An animated feature film on the life of King David, called David, is currently in production in South Africa, and its producer, Phil Cunningham, visited Jerusalem last week to research the film.
“We are aiming for the quality to be the same as Disney or Pixar or Dreamworks Films,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of research trips to Israel; we’ve been on four trips prior to this one to make sure it’s deeply authentic.”
The South Africa-based Sunrise Animation Studios, which created the Jungle Beat animation series, is partnering with the US company, Angel Studios, to make the film.
The obvious model for an animated biblical feature like this is the 1998 The Prince of Egypt, but there has not been another such high-profile Bible-based animated film in the intervening years.
“We are really leaning into the authenticity and we want the project both visually and in every other way, to be as authentic as possible and grounded in history and to be as accurate as possible,” Cunningham said. “But at the same time, we want it to be highly entertaining and accessible to the whole world.”
Authenticity is key, even in voice acting
One of the ways Cunningham and his team will make it authentic is in the voice cast. “We’re going to make sure we only cast people of Israeli origin” in the appropriate roles in the movie, he said.
Cunningham has assembled a team that includes Pixar and Disney alumni, such as Nathan Stanton, who is head of story of David and who has worked on such Pixar classics as Toy Story 2 and Finding Nemo. Brent Dawes, the leading writer and director at Sunrise, is directing the film.
But animated features do not come cheap and David has a high budget, which is planned to be around $55m., about $25m. of which has already been raised. Some of the budget has come through crowdfunding platforms.
“Typically, animated feature films take between four and seven years to make,” Cunningham said. “We went into production and according to our current schedule, we are aiming to finish the movie by the end of 2024 and to release the movie by 2025.”