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The Legend of the Sky Kingdom

An English-language animated feature adapted from his own children's book by director Phil Cunningham, Zimbabwe-South Africa co-production "Legend of the Sky Kingdom" has an interesting look that will appeal more to grownups, though screenplay is geared toward youngest viewers. Result is best suited to ancillary markets.

An English-language animated feature adapted from his own children’s book by first-time director Phil Cunningham, Zimbabwe-South Africa co-production “Legend of the Sky Kingdom” has an interesting found-object look that will appeal more to grownups than to tykes, though the screenplay is simplistically geared toward youngest viewers. Result is a mixed bag best suited to ancillary markets, particularly as a rental item.

Blockhead, Lucky and Squig are orphans toiling in the Underground City’s gold mines for an Evil Emperor. They escape, journeying to the legendary Sky Kingdom with help of goofy duo Italiano and Badza, as well as various intervening creatures. Perils en route include a hungry crocodile, the Desert of Desolation, a sword-fighting baboon, etc. Protags’ progress doesn’t require much ingenuity — when in trouble, they’re rescued by higher forces. Stop-motion pic’s design, however, is clever indeed; characters and backdrops were assembled entirely out of junk parts — from sardine tins and toothbrushes to trashed computer keyboards. Neat as this trick is, it’s not very cuddly, while unimaginative situations, blah dialogue and routine ethnic-stereotype voice perfs add little charm. Percussive soundtrack reps most conspicuously “African” element.

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The Legend of the Sky Kingdom

Zimbabwe-South Africa

Production: A Sunrise Prods. presentation. Produced by Phil Cunningham. Directed, edited by Roger Hawkins. Screenplay, Phil Cunningham, based on the book by Hawkins.

Crew: Camera (color), Hawkins, Brent Dawes; music, Andrew Baird; production designer, Hawkins. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival, (Cinema of Africa), Sept. 5, 2003. Running time: 74 MIN.

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