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.” 


Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

Updated 25 September 2020

Guinness World Records has great expectations for Saudi titles milestone

  • In MENA region, KSA is second behind UAE for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s penchant for breaking world records looks set to see the Kingdom smash through the 100 titles mark in the not-too-distant future, officials have predicted.
Guinness World Records (GWR), which lists incredible human achievements and extremes of nature, has great expectations for the country over the coming months.
The Kingdom has been placed second behind the UAE in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for its record-breaking prowess, with 93 GWR titles under its belt.
GWR’s senior marketing manager in the MENA region, Shaddy Gaad, told Arab News: “We’re very impressed with Saudi record-breaking and we’re really excited — a lot of record-breaking happens on the National Day.
“Over the last few years and with the Saudi Seasons (activity festivals) we’ve seen a big rise in record-breaking in Saudi Arabia and we’re looking forward to seeing this continue.
“Saudi Arabia is on the up and it’s rising very quickly. There were a lot of records broken near the end of last year. We had Riyadh Season and we had AlUla. I think that number’s going to rise up very quickly,” he said.

Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

Gaad added that so far this year there had been a 15 percent increase in the number of new records set by MENA nations.
“This year we received 750 applications from the MENA region, compared to 649 in the first eight months of 2019. From Saudi Arabia, we received 79 applications and we expect it to go up to 100 by the end of the year,” he said.
One of the most notable titles achieved by Saudi Arabia was for the largest mirror building, the Maraya Concert Hall in AlUla. “If you see that building itself, it’s absolutely beautiful. It looks like something out of a movie,” added Gaad.
Jeddah can boast the world’s largest burger restaurant, with I’m Hungry covering 2,860 square meters, the equivalent of 11 tennis courts according to its marketing team.
The Red Sea port city also has the world’s tallest unsupported flagpole, while AlUla plays host to the largest hot air balloon glow show, and Saudi influencer Hussain Sallam (known as S7S) holds the record for the largest serving of sayadieh (1,334 kilograms of the seasoned fish and rice dish).

Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.

Stunt driver Terry Grant completed the largest loop-the-loop in a car during Riyadh Season on Nov. 25, and the MDL Beast Festival in the Saudi capital on Dec. 21 won the tallest stage title.
However, similar to most organizations, WGR has had to adapt to working around safety restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We moved a lot of things online. To view the growth in the number of applications, we launched this online record-breaking; what happened is it’s a dedicated brand and content division, focused on helping brands and businesses break records as part of their marketing campaign, and all of it is done over the internet.
“It wasn’t difficult; record-breaking and evidence provision is generally done online. It wasn’t difficult for us; the only thing was that people just had to get used to it, but it was a seamless process,” said Gaad.

Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

The new division runs over content such as live-streaming, online pledges, online albums, video relays, and video chains.
One of them happened in Saudi Arabia, with the most viewers for an Iftar YouTube live stream, when 183,544 people tuned in to enjoy popular YouTubers such as “The Saudi Reporters” and comedian Omar Hussein.
“These influencers got together on YouTube, live, and for an hour they were sharing their stories about Ramadan traditions and Saudi traditions. They broke their fast and shared this moment with their fans. That video ended up trending as No. 1 in Saudi and the region.
“If anything, this pandemic has taught us to adapt to situations. I think people are now more flexible with the idea of doing online records as much as they’re doing offline records,” Gaad added.
He pointed out that the online application process for the GWR was simple and that titles were granted based on whether the record was measurable (longest, largest, heaviest, etc.), breakable, standardizable, or verifiable, and if it was made up of one variable.

SOME OF THE RECORDS BROKEN IN SAUDI ARABIA

• Tallest flagpole: The tallest unsupported flagpole measures 171 meters (561 feet) and was erected by Jeddah Municipality and Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI) in Jeddah on Sept. 23, 2014.

• Largest drinking water storage facility: The largest drinking water storage facility is the Briman Strategic Water Reservoir, in Jeddah, with a total capacity of 2,062,500 cubic meters, verified on Nov. 17, 2014. Fun fact: The volume of this facility could fill up six skyscrapers the size of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

• Largest burger restaurant: The largest burger restaurant covers an area of 2,860 square meters and the title was achieved by I’m Hungry in Jeddah on Dec. 12, 2019.

• Largest hot air balloon glow show: The largest hot air balloon glow show consisted of 100 hot air balloons and was achieved by the Royal Commission for AlUla on Jan. 6, 2019.

• The Largest Serving of sayadieh: The largest serving of sayadieh was 1,334 kg achieved by Hussain Sallam in Jeddah on Sept. 14, 2019.

• Darkest man-made substance: The darkest man-made substance is a black material made of gold nanoparticles and called dark chameleon dimers, which absorbs more than 99 percent of visible light over the whole visible range. The material was made by scientists from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), in a joint collaboration between Prof. Yu Han and Prof. Andrea Fratalocchi.

• Largest water desalination company: The largest water desalination company is Saline Water Conversion Corp. (Saudi Arabia) which produces 4,600,000 cubic meters a day as verified on June 4, 2016. •Largest Tele-ICU command center: The largest Tele-ICU command center consisted of 796 beds and was achieved by Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group in Riyadh and verified on July 31, 2019.

• Tallest stage (temporary): The tallest stage (temporary) measured 38 meters in height and was achieved by MDL Beast Fest in Riyadh on Dec. 21, 2019.

• Most consecutive wins in AFC champions league: The most consecutive wins of the AFC champions league are two achieved by Al Ittihad FC (Saudi Arabia) in 2004-2005.

• Largest human awareness ribbon: The largest human awareness ribbon consisted of 8,264 participants and was achieved by Saudi women at an event organized by 10KSA in Riyadh on Dec. 12, 2015.