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.” 


Reem A. Alfrayan, executive director of G20 Saudi Secretariat

Reem A. Alfrayan
Updated 20 September 2020

Reem A. Alfrayan, executive director of G20 Saudi Secretariat

  • Alfrayan received a bachelor’s degree in technical education and training, workforce development and education at Ohio State University in 2001

Dr. Reem A. Alfrayan has been the executive director of G20 Saudi Secretariat since January 2019.
Commenting on women’s empowerment in the Kingdom, she recently said on a TV show: “We’ve passed the stage of dreaming; with the help of Vision 2030, they’ve become a reality, we need new dreams now.”
She was the first woman to be appointed as assistant secretary-general at the Council of Saudi Chambers in September 2014.
Alfrayan received a bachelor’s degree in technical education and training, workforce development and education at Ohio State University in 2001.
In 2002, she earned a master’s degree in instructional technologies and media policy, and leadership from the same university.
Alfrayan obtained another master’s degree in educational leadership and organization, policy and leadership at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013.
She did a Ph.D. in educational leadership and organization from the same university in 2014.
After obtaining her first master’s degree, she joined the Arab Open University as instructional technology unit supervisor at its headquarters in Kuwait in 2003.
Between 2005 and 2006, Alfrayan served as a training specialist with a project launched by the General Authority for Tourism and Antiquities.
She then joined King Abdul Aziz Medical City as an administrative planning and processing development officer.
She also served as general manager of businesswomen’s affairs at the Council of Saudi Chambers from October 2007 to January 2010.
Alfrayan also actively participates in volunteer work.