Animation industry flourishes in UAE
SHARJAH: Emirati animator Mohammed Saeed Harib, creator and producer of the hit series FREEJ, and Fatma Almheiri, creator of Emara, have highlighted the new and emerging opportunities in the UAE’S animation industry at a virtual discussion hosted recently by the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children & Youth (SIFF).
Speaking to Emirati comedian Ammar Al Rahma, who was moderating the discussion, Harib remarked, “Creating an animated series was a big challenge for me”, alluding to FREEJ, the project with which he made his career debut in animation.
“It required different tools and resources,” he added, explaining that he put together a team of 500+ people from around the world for FREEJ’S production. Due to our hard work to see the project through to success coupled with the huge support we received in the UAE, FREEJ turned out to be a big hit. It is the first Emirati 3D animation series to be translated in Japanese.”
Sharing her personal experiences, Almheiri said, “The production value of animations is extremely high and requires a team of experts and industry professionals to be done well. A lot of these are still imported and dubbed here in the UAE.”
A dearth of good actors and skilled scriptwriters who could build the right scenarios for every 15-minute episode were some other challenges enumerated by Mohammed.
Inspired to champion authenticity and local representation, Harib went back to Emirati folk tales while researching character development for FREEJ, only to find that most of them were laced around male protagonists. “In my project,
I wanted to document and highlight the role of women in the society,” he said, adding that he was proud to see how well this was received by the region.
Fatma’s journey began with a similar goal. “Before writing my story, I tried to create an Arab female superhero inspired by Emirati heritage, and this is how ‘Emara’ was created. I submited my idea to different entities, and one accepted to finance five episodes. The series was finally broadcast on Youtube.”
“The UAE boasts a flourishing animation industry.
Many producers invest in Emirati talent to create amazing works,” Harib opined.
Harib, who has leveraged the educational role of animation to raise awareness about the Coronavirus through FREEJ, said he was working on a big project for Dubai Expo 2020 that would combine art with highly sophisticated media tools. He also disclosed to his audience that FREEJ will be airing its last and final season during Ramadan 2021.