Johannesburg - Jock of the Bushveld, the animated 3D movie now in
production in Johannesburg, could be a major step towards making South
Africa a significant second-tier movie-making country.
Everything about it shouts, "Hit!"
It's got everything: great, much-loved story about the runt of the
litter; evocative music by Johnny Clegg and others; lyrics by Sir Tim
Rice; comprehensive marketing on a scale hitherto unknown in SA
movie-making; and widespread acclaim by knowledgeable experts for
world-standard animation in a 3D environment.
The voices are supplied by a cast of top South African actors plus
Archbishop Desmond Tutu as - what else? - a spiritual leader called
Those involved, from producer/director/screenwriter Duncan
MacNeillie down, carefully avoid making predictions, but it's evident
from glimpses of work in progress that it could be a landmark event in
South African cinematography.
Yellowood founder Andy Rice, a shareholder in the production
company, Jock Animation, is handling marketing. Since selling control
of Yellowood to TBWA, Rice has been disengaging from the company, and
the Jock project will he handled in his personal capacity.
Big hopes centre on licensed merchandising, which will include
clothing, toys, quick-service restaurants, fuel, stationery, greetings
cards, DVDs, dog food, outdoor activities like camping, and even
A range of pet-shop products includes a Jock leash, jokingly called a
Jock strap. Penguin Books has already signed up for several special
editions of the book geared to different age groups.
"Marketing is what distinguishes animation from live-action," says
Rice. "Live-action depends on the box office. But with animation there
is a second major parallel revenue stream from character licensing
Typically, the public will pay a 50% premium for licensed character toys, and royalties are 12% to 15% of the wholesale price.
International experience suggests retail sales of licensed
merchandise could be at least equal to box office returns, and
sometimes three times as much. George Lucas is famous for taking
merchandise rights as his only payment for the Star Wars series. So far
his choice has yielded $10bn in retail sales.
Pre-launch publicity will also be big. One idea that's sure to
capture the imagination is a competition for school children to
audition for the voice of one of the other pups in Jock's litter.
The biggest box office success in SA so far has been Avatar, which has
taken around R60m, aided by the fact that tickets to 3D films carry a
price premium. Jock could be bigger.
"There aren't enough 3D screens in SA yet to cater for the demand,"
says Rice. "But 3D is the future. It's extremely unlikely that they
will ever release a non-3D animated movie again."
The story sticks close to the original, though it won't have the
bitterly unhappy ending, in which Jock was accidentally shot for
killing chickens that he was actually defending. This screenplay by
MacNeillie ends while he is still young, leaving open the possibility
of a sequel.
It's a challenging exercise because there is no dialogue for Jock in the original.
"We're telling the story from Jock's point of view, not his owner's," says MacNeillie.