Courtesy of Animation Magazine, I recently learned of and watched a not very well known but interesting, nice, and worth watching film called Zambezia. It is the first full length 3D animated film that hails from Triggerfish Studios located in South Africa. With some unique African flavors that comes from a full South African crew, Zambezia tells the story of a young falcon who leaves home for the big city to find fame and experience a new world.
While coming from overseas, Triggerfish looks to the American story guidelines and follow a pretty straightforward telling of the plot. While certain scenes can become somewhat cliche and predictable, they do still effectively engage the viewers and tug on their emotions.
Very interesting is that the film was rendered in mental ray. There is nothing wrong with it being so except for the fact that while it is a beautiful render, it is terribly integrated in Maya to the point of being ridiculously convoluted. Even without using something as heavy as Renderman, there is VRay which is amazing, easy, and beautiful.
Unfortunately, the movie is also guilty of failing of having correct eye specular highlights. After having learned about the eye specular issue, the problem irks me a greater deal than it used to have. While it doesn't entirely destroy the movie, as a friend has pointed out, in terms of Polar Express, it looks like a post apocalyptic world filled with the walking dead.
The texturing style reminds me a lot of Madagascar from Dreamworks, which was also confirmed by a friend who happened to glance over while I had my Animation Magazine open. I think it may be due to the softer painted style of the characters with a lack strong specular and bump differences of the textures.
I do wish that the lighting had stronger contrasts and was more dynamic in direction, mood, and storytelling. At times it felt like everything was very lit. Particularly the scenes at night seemed to be lit as well as the ones that take place during the day just with a blue hue.
Zambezia is hitting the global market as it got picked up by Sony for international distribution. It has apparently been doing pretty well, despite the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, and even picked up two Annie Award nominations for its music and voice acting. While on a role, Triggerfish is plans to produce a movie every 18 months and is currently working on their next film called Khumba, which is planned to be released in December 2013.