technical project supervision for feature film and Television projects including District 9, Meerkats and Faith Like Potatoes.
He has a deep background in film production technologies and project management.
MIKE BUCKLAND – Producer & Head of Production
Mike has over 15 years’ experience in CG animation, from commercials and short form entertainment to full length feature film productions such as Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba. He is a Producer on Khumba and a member of the Triggerfish founding team. His broad background in all aspects of the CG production process has enabled him to structure the crew and develop the pipelines necessary to facilitate the animation process at Triggerfish. He is also responsible for the Creative and Production teams in the studio.
JEAN-MICHEL KOENIG – Producer & CFO
Jean-Michel is the Finance Director for Triggerfish Animation. He has over 15 years’ experience in financial reporting and analysis, internal controls, project work, due diligence and financial modeling. Before returning to Cape Town, he worked in the structured finance team for the Matrix Group in London and was an Associate at JP Morgan Chase & Co. He is a qualified accountant with an MBA degree from the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
NED LOTT – Associate Producer, Voice Director & Casting Director
Ned Lott has a wide range of voice directing, casting and producing experience for animation. He was a Voice Director, Casting Director and Producer with the Walt Disney Studios on eight Studio Ghibli titles, including Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar™ nominated theatrical release “Howl’s Moving Castle” starring Christian Bale. Other notable accomplishments include casting Liam Neeson as the voice of “Aslan” for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” “Prince Caspian” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, which helped in casting Liam for “Khumba”.
Ned has also cast and directed numerous voice-over projects and ADR sessions for the Walt Disney Company, Pixar, Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers and Paramount. Before “Khumba”, Ned worked with Triggerfish Animation Studios on “Zambezia”, voice directing Samuel L. Jackson, Abigail Breslin, Leonard Nimoy and Jeff Goldblum. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 5 children.
RAFFAELLA DELLE DONNE - Writer
Raffaella is Head Writer at Triggerfish. She writes, generates and oversees the development of new content for the studio. Raffaella is co-writer of 'Zambezia' and 'Khumba' which won the UK Film Council 25 words or less competition and was the first animated film to be selected at the No Borders film market in New York. She is currently developing an original script for Triggerfish.
VANESSA ANN SINDEN – Associate Producer & Line Producer
Vanessa is an experienced film producer with a diverse background ranging from film to marketing and project consultancy in Southern Africa. She has worked with some of the top South African production companies, working on dozens of international and local commercials. She was production manager on two award-winning, South African, live action feature films, The Silent Fall and Faith Like Potatoes. More recently she Line Produced Africa’s biggest animated feature films to date – Adventures In Zambezia and Khumba.
KIRSTIN BARWISE – Marketing Director
Kirstin brings 11 years film experience to Triggerfish Animation Studios. Her background is live action, producing both local and international commercials, as well as working on the feature films for Racing Stripes (Alcon Entertainment), 12 Days of Terror (Fox TV & Discovery Channel) and Monsieur N (Canal +), to name a few.
Kirstin was UPM on two top South African feature films, Faith Like Potatoes and Hansie, where she worked closely with the marketing & distribution team on Faith Like Potatoes, ensuring a successful release.
In 2010, she joined Triggerfish as animation producer on Zambezia, and assisted other post animation departments, gaining a greater understanding of the overall animation process.
Barwise moved to head up marketing, licensing, promotions and publicity on Zambezia, and now adds distributor relations to her portfolio on Khumba.