Movie review – Khumba: Half a zebra, a whole lot of adventure

2013-10-27 14:00

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The reason South Africa’s own 3-D animated feature, Khumba, will be able to stand up to the double animation threat of Pixar and Disney in the cinema complex is that it remains true to its roots. And, of course, the animation is great.

The script is properly crafted for the right blend of humour and emotion. And the funny bits are parochial – in a good way.

The film is worth seeing for the herd of migrating springbok alone – perhaps one of the funniest scenes created with a fancy animation computer.

Khumba is a zebra born with only half his stripes – which cues the lessons about accepting who you are and not treating people differently because they look different.

I know this because I had to reiterate all this to my four-year-old, who loved the film but did want to know the answers to some pretty intricate questions around identity, unkindness and courage when it was almost over.

I have to disclose that I missed the end, very reluctantly, because the speeches before the film went on for so long that my toddler had reached her limit for sitting still. But I will happily take her back, so that I can see the end.

Khumba gets all the details right – probably because it has been in development for a decade or more. The makers’ previous film, Adventures in Zambezia, was good, but this one is 10 times better.

It’s about a herd of zebras who live in the Karoo’s version of a gated community, but when the rains fail to come, they have to decide whether to go out into the “big bad world” to survive.

It is a metaphor for the way so many people live, perhaps not only in South Africa, isolating themselves out of fear. Khumba, with his stripe problem, is an adventurer.

More than that though, he is a unifier and this is what the film is about – whether you are a washed-up ostrich actor or an entrepreneurial wild dog or a zebra short of a few stripes, there’s a place in the sun for you.

The international voices are the only thing about this film that isn’t home-grown, and if this is the future of South African animation, watch out Pixar.

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