While the filmmaker's intentions of exploring historical injustice, among other things, is certainly noble and one cannot applaud its creators enough for trying to break away from formulaic family fare, the resulting film never really takes off.
Whenever the narrative seems to gain momentum, it returns to an overarching storytelling situation which kills whatever suspense there could have been. Perhaps 78 minutes are simply too little time to explore a cast of interesting characters as well as an epic journey through exotic sets. And unfortunately, too often the animation is not on par with the detailed character design.
Tasteful primary colors
But the artwork (especially some of the backgrounds in the later French part of the film, as showcased at the bottom of this post) and the colors are sometimes tastefully dazzling. When Maki, a Sudanese orphan boy, is saved by a wealthy-looking Bedouin called Hassan he is dressed in the same deep dark blue garments. In addition to four different shades of blue there is a very effective shadow layer that makes the costume look even more sumptuous (and realistic):
Then they meet Mehemet Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, who is completely dressed in shades of yellow leaning towards orange which connects him to the giraffe and creates a smooth contrast to Maki and Hassan.
|The five bright and warm colors of Mehemet Ali.|
In the warm, yellow evening light inside the Egyptian palace (above), these robes look greener:
|top: outside, plain sunshine; bottom: inside, warmer lighting.|
|Hassan's clothes are made up of these four colors plus a very effective shadow layer.|
|In different lighting conditions they tend towards green.|
|Red, yellow and blue/green characters in one frame inside the palace.|
|"Red" i.e. brown for Malaterre...|
|...and "yellow" i.e. orange/beige for the Pasha.|
The costumes of Bouboulina (who is hoarsely voiced by the great Ronit Elkabetz, but whose narrative thread is too underdeveloped here) and her fellow pirates look more down to earth and are made up of more variable colors. Bouboulina herself combines another basic triad very close to the main characters: yellow, red and green.
|top row: actual colors, bottom row: pure hues.|
|The stepsisters and Lady Tremaine from CINDERELLA (1950)...|
|...as French court ladies in ZARAFA (2012)?|