“Lion King” Screenwriter Jonathan Roberts Joins Triggerfish’s “Khumba”


Triggerfish Animation Studios‘ second feature, Khumba, received the royal treatment from one of The Lion King screenplay writers, Jonathan Roberts. The charming story of a half-striped zebra who embarks on a quest for his missing stripes was originally penned by South African writers, Raffaella Delle Donne and Anthony Silverston who are excited to be collaborating with an experienced, U.S. writer. The writing duo were recently in L.A. to record some of the cast and to discuss the script in person with Roberts.

To date, The Lion King is still one of Hollywood’s biggest box-office successes and is the 4th-highest grossing animated release ever. The Disney classic is due to be re-released in stereoscopic 3D later this year. Roberts has subsequently worked on a number of other animated features including Hunchback of Notre Dame, James and the Giant Peach, Monsters Inc. and the childhood classic, Homeward Bound.

The Triggerfish team were aware that a coming-of-age, animated film set in Africa would inevitably be compared with the iconic film so it made perfect sense to work with the writer of The Lion King to make sure that Khumba remained an original, South African story while still being accessible to an international audience.

As Jonathan Roberts explains: “For better or worse, The Lion King has cast a pretty long shadow and with Khumba I learned how tricky it can be try to present a fresh animated fable — set on the African plains, populated by African animals. But by focusing on all the distinct and original elements in the story we could let Khumba shine in its own, well-earned light.”

Since the early stages of development, Delle Donne and Silverston have been determined to write a unique story that is appealing to international audiences by collaborating with writers outside their borders. “Khumba has always been a bit of a cosmopolitan zebra”, says Delle Donne. After winning a major scriptwriting competition funded by the South African National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and the former UK Film Council, the writers were guided by UK script editor Camilla Bubna-Kasteliz. “She helped us immensely with the foundations of the story, which after many re-writes, still remain largely in tact”, says Silverston who is also the Director on the film. Last year, the team was joined by Richelle Wilder, who while head of development at Aardman was involved from concept to completion of Chicken Run, Flushed Away and Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the WereRabbit.

The screenplay for Zambezia, Triggerfish’s first film due to be released later this year, was also given a final polish by U.S. writers Cory and Todd Edwards the creators behind Hoodwinked.

Triggerfish has always been passionate about drawing on its homegrown perspective to create character-driven, universal stories. The Cape Town-based studio is excited at the opportunity to make a film inspired by South African characters, themes and, of course, the magical landscape of the Great Karoo desert.

Both Zambezia and Khumba are being represented for international sales by LA-based Cinema Management Group.

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