Why animation and storytelling are growing in Saudi Arabia

Members of Verve Studios say the platform provides them an ideal place to pursue their passion. (AN)
Updated 14 May 2018

Why animation and storytelling are growing in Saudi Arabia

  • There is a large audience for animated films in the Kingdom
  • Verve Studios was established in 2015, and now has more than 30 partners

JEDDAH: There is a large audience for animated films in the Kingdom, according to Verve Studios’ animator 23-year-old Saudi Ola Sfeeran. 

“It gives us a great opportunity to actually work and present new kinds of animation related to Saudi culture and closer to the Saudi audience,” she told Arab News. 

Sfeeran said that the field of animation and storytelling had existed for quite a long time, but on a small scale. “But now it is more efficient as we see some of the local companies offering scholarships to Japan, sponsored by famous animation studios and gaming companies such as Toei Animations and Square Enix.”  Sfeeran said that animation had a promising future in the Kingdom, highlighting that “entertainment makes a good business.” 

Verve Studios was established in 2015, and now has more than 30 partners. “We call them partners instead of customers, and the numbers are rising every year.” 

Sfeeran said that Verve Studios was the ideal platform for artists to pursue their passion. “We welcome all artists and share with each other the same language of art and collaborate to empower such passion,” she said. 

Another animator is Samaher Bantan, from Effat University’s Visual and Digital Production (VDP) department. 

Bantan was interested in animation and storytelling from a young age, drawing comics and sharing them with friends and family. She followed her passion for animation by studying it in her free time, and registered at Effat University as soon as she was told about the animation stream at the VDP department.  “VDP is the first filmmaking major in Saudi Arabia; it made a raucous movement in the Kingdom at first, especially as it was the first major that was under an all-female university. That motivated students to work harder to show what they are capable of, and to share Saudi Arabia’s culture and life,” Bantan said. 

Bantan explained the importance of animators in advertisements. 

“Now that Saudis are animating and storytelling more; you notice it especially in advertisements. Companies start asking for more animators to animate whether it is an ad or a video for their websites. Storytelling has started before with novels, and now it is going into films and will go more into animation,” she said.  “It made it easier for customers to get interested in the ad and understand the company purpose in an entertaining way,” she said. 

Bantan also believes in the potential of animation and storytelling in Saudi Arabia. “This field will have a bright future in the Kingdom. Many things are changing with Saudi Vision 2030; cinemas are opening up and a number of Saudis have received awards for their films, soon it will be global and the world will understand Saudi better.” 

Bantan hopes to create her own animated stories one day. “I dream of making my own stories, and animation that carries our good ethics and beliefs for the next generations.” 

“Harb Attaj” comic book series creator Wasim Shaer, a 34-year-old Swede, says that storymaking and animation is a long and challenging process. “It needs time to create good quality — building something out of almost nothing and turning it into a stunning story,” he told Arab News.

“Beautiful animation can take years in production, but when you have the passion and commitment to making it right, you can really come up with a true masterpiece that creates a memorable animated show for many people, and it will last for decades and inspire many generations,” he said.

Shaer creates original content, ideas, plots and art for comic books and storyboards. 

He explained that “these comics’ content become the very first stage and source for animation and animated shows later on.” 

Shaer encourages pre-animators and storytellers to stay committed to ensure a successful bright future in the Kingdom. 

“Not only a bright one but a golden one if the current and future creators stay committed to doing what they are doing,” he said. “Only this will help build up rich local content and make it ready and attractive to be animated.”

Shaer said that there are now Saudi publishing houses fostering pre-animations. “(One is) Ironixcomix, the Saudi company and publishing house that is building up artists and authors communities to help them build and publish high-quality content that is good enough for future animations.” 

‘Saudi Arabia’s stability, security a red line for Muslim world’

The Supreme Council of the Muslim World League (MWL) holds its 43rd session in Makkah. (SPA)
Updated 35 sec ago

‘Saudi Arabia’s stability, security a red line for Muslim world’

  • The council praised the Kingdom’s pioneering role in the Muslim world, its religious importance, its history of supporting international security and peace efforts

JEDDAH: The Supreme Council of the Muslim World League (MWL) held its 43rd session in Makkah, with senior scholars and ministers from Muslim countries in attendance.
The council expressed solidarity with the Saudi leadership and people, and condemned attempts to target the Kingdom, saying its stability and security are a red line for the Muslim world.
The council praised the Kingdom’s pioneering role in the Muslim world, its religious importance, its history of supporting international security and peace efforts, and its fight against extremism and terrorism.
The great place that the Kingdom occupies in the hearts of Muslims is founded on a sincere and firm belief in its care for Muslim sanctity, the council said, adding that targeting Saudi stability also affects international stability.
The council discussed several matters, including the Palestinian cause, developments in Syria and Yemen, the tragedy of Myanmar’s Rohingya people, the fight against extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh, and the importance of promoting dialogue among followers of different religions and cultures.
It also discussed the well-being of Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries, expressing regret and concern about Islamophobia, and calling for peaceful coexistence.
The council urged Muslims in these countries to fulfil their duty to educate their children, and protect them from deviant ideologies and groups that use religion as a pretext to justify terrorism and extremism.
It also urged Muslims in these countries to use legitimate channels to enjoy their just religious and cultural rights, to contribute to societal development, and to support stability and integration.
The council highlighted the MWL’s efforts and international presence in influential platforms, especially in the West.
Islamophobia is creating serious rifts in multicultural societies and damaging the social contract based on equal citizenship, the council said.
It expressed its full support for the MWL’s programs and activities that highlight the truth about Islam and its values, promote intellectual and religious awareness among Muslim minorities, and spread the values of toleration, moderation and peace.
The council reviewed the MWL’s efforts against radicalization and terrorism, including international collaborative programs, conferences, forums, statements and visits to Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
It noted the MWL’s efforts to promote dialogue among followers of different religions and cultures, including its secretary-general’s meeting with Vatican leaders, the signing of a historic cooperation agreement with the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue, and organizing an international peace conference at Oxford University.
The council agreed to establish an international center for cultural exchanges, as part of its support for the Conference on Cultural Rapprochement between the US and the Muslim World.
The council stressed the importance of building good East-West relations and launching initiatives to foster cooperation, cultural exchanges and positive values.
“Only 10 percent of our common principles are sufficient to bring peace and harmony to our world,” said MWL Secretary-General Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa.