Adventures in Zambezia Blu-ray Review

Every year more and more studios are trying to cash-in on the success of Pixar and Disney with lower budget (or sometimes unbelievably higher) entries into the animated film lexicon. With a four-year-old in my house, I get to see many of them… sometimes over and over and over. So, when I opened ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA and put it in my Blu-ray player, I was not sure what to expect. I strongly believe competition breeds quality, so whether I enjoy each animated feature I am thankful for the impact of another player. ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA is, in some ways, just another entry in motion picture history. Not a movie you’re going to seek out, probably, but it does have some redeeming qualities well worth the time if you get to check it out.

Kai catches a falling lizard

ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA (a.k.a. ZAMBEZIA) is the story of a young falcon named Kai, voiced by Jeremy Suarez (the funny kid from THE BERNIE MAC SHOW). Kai wants to grow up but his father is holding him back, trying desperately to keep him safe but knowing that he can’t keep him still forever. Kai meets, by chance, some other birds from his father’s hidden past. They tell him of a place called Zambezia, an island home where all birds live safe and secure and together, something Kai has never known. When he is finally faced with the choice, Kai leaves to start his future, setting into motion events that will change the face of Zambezia forever.

Kai races to try to become a member of the Hurricanes

ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA is the first feature film entry from Triggerfish Studios, a small South African animation studio originally built to create stop motion animation for commercials and other South African media. It’s all the more impressive for that, the first feature from a studio traditionally focused on completely different media… but that’s not why we watch movies. The question is one of entertainment… ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA does in fact deliver an entertaining and engaging story, one that you’ll quite enjoy, particularly if you have kindergartners or grade-schoolers in your house. The problem isn’t with the film or the studios quality when measured on its own accord. The problem IS how the movie, and the animation, and the voice talent, measures up to the crop of current animated features being released in the United States.

Kai and Ezee on the town

ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA features a decent voice cast and while the movie deals with some fairly simple themes (i.e. rebellion, family conflict, good v. evil, etc.) it does so cleanly and with some interesting results. My 4 year old son and I had a long conversation about why the bad guys are in fact the bad guys, what is the difference between good guys and bad guys, and why sometimes it’s hard to tell in the real world where there is far more grey than black and white. The film does a nice job handling several conflicts that you can easily relate into some educational moments with your kids while also delivering a decent story about becoming part of a community rather than relying on yourself. Finally, the voice acting is competently (but not amazingly) presented. Featured actors give workman-like performances and include Samuel L. Jackson as Tendai (Kai’s Falcon father), Jeff Goldblum, Abigail Breslin, and Leonard Nimoy as the old eagle in charge of Zambezia, hiding something potentially lethal to the community.

Kai finishes the tour and realizes how huge and marvelous the city of Zambezia really is.

ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA is a simple story brought to life by all of these elements… sadly, the animation doesn’t hold up at the most important times and is wildly inconsistent. Some of the views presented in the film are absolutely breathtaking and you might find yourself wondering how they were able to put them together… you’ll be wondering this because some of the character models are so poorly done it can feel painful to watch. Pulling you out of the movie because a few scenes feature some absolutely abhorrent modeling and character rigging shouldn’t be something you have to worry about when you’re watching a movie with your kids, but even my son noticed. If you’ve watched more than a few films on your HDTV you’re likely to be disappointed by this entry but if you want to see a nice family film from a new kid on the block, give this one a shot. I’m excited to see what Triggerfish Studios will next bring to the party.

ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: (1080p Widescreen 1.78:1) The video looks fairly nice on the screen with deep blacks and very colorful birds, immersing you in ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA until suddenly the bottom drops out and you remember you’re not watching a Pixar feature.

Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA features a solid audio track that will mostly keep you engaged, though it is a little bit uneven in mixing and may be difficult to hear from time to time when the voices get dropped.

Birds of a Feather (05:21) Filmmakers talk about the African pieces of the story, character archetypes presented in ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA, an extremely brief look at the animators and the voice cast as well.

Budzo catches Tendai and reveals his plans

An African Story (06:23) This special feature focuses on the African setting of ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA.

The Tree City (03:41) ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA features some incredible design elements when presenting the tree island city of Zambezia and this feature focuses on the design.

Technical Challenges (03:54) Another extremely brief but fairly interesting special feature focused on the process of animating and designing the birds. ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA features lots of quick looks but could have done so much more.

Music Video (04:35) A music video from ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA, Come and Fly with Me by Jewls Jaselle and Benj Heard is presented with optional sing-a-long feature.

The Blu-ray package for ADVENTURES IN ZAMBEZIA also features previews of additional Sony titles and a DVD copy of the film.

OVERALL 2.5
VERDICT:
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