Brent Dawes, Director of Jungle Beat, Talks About Creating a Movie During a Pandemic

Nov 25, 2020 by

“I hope that the audience takes away a sense of optimism, that by being kind and believing the best in each other we can live in a more connected world.” – Brent Dawes

Jungle Beat: The Movie is an animated story for all the family featuring animals who wake up one morning and discover they can talk.  Written and directed by Brent Dawes, it’s a story about a homesick alien who crash-lands his spaceship near the African Jungle. His new animal friends need to get him back to his ship and teach him about friendship and having fun before his Space-Conqueror father can take over the planet.

The film, made in collaboration with Sunrise Productions, is the latest work in the franchise that Sunrise began in 2003 with the award-winning 5-minute short, Jungle Beat, which now spans almost eight seasons and a spin off series (Munki and Trunk) that boasts more than 3 million YouTube subscribers and over a billion channel views.

A true international effort, the 3D/CG animated movie was produced with a cast and crew from Indonesia, Mauritius and South Africa.  

The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome the director and writer of the film, Brent Dawes.

“Bringing them together allowed us to explore more friendship based stories and that really is where the heart of Jungle Beat lies, in the friendships.” – Brent Dawes

For those who are unfamiliar with Jungle Beat, can you tell us what you love most about this story?  What do you hope the audiences will continue to take away from it?

I love that it has such an innocent and good-natured heart. I hope that the audience takes away a sense of optimism, that by being kind and believing the best in each other we can live in a more connected world that is human connection, not digital.

The first Jungle Beat short was created in 2003 as a visual effects test and has now progressed into a decades-long franchise? Why do you think characters like Munki, Trunk, Tallbert, Ribbert, Rocky, Humph, and Fneep capture our imaginations? 

I think the original series struck a chord because it hearkened back to Looney Tunes style cartoons, where there was no dialogue and just a simple, short, stand-alone story. It was really when we brought a number of the characters into one show that we developed their characters and relationships with one another more. It was really fun doing that, as up until that point it was always one character and their interactions with nature. Bringing them together allowed us to explore more friendship based stories, and that really is where the heart of Jungle Beat lies, in the friendships. I think they capture our imaginations because although they are animals, they have very similar core desires to us – the need for belonging and connection, and I think that’s something everyone can relate to. Favorite character? No way! That’s like asking me to choose which one of my kids is my favorite; it can’t be done.

“The technology has been getting more sophisticated and powerful, yet more accessible and user friendly.” – Brent Dawes

How has technology improved/impacted the way stories like Jungle Beat can be told today? What’s the tech that you love using most?

The technology has been getting more sophisticated and powerful, yet more accessible and user friendly. This, along with the developing and growing talent of our team, have allowed us to squeeze an amazing amount of value out of a modest budget. The tech I love the most? Wow, that’s a tough one, it’s all so interdependent that it’s hard to single out one thing as being the tech that I love. Take one piece out and nothing else works.

The pandemic changed a lot of things for this movie from both a production and a marketing perspective.  What have been the main challenges you faced and what are the lessons you and your team have learned about bringing this important story to audiences globally? 

We were a couple of months from completion when lockdown happened for us. Fortunately, we had made the film over three countries so we already had systems in place for remote work. Also, we were at a phase in production where the creative decisions had been made and it was a case of the CG artists putting their heads down and getting the work done. The main thing we missed was the relational connections and having coffee together, but the team really did an unbelievable job in such good spirits despite having to do it from home. 

From a marketing perspective, Phil Cunningham, our Executive Producer, has an amazing ability to play the cards that are in front of him, so he quickly pivoted our approach from theatrical to a home release. The marketing team responded quickly and in next to no time put together such an amazing campaign that it’s hard to see it happening any other way. Through the challenge of lockdown, it feels like we’ve ended up in a stronger position than before.

“The main thing we missed was the relational connections and having coffee together.” – Brent Dawes

How and when will audiences be able to see the movie? 

It’s available worldwide through the main VOD services, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and other territory-specific services.

What’s next for Brent Dawes? 

I am already a few months into directing a new feature film scheduled to be released in 2023. It’s a completely different challenge to Jungle Beat: The Movie and I am loving it.

 C.M. Rubin and Brent Dawes

Thank you to our 800 plus global contributors, artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, researchers, business leaders, students and thought leaders from every domain for sharing your perspectives on the future of learning with The Global Search for Education each month.

C. M. Rubin (Cathy) is the Founder of CMRubinWorld, an online publishing company focused on the future of global learning, and the co-founder of Planet Classroom. She is the author of three best-selling books and two widely read online series. Rubin received 3 Upton Sinclair Awards for “The Global Search for Education.” The series, which advocates for Youth, was launched in 2010 and brings together distinguished thought leaders from around the world to explore the key education issues faced by nations.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld

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