tembo tembo
CGIFeature Film

Digital Domain’s “The Legend of Tembo”


A few months ago we reported about Digital Domain’s plans for its CG animation studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida. They announced recently that this studio, which they’ve officially dubbed Tradition, will work on The Legend of Tembo. Slated for 2014 release, the film will be directed by Disney veterans Aaron Blaise and Chuck Williams.

Former Disney exec Pam Coats, who is heading up creative development at Tradition, told TCPalm that Tembo is the story of a baby African elephant who is captured and shipped to India:

“When he gets to India that’s where sort of the journey takes place, and this is a guy who becomes someone else. So, he has to transform himself into a fierce, battle elephant, which is based in truth. They did use elephants in battle in India. He has to become something he is not in order to return home.”

Check out the TCPalm website for more pre-production images from the film.

  • Philip H

    I know that this shows nothing of the final film, but I like it! It appears to be very different than most other run of the mill family friendly films recently. Can’t wait to see more :D

  • Some Girl

    I know there are some talented people working on this! Sounds interesting!

  • The elephant is certainly cute enough, hopefully the movie is great, we need more good animation studios to keep everyone on their toes.

  • The name sounds suspiciously familiar.

    • hitface

      if you mean it sounds like dumbo, who cares..? the story is very different from what we know of it.

    • Anon

      It reminds me of another CG film that almost got made.

    • Tim Hodge

      Tembo is the Swahili word for elephant.
      (Sorry for replying months late)

    • Tembo is actually Swahili for elephant. Makes sense to me why they’d use it as a name for the character, considering he’s from Africa, but I’m sure the similarity to Dumbo doesn’t hurt.

  • hitface

    The design looks very cute, I’m definitely hoping for the best with this.

  • A Long Time Observer

    I was lost at the words, “And the budget for the film is a ‘large-scale, high production value consistent with the high end of family animation we see in theaters,’ [Pam] Coats said.”

    Tradition should work on separating themselves from the big studios both creatively and financially. You don’t need that much money to tell your first story, though I’m probably whacking the dead horse saying it..

    • GW

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, “It is OK to post with a nickname or alias, but your email address (which we will NEVER share publicly), must be a real, permanent email address. Comments with fake or non-permanent emails will be deleted.”]

    • Oh don’t worry, they are very creative when it comes to financing, as shown when the CEO John Textor boasted about how students will be exploited and not only have to work for free but are actually expected to pay to work on their movies. You think this might affect the quality of their products?

      After relocating all jobs to then desperately poor countries with dictatorships, the only way to compete is to pay nothing at all or better yet, have people PAY to work for them, hoping to someday make some money, which will of course never happen.

  • Bud

    Did they spray paint the elephant in the image with silver? Other than that, it looks like pretty much everything else out there. I sure wish them luck, though.

  • Mark R.

    Weren’t these guys directing King of Elves? What happened?

  • Trevor

    Can someone explain this florida DD to me? I keep hearing it’s not really DD and that some holding company is renting the naming rights or something? What’s going on!

  • Gerard de Souza

    “Jumbo” is actually a Swahili word meaning big among other things.
    “Dumbo” was a play on that.
    “Tembo” is Swahili for elephant.

    No, I don’t speak Swahili :) . I knew Jumbo’s word origin and googled Tembo.

  • Ron

    It looks good. I can’t help but wonder if they’re going to do a promotional tie-in with Busch Gardens, which I’m pretty sure is the nearest Amusement Park to this studio’s location. It would make sense as that park has a Safari and jungle animal theme, and no animation studio tied to it like almost every other Florida amusement park.

  • Rufus

    That looks interesting! And knowing that it’s already been in development for 16 months and is slated for 2014 actually gives me high hopes. Feels like some animated features get rushed *cough*Dreamworks*cough* just for the sake of money. The way this film is being prepared/made makes me think Digital Domain may be after a long-term investment rather than a short-term one. I’m definitely keeping my eyes on this production. Very hopeful.

  • Does anyone remember around 2000 or 2001 the Dreamworks movie “Tusker” that was in development? I remember while working on “Ice Age” at Blue Sky (featuring Manny the Mammoth)that a lot of people in the studio were relieved that it didn’t happen at the time. I always thought a film about a bunch of elephants could be cool.

    Dreamworks never made the film, but it looks like at one point Imagi picked up “Tusker”.


    With Imagi pretty much gone, is this “Tembo” film actually “Tusker”, now at another studio? Are any of the same people involved in this new project?

    • Darrin Hofmeyr

      hmmm, good memory Mr Bishop. You might be on to some thing.

    • Zib Zabzo

      I was thinking about Tusker as well when I saw this…

  • el pablo

    I remember Tusker in development at DW when we were on Eldorado. It was the Dirty Dozen, but with elephants. I remember seeing Clint Eastwood as a possible voice.

    lots of development and then it was shelved. At one time Don Paul was going to direct.

    If memory serves the original concept went back to the creators and was shopped elsewhere. My guess is there is more info online somewhere.

    I do wish studios would try something original and very different, but unlike most industries, these new studios are creating a lot of work for people.

    good luck to the production.

  • 2011 Adult

    Nice concept painting in the poster!

    Dumbo’s got a brand new friend.

  • Some Guy

    The premise reminds me a lot of the 2006 Thai CG (their first feature length!) movie “Khan Kluay”

  • Daniel J. Drazen

    I was positively floored by how inarticulate and awful the Pam Coats quotation was. “Sort of the journey,” “A guy who becomes someone else,” “He has to become something he is not;” I sincerely hope this isn’t indicative of the script.

    • what?

      You a stock holder or something? Otherwise, hush up and make your own movie if the tagline offends you so much…

  • Weel, funny thing is that i wrote something like this on my blog…you can take a look at this link.
    I’m not so strong and i’m a small one, not a big pachyderm like Digital Domain so most probably there is no way to go against them..but..this project sound strangely familiar to me!


  • Jane

    I remember someone here pointing out all the elephant things in the pictures Digital Domain released a month or so ago and said they thought the movie would be about elephants. You were right!

    Love that their seemingly starting with a big epic project!

  • tgentry

    Sounds promising, looking forward to hearing more about this.

  • Toonio

    The animal kingdom is so freaking extensive to always end up with the animals one gets to see at the zoo.

    Familiarity is killing this business I tell you.

  • Julz Oliveros

    There’s a movie called Khan Kluay (The Blue Elephant) which is a Thai CG animated film that has a similar premise as this movie. The story was for kids but was very endearing… the CG was not that impressive.

  • Well,

    I sure hope it’s a lot better than Brother Bear.

  • That’s some grim imagery in the background.

  • noonespecial

    Well I can assure you this is not Tusker, this is not something someone grabbed off your blog, this is a movie that is aimed at family entertainment through REAL story. I can’t say how I know, but be assured this movie will put Digital Domain on the circuit of great animated features. Its a solid team of professionals doing this, not some India outsource. The whole premise of the stories DD is doing is serious family stuff, not goofy fart jokes, but real stories. I’m very confident this will be a major hit.

    • Dear noonespecial..if you are so sure that this project is not ” something someone grabbed off ” my blog, can you please be so nice to prove it? And to explain the many similarities between the two projects? Just because you know.