In 1995, Pixar Animation Studios changed cinematic history with the release of its first fully computer-generated full-length feature film Toy Story. Eleven years later, Thailand s Kantana Animation aspires to make a similar breakthrough in the local film industry with Khan Kluay. Only time will tell if the countrys first 3-D animation will usher in a new era or it will be an oddball like Thailand s first (and only until now) full-length animated film Sud Sakorn in 1979.
Khan Kluay is the name of a young elephant whose inquisitive pursuit of his absent fathers identity separates him from his herd and leads him to an adoption by a good-hearted elephant trainer. Upon learning that his father is a battle elephant residing in the kings palace, he commits himself to training to be one of them in order to meet his father.
The story is simple and predictable and, with a scene like an elephant jumping over a man and back-kicking him in the head, pays more attention to entertain the younger viewers than to be intelligent. Moreover, the movies strong patriotic message may make it difficult for those unfamiliar with 17th century Thai history to cherish it.
Regardless, both children and adults will be able to enjoy stunning graphic animations, especially in jungle scenes in which every falling leaf and flowing water droplet is meticulously created. Of course, dont expect Pixar quality just yet; that demands better technology and more years of experience. As such, humans in Khan Kluay appear stiff, battle scenes look videogame-ish, and a few elephants bear uncanny resemblance to tapirs.
Veteran voiceover artist Nantana Boonlong displays her voice acting prowess here as Khan Kluays mother. Thai legendary comedian Thep Po-ngam also shines as the elephant trainer. The contributions from other actors are acceptable, although just barely.
Khan Kluay reportedly costs 150 million baht (US$3.9 million). While it is considered a miniscule amount for an average Hollywood movie, keep in mind that in history only four Thai films have ever grossed more than that amount domestically (Nang Nak in 1999, Bang Rajan in 2000, Suriyothai in 2001, and Tom-Yum-Goong in 2005). Surely, the producers must be extremely optimistic if Khan Kluay were to break even from box office takings alone. If Pixar animations teach us anything, it is that a substantial income can come from licensing the film characters to action figures, computer games, lunchboxes, McDonalds happy meal toys, etc. (think of the ubiquitous Finding Nemo images).
Indeed Khan Kluay has many flaws, but all of them are trivial and forgivable in light of what it tries to achieve. With adorable characters, funny sequences, and visually impressive animations, Khan Kluay captivates the children, satisfies the adults, and stands as a wonderfully delightful film for the whole family.