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.” 

Worshippers flock to reopened Prophet’s Mosque for Friday prayers

Updated 06 June 2020

Worshippers flock to reopened Prophet’s Mosque for Friday prayers

MADINAH: Hundreds of thousands of worshippers attended the first Friday prayers to be held at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah since the gatherings were suspended to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The green light for the resumption of the prayer meetings came as part of a plan to gradually reopen the Kingdom’s mosques while ensuring worshippers and visitors adhered to preventive measures.

A ban on access to the Rawdah remained in place and only groups of worshippers numbering up to a maximum of 40 percent of the mosque’s capacity were being allowed entry.

Precautionary measures also included the allocation of specific doors for the entry of worshippers, the installation of thermal cameras, removal of all carpets so that prayers could be performed on the marble, sanitization of the mosque’s floors and courtyards, periodic opening of domes and canopies to ventilate the mosque, and the removal of Zamzam water containers.

The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah will be closed after evening prayers and reopened one hour before dawn prayers. Parking lots will operate at 50 percent capacity and a media awareness campaign has been launched to highlight safety procedures at the holy site.

Medical teams have also been stationed at the main entrances to the mosque in cooperation with the Ministry of Health.

Elsewhere in the Kingdom, worshippers also flocked to perform Friday prayers at mosques amid strict health measures.

On May 31, Saudi authorities reopened all mosques for prayers, except in Makkah, as part of the Kingdom’s plan for a gradual return to normal life.

Last week the minister of Islamic affairs, dawah and guidance said that the country’s mosques were ready to welcome back worshippers, following his field trips to check that necessary preparations had been made.

All worshippers must still maintain a distance of 2 meters between rows, wear masks to enter a mosque, and Friday sermons and prayers have been limited to a maximum of 15 minutes.