BACK in 2017 when husband/wife animation team Everard McBain and Dixie-Ann Archer-McBain pitched their science-fiction superhero series, Celflux, for a panel at the annual Animae Caribe festival, one of the judges said their concept trailer sounded too foreign and should have Trinidadian voices. And while McBain did not agree with having local voices simply for the sake of doing so, the comment inspired him to revisit his plan to create a TT hero. And thus, the character of Jumbie was born.
Jumbie is an animated project from GemGfx Animation Studios about a young, black Trini girl named Giselle Anderson who gains the ability to transform into the titular superpowered vigilante.
Speaking to Newsday in a telephone interview, McBain explained no ordinary hero would work for TT.
"The Superman Boy-Scout type would not fit Trinidad or survive for very long. It has to be one that fits the local landscape."
The idea then came to build on Trini themes of the "jumbie" (ghost), as well as the Carnival characters of the moko jumbie, jab jab and devil mas. He developed the character a few months ago after doing some brainstorming and research on folklore.
He explained the look and feel of the character and how she moved was inspired by the Marvel comic book characters of Daredevil and Deadpool, and the DC character Blue Beetle. He also gave her national colours for her costumes and a donkey's jawbone as a weapon.
The synopsis for the project is as follows: Giselle Anderson is an ambitious, young, black teenager with a love for her country’s culture. She likes music and art. Through a series of unfortunate events, she becomes endued with the power of a jumbie. Rather than feel sorry for herself, she decided to use the abilities that the jumbie gives her to make a change in her society. Her efforts make her very popular on social media, but she is relentlessly hunted by a special task force lead by Inspector Roger Gauntlet and his second-in-command, Indira Sookoo (aka Sheriff). Giselle must find a cure for her jumbie curse while at the same time, do what she can to save her country.
On Jumbie's personality, McBain said, because she is a Trinidadian character she likes playing tricks and being playful, similar to how Spider-Man uses jokes to disarm his opponents. He added that Giselle comes from a place of struggle and while she sees her abilities as a curse, she decides to use them to make a difference in society.
"We love that her Trini personality is so prominent."
He said it was important for the character to be a dark-skinned young girl and noted the antagonist police character, Sherrif, is Indo-Trinidadian. He explained they wanted to be very inclusive and as the series goes on the plan is to include every race found in TT.
His wife, Dixie-Ann Archer-McBain, assisted with the character development, the research, writing and also modelled the assets for the video (the environments and backgrounds, including a PTSC bus) while McBain did the character models.
In October McBain began releasing images and short video clips of the character on social media and on Carnival Monday released an almost two-minute-long trailer. The trailer introduces the character (voiced by Ariana Maria Herbert) and shows off some of her abilities. It also features the antagonists of Gauntlet and Sherrif and shows a couple of action scenes set in Port of Spain and other local locations.
McBain reported the trailer has been "blowing up" on "Trini Twitter" and was at more than 68,000 views . It has been retweeted by soca star Kees Dieffenthaller, who simply commented "eh heh" with fire emojis, and Republic Bank which commented, "What an abundance of talent! We love this!"
McBain said he was very surprised by the extent of the positive response.
"We just do stuff. We come up with an idea and we just do it and put it out there. We have no plans about where it would go or if we would make money. And, if somebody gets joy from it, then fine. But we didn't expect this reaction. We are pleasantly surprised."
McBain said if you ask the average local teen about the anime (Japanese animation) series Attack on Titan or Dragonball Z they could tell you about it.
"Ask them about 'jumbie' and they would say, 'That is old people thing' or 'Carnival thing'. But if we could put our culture in the same vehicle as the Japanese and the American creators then we could get our teens to also fall in love with Trini culture."
McBain said the hope is that Jumbie becomes a series but that would require resources and finance. He explained with the couple's limited resources they plan to initially do a proof-of-concept short before the end of the year.
"Maybe if it generates interest then people will back us."
Along with Jumbie, the McBain's GemGfx Animation creation of Celflux has spawned an animated trailer and three online comics, and another property called The God of the Wilderness. For more info: check out GemGfx Animation Studios on Facebook.