Beloved Jock given new life in country’s first 3D animated feature

2011-08-01 00:00

BRINGING a much-loved book to the screen has many challenges, mainly because readers always have their own idea of what a character looks and sounds like.

It’s a challenge that producer Duncan MacNeillie, a Maritzburg College old boy, has now taken up twice in the case of Jock of the Bushveld. He was the man who brought the 1986 feature film starring Jonathan Rands to the big screen and has been the driving force behind South Africa’s first full-length 3D animated feature.

Jock of the Bushveld, which took 21 animators five years to make, tells the story of Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and his travels with his loyal canine companion, Jock, through the Lowveld in the 1880s.

Unlike the novel, which was first published in 1907, this version is told from the dog’s perspective and has a more upbeat ending. The latter fact may offend purists, but makes for a charming on-screen story.

One thing that hasn’t been changed is Jock’s feisty character. Voiced by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, he takes on a man-eating leopard, as well as the nasty trader Seedling (voiced by Robert Hobbs) and his bully-boy baboon, George (voiced by Anthony Bishop).

More importantly, Jock’s courage and generous heart wins over Fitz (voiced by Theo Landey), who isn’t convinced the runt of the litter is his best option. He wants a big dog, but spiritual leader Baba (voiced by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu) tells him it’s not size that is important, but rather how big someone’s heart is.

The film makers have also created a wonderful relationship between Jock and his mum, Jess (voiced by Helen Hunt), and two brilliant comic characters — an all singing, all dancing vervet monkey called Basil (voiced by Mandy Patinkin) and Pezulu the chicken (voiced by Ted Danson), who takes young Jock under his wing, if you’ll excuse the pun.

The story is narrated by legendary actor Donald Sutherland, and features some memorable music by South African musicians Johnny Clegg, Jason Hartman and Craig Hinds of Watershed, and Sir Tim Rice (Aladdin, The Lion King and Evita).

The latter penned my personal favourite, The Hessian Blues, in which Basil tries to convince George not to throw him to the crocodiles. Simply superb.

Like its title character, Jock is a film with plenty of heart, a strong message and is the kind of movie the whole family will enjoy. ***

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