Sunrise Productions is a Cape Town-based computer animation company known for its popular production, Jungle Beat, a 3D-animated series that has been shown in over 180 countries around the world.
With the international success gained from the show, Jungle Beat creator Brent Dawes decided to create a spin-off series titled Munki and Trunk, with director Sam Wilson at the helm. “For years, the Sunrise shows were all written and directed by Brent Dawes… As the company expanded, they needed another writer and director who understood Brent’s style, so they brought me in. I worked with Brent writing Munki and Trunk, and I took over directing the series when Brent went on to new Sunrise projects,” shares Wilson.
Much like Jungle Beat, Munki and Trunk is a dialogue-free, 3D-animated television series catering for kids aged 4 to 7. The show features various animals and is centred on the unusual friendship between an energetic monkey and an endearing elephant, aptly called Munki and Trunk.
“The series actually started out as Season 4 of Jungle Beat. After we began production, we realised that we were limiting ourselves, because every Jungle Beat episode has only one character. To make the show really appealing, we knew we had to have multiple characters, and show their personalities and quirks and give them real friendships and make a real world. So we took two of our most beloved characters and turned their relationship into the heart of the show.”
Munki is described as a vine-swinging force of nature; he is impulsive and full of energy. He is also always hungry for bananas as well as awesome adventures with his best friend, Trunk.
Trunk, on the other hand is a lovable, optimistic, big-hearted elephant who loves to play and support all her jungle buddies.
“The biggest discussion we had at the start of the show was around the friendship between Munki and Trunk. We were working with some very experienced writers from the UK, and they were pushing for some conflict between the two characters because conflict is the heart of all drama. To his credit, Brent insisted that Munki and Trunk would never fight. Whatever the world threw at them, whatever misunderstandings they had, the two main characters would stay firm friends. I think that was the right decision because it became the anchor of the show. Munki and Trunk is about friendship, and having someone around that you can always trust,” Wilson explains.
Munki and Trunk was created and animated using Autodesk Maya. Fur, dust and liquid effects were done in Houdini and rendered using Mantra. “We wanted to create a world that viewers could really immerse themselves in. So we have characters with detailed fur, visual effects, and complex lighting and rendering. It’s not photorealistic, but it’s much closer than almost any other animated TV series,” says Wilson who also credits their unique camera angles and lighting set-ups in effectively capturing the story. “We also have an in-house recording studio, so we were able to create a detailed foley for every episode, which really helped the immersion,” he adds.
It took Wilson and his team just over two years to complete the series. “The biggest overall challenge was the mammoth scale of the project, and catching all the necessary fixes and aesthetic tweaks within the tight production schedule.”
Overall, Wilson describes producing the series as a labour of love that he is truly proud of and hopes that it shines through to all young viewers and their parents. “The series has been an epic production. Look at any episode, and you can see how much work we’ve put into every detail, and because we care so much, we’ve had to make tough decisions. We re-animated two completed episodes because although they were funny, they didn’t have the sweetness and the heart we were looking for. But it’s been worth it. The highlight of the production for me was working with so many talented and dedicated people, at both Sunrise and our production partners Infinite Frameworks,” Wilson shares.
Tasania Parsadh from Nickelodeon saw a clip of the show while on a studio tour at Sunrise Productions during the first Cape Town International Animation Festival. She immediately fell in love with the concept and remained in touch with the Sunrise Productions team. Since then, NickToons has clinched a deal with the production and made Munki and Trunk, Sunrise Productions’ first South African animation acquisition.
The series consists of 52 episodes, which run for seven minutes each. The first episode aired on 2 April, and the show has since been screened across Africa.
“So far, Munki and Trunk has been shown in around 30 territories, including across North Africa, which is fantastic news, and now that the full series is complete we’re expecting it to spread a lot further,” Wilson concluded.
Munki and Trunk was created and animated using Autodesk Maya.
- Director: Sam Wilson
- Producers: Tim Keller and Matt Brown
- Executive producers: Phil Cunningham, Jacqui Cunningham, Hugo Day, Rupert Day
- Animation directors: Greg Murray and Denis Deegan
- Sound designer: Matthew Gair