Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream

Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream
“Raya and the Last Dragon” is by Disney Animation Studios. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 16 April 2021

Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream

Meet the Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess living out his Disney dream
  • Louaye Moulayess on why ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ is his most personal project yet

DUBAI: Lebanese animator Louaye Moulayess was born and raised in a divided nation. With Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon,” his latest major project, he had the chance to tell the story of a fictional land not unlike his own, and to lay out a path forward for how it may be united again.

“When I saw the screening of the film, I realized what the movie is about: It's about trust and what we can do if people come together. Coming from the Middle East, I really like that,” Moulayess tells Arab News. “You see all these different lands inspired from countless places, and basically you see them individually. But if they are so beautiful individually, what can they do if they come together?




Louaye Moulayess is a Lebanese animator. (Supplied)

“That message resonates a lot with me coming from Lebanon, as all this especially applies to Lebanon,” he continues. “I was really proud to be part of something that just tells that story. I like that message. I know It sounds simple, but if we can just show this to kids and families, for me, that would make me happy.”

“Raya and the Last Dragon,” directed by Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada, is set in the fictional kingdom of Kumandra, which is not based on the Middle East, but Southeast Asia. In this fantasy version of that region, humans and dragons once lived in harmony, before mistrust and political division tore the kingdom apart, causing the dragons to disappear and chaos to ensue. The film follows a princess named Raya who sets off on an adventure to unite the kingdom and bridge the gaps between the various warring factions.




“Raya and the Last Dragon” is Moulayess’s latest major project. (Supplied)

Moulayess wants people in the Middle East watching the movie to apply the film’s message of togetherness and collaboration not only to politics, however, but to all aspects of life.

“It applies especially to Lebanon, but I don’t want just that. Yes, you can apply this politically, but you can also apply this to your (apartment) complex, you know what I mean? It can be global, but you can also apply it to your circle of friends. This is the appeal for me. It doesn't have to be political. It doesn't have to be big,” says Moulayess.

Moulayess himself started small — growing up primarily in the Lebanese village of Elissar. From a young age, sitting on the couch with his brothers and sisters, Moulayess fell in love with Disney movies, and saw their ability to convey a powerful message. He knew, even back then, that was what he wanted to do with his life.




“Raya and the Last Dragon” is directed by Don Hall and Carlos Lopez Estrada. (Supplied)

“I felt something good. I'm like, ‘I want to be part of this.’ That was the first step. The problem was, I didn't see anybody do art (among) my family and friends. So I started doing computer science. And since there was starting to be computer animation, I said, ‘Maybe I can do something with the computer.’ I did computer science for a year. Didn't work. I didn't like it. It wasn't for me, basically,” says Moulayess.

Moulayess started researching, trying to figure out how he could get from his small village on the Western edge of the Mediterranean to the halls of Disney or Pixar on the other side of the world.

One day, he stumbled upon someone who could possibly help him, an animator at Pixar in San Francisco. Overcoming his nervousness, he decided to send him a message out of the blue.




Moulayess worked on the “Ice Age” films, “The Peanuts Movie” and “Ferdinand,” before finding a home at Disney, first animating “Frozen 2.” (Supplied)

“I was around 16 or 17. I emailed him and said, ‘Listen, I'm from Lebanon, this is the situation: I want to do animation. Can you help me?’ He was very kind, he replied right away. He told me, ‘Since you don't have a portfolio, try to go to this animation school in San Francisco. It’s expensive, so you’re going to have to have a job on the side.’ He just gave me a lot of good advice. And it's because of him that I made the decision to go to that school specifically,” says Moulayess.

When he’d completed his studies, he managed to land an internship at the place he had been dreaming of: Pixar.

“And guess who my mentor was? It was that animator. I said, ‘Hey, I want to show you something.’ I showed him the email I sent him when I was 16. I looked him in the eye and said, ‘I'm here because of you.’ And it was honestly a great moment. It was like everything had aligned to have him as my mentor.”




In “Raya and the Last Dragon,” he was able to put himself in the film a little more literally than you may imagine. (Supplied)

Moulayess went from working on “Cars 2” at Pixar to Blue Sky Studios, working on the “Ice Age” films, “The Peanuts Movie” and “Ferdinand,” before finding a home at Disney, first animating “Frozen 2” before taking on “Raya and the Last Dragon.” At Disney, Moulayess is not only able to add his own voice to the legacy of the greatest animation studio in history, he’s also able to thrive precisely because of his background and perspective.

“I'm very proud to be here because of the diversity that they try to push every single day,” he says. “They understand that diversity will bring more to the table. I grew up in Lebanon, and I saw movies that maybe somebody else didn't see or shows that somebody else didn't see, I read books, I saw Arabic calligraphy, I saw my culture, and I have stories to tell that my gym teacher used to tell me from the village where he grew up. I mean, who else has that stuff?




Moulayess worked on “Cars 2” at Pixar to Blue Sky Studios. (Supplied)

“At the studio, the chief creatives understand it's in their best interest to bring diversity because it means more stories, more personality. I think studios around the world are starting to understand this as well,” he continues.

In “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which he considers his most personal project among the 15 films he has so far worked on, he was able to put himself in the film a little more literally than you may imagine. In fact, one of the most memorable bit characters in the film was entirely Moulayess’ creation.

“I'm gonna give you my process,” he says. “Basically, I get asked to do shots. And for fun ones, I like to shoot references of myself in the room. I put a tripod, and I just act out the performance as much as I can. I'm a terrible actor, but I try to hit the beats that I want to hit. There’s one character holding flowers who has a very comedic moment in the film. I feel it's me, I put myself in this character. I shot the references. The directors, Don and Carlos, were laughing for, say, two to three minutes. That made me happy. They said, ‘Do exactly that.’ So I animated him exactly to my reference video. I feel that it's me in the screen.”

Moulayess smiles. “I’m going to tell you the truth,” he says. “I’m incredibly lucky.”


Art, a tool to heal and educate, say Saudi psychologists

Art therapy is super effective. (Supplied)
Art therapy is super effective. (Supplied)
Updated 02 August 2021

Art, a tool to heal and educate, say Saudi psychologists

Art therapy is super effective. (Supplied)
  • Art therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy where practitioners use the creative art process and output to help the client learn about themselves and to heal them

JEDDAH: Saudi mental health professionals are exploring creative ways to help people with mental health issues.
Art can be a calming activity that some take on as a hobby or make a living, while it can also be part of a therapeutic approach used by mental health professionals to heal and treat those in need.
The stigma of seeking professional help has declined in the past few years in the Kingdom and psychologists, specialized in their own distinct approaches in their therapy, are finding different ways to educate the public. Many are finding that art therapy is gaining popularity.
Art therapy is a specialized form of psychotherapy where practitioners use the creative art process and output to help the client learn about themselves and to heal them.

Anybody who experiences art therapy can readily feel the effect of it, even as lightly as a stress relief technique or to treat more serious mental illnesses.

Rawan Bajsair, Art therapist

Rawan Bajsair, a registered and board-certified art therapist in Jeddah, described it as a playful, non-threatening and non-invasive approach to tap into someone’s psyche.
“Art therapy is super effective. It’s a field that’s very hard to explain in words how effective it is, but I think anybody who experiences art therapy can readily feel the effect of it, even as lightly as a stress relief technique or to treat more serious mental illnesses,” she told Arab News.
She spoke of two cases she helped to treat while in the US early in her career. One of her earliest clients in art therapy was a 55-year-old woman who was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.

HIGHLIGHT

Psychologists, specialized in their own distinct approaches in their therapy, are finding different ways to educate the public. Many are finding that art therapy is gaining popularity.

“She’d been hospitalized a number of times and went through different kinds of therapy until she landed on art therapy, which she continued practicing for 12 years. She truly showed me the therapeutic power of creativity and art through her work and experience with this form of therapy,” she said, adding that the success lay in how the client felt protected while having the freedom to express herself.
One of the most significant cases she worked on was with a 19-year-old male, who chose to be called Felix, who she treated in rehab.
She said clients that come to the clinic are usually defensive due to their court mandate. “When Felix first joined my art therapy group he was like most of the clients — none of them really wanted to make art, they thought it was childish.”
After offering some tools and explaining the process of experimenting without any expectation of the product, “some people would just play around with the tools and not actually make anything out of it, and that on its own is therapeutic.”
In the case of Felix, one of the things she offered him was a rubber stamp that printed out jars.
“I just demonstrated how he could use it and I noticed week by week he would place a print on more jars and he would experiment on different kinds of paper and it was really therapeutic at the time for him because when you think about printmaking, you really put the weight of your body into it, and there’s some kind of release that comes with painting that can be really healing, especially for past traumas.”
Felix printed jars that stayed empty for weeks and then would add something little inside the jar every week using different art materials.
“As the weeks went by, I looked at his artwork and I would see him putting his materials in these jars and he’d put some of his graffiti tag names onto them,” she said.
“Towards the end he looked at me and said: ‘So this is a safe space?’ He was talking about the jars and that’s when I got the idea of a whole book chapter that I wrote (Art Therapy Practices for Resilient Youth) about how clients can find safe spaces within these jars, whether its substance use patients or those who suffered trauma, a safe space is one of the biggest and most important component of psychotherapy.”
Educating the public through art is another aspect of using art as a medium.
Shahad Al-Sonare, 27, a clinical psychologist, believes that art is a tool to relay information and get your message across. “I usually draw to express my own feelings, so I decided to express the feelings of my patients. I convey their pain through my art to educate the world on these cases. I’ll be their medium,” she told Arab News.
Over the past two years she has drawn six pieces of art that embody her patients’ experiences, and said she will use the art as a means of education.
For issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and learning disabilities, she has found that by incorporating it into her work she is able to embody her patients struggles in a way that can be understood without the need for words.
In 2020 and 2021, Al-Sonare’s experience of teaching an autistic child in a classroom full of non-autistic children motivated her to raise awareness about autism.
“The school and other teachers didn’t understand his condition; he is actually very smart. It was sad to witness that I was the only one (teacher) who knew that there is nothing wrong with the child’s learning ability.”
“I was his eyes, ears and tongue. I was trying to educate all teachers, admins and principals on such cases. I experienced his pain through this experience and when I drew the autism piece, I wrote, ‘I’m not different, I’m just unique,’” Al-Sonare said.
“I feel like the best way someone could explain psychological cases is through pictures. Just like the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ it’s more descriptive and opens the viewer’s heart to the case,’ she said.


Heidi Klum, Chrissy Teigen dazzle in Mideast gowns on Italian red carpet

Supermodel Heidi Klum opted for an ensemble by Elie Saab for a gala in Capri. (Getty Images)
Supermodel Heidi Klum opted for an ensemble by Elie Saab for a gala in Capri. (Getty Images)
Updated 01 August 2021

Heidi Klum, Chrissy Teigen dazzle in Mideast gowns on Italian red carpet

Supermodel Heidi Klum opted for an ensemble by Elie Saab for a gala in Capri. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: US social media star Chrissy Teigen and US-German supermodel Heidi Klum showed off gowns by Lebanon’s leading designers at the Luisaviaroma for UNICEF Gala in Italy on Saturday.

Held in Capri, celebrities from around the world dazzled on the red carpet at the glitzy event, with Teigen opting for a gown by Zuhair Murad and Klum showing off an ensemble by Elie Saab.

Teigen’s feather-fringed gown hailed from Murad’s Spring/ Summer 2021 Couture collection and featured a plunging neckline along with lashings of shimmering sequins on a blush colored background.

The collection was inspired by Lebanon’s iconic cedar tree, which is visible on the country’s flag.

“The inspiring collection celebrates the freshness of woods, featuring iridescent shades, light fabrics, and sensual textures, from tulle and silk muslin to gazar, lurex, and crêpe georgette. Outfits paint the reflection of a misty forest at the dawn of a summer day: Powdery skies, pink clouds, sandy shades of beige and gray, sheer aquatic green or deeper leaf greens, and of course, silver, lots of silver specks outlining the trunk, sap and dew of birch trees,” a statement on the luxury label’s website reads.

Teigen is a loyal fan of the Beirut-based fashion house and often looks to the designer to dress her for important events. 

Who can forget the 87th Academy Awards in 2015, when the model opted for a heavily-beaded gown that boasted a sleeved bodice and a skirt with a thigh-high split? 

Just weeks before that, Teigen attended the Golden Globe Awards ceremony wearing a blush pink dress by Zuhair Murad.

Meanwhile, supermodel Klum was equally stunning in a heavily beaded, one-shoulder Elie Saab number. The floor-grazing gown boasted a thigh-high slit, as well as a decadent bow on one shoulder and a slinky chain belt at the waist. Geometric beading across the length of the dress added sparkle, while Klum’s pared back hair and makeup let the show-stopping gown shine on the red carpet.

The gala took place on Saturday and marked high-end retailer Luisaviaroma’s third year of partnership with UNICEF, with proceeds from the fundraiser set to go to “all children in need,” according to a released statement.


UAE show sees 38 artists take part in experiment based on childhood game

The 38 artists were each given just 48 hours to complete their artwork. (Maria Daher)
The 38 artists were each given just 48 hours to complete their artwork. (Maria Daher)
Updated 31 July 2021

UAE show sees 38 artists take part in experiment based on childhood game

The 38 artists were each given just 48 hours to complete their artwork. (Maria Daher)

DUBAI: Curators Sarah Daher and Anna Bernice just unveiled a playful exhibition in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue featuring 38 UAE-based artists.

The exhibition, titled “After the Beep,” was the culmination of a two-month long creative exercise with the artists, in which they were asked to participate in a reactive creative exercise where they responded with new work to the work of another artist in the spirit of the childhood game “Broken Telephone.”

All artists only saw the one work that was produced directly before them in the chain and were given 48 hours from seeing the work to submit their new artworks.

The show, which closed on July 31 and was staged at Satellite gallery, featured 40 artworks from artists including Andrew Riad, Athoub Albusaily, Rabab Tantawy, Danabelle Gutierrez, Mashael Alsaie and Maryam Al-Huraiz, among others.

The 38 artists were each given just 48 hours to complete their artwork. (Maria Daher)

Co-curator Daher is a Lebanese curator, researcher and writer who graduated with a BA in Theater and Economics from New York University Abu Dhabi and recently completed her Masters in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art in London. Meanwhile, Bernice is an independent arts and culture writer, culture researcher and curator based in Dubai who also graduated with a BA from New York University Abu Dhabi.

According to the press release, “the organizers were intrigued to discover what creating looks like without the pressure of perfection, and to explore how creative inspiration transcends through different artworks and artists.”

The open call for artist participation was released in May 2021 via Instagram under the title “Telephone.”

From graphic works depicted on TV screens, to large-scale works on mounted boards, the show featured a variety of mediums. (Maria Daher)

“Three months of working with a very special group of 38 artists has produced a fantastically rich body of new work culminating in what might be the largest group show Dubai has seen in recent years,” Daher commented on Instagram about the show.

From graphic works depicted on TV screens, to large-scale works on mounted boards, the show featured a variety of mediums.

From graphic works depicted on TV screens, to large-scale works on mounted boards, the show featured a variety of mediums. (Maria Daher)

 


British presenter Maya Jama steps out in Lebanese look in London

British TV and radio star Maya Jama has co-presented several BBC shows. (Getty Images)
British TV and radio star Maya Jama has co-presented several BBC shows. (Getty Images)
Updated 31 July 2021

British presenter Maya Jama steps out in Lebanese look in London

British TV and radio star Maya Jama has co-presented several BBC shows. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: British TV and radio presenter Maya Jama showed off a creative look by Lebanese fashion house Azzi & Osta at an event in London late last week.

Jama, 26, opted for a sage green jumpsuit by the Lebanese design duo when she attended a launch event hosted by sports streaming service DAZN Boxing in London.

Featuring a ribbed bodice with semi-sheer, cuffed sleeves and a sharply tailored lower half, the creative design hails from Azzi & Osta’s Ready-to-Wear Collection 6, which “reimagines nineties grunge and glamour for the modern woman,” according to the label’s website.

The presenter showed off a jumpsuit by Lebanese fashion house Azzi & Osta. (Getty Images)

“Put my glad rags on for (the) @daznboxing event last night and I cannot wait to start this weekend,” Jama captioned a photo of the outfit on Instagram, where she boasts 2.3 million followers.

Jama’s stylist, Kyle De’Volle, paired the outfit with jewelry by designers Diane Kordas and Lara Heems.

It is not the first time the presenter, who is of Swedish-Somali origin, has stepped out in a design from the Middle East.

In February, she stunned at the Vogue x Tiffany Fashion & Film after party for the 73rd edition of the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs) in another look by Azzi & Osta.

The canary-colored, bejeweled gown boasted long, billowing sleeves and a smattering of hand-embroidered purple, blue and white sequins on the bodice.

The designers, Assaad Osta and George Azzi, most recently decided to pay homage to the art of perfumery for their joint label’s Fall 2022 couture collection.

Released in June, the 23-piece offering boasts custom-made floral fabric, printed in 3D with verbena and patchouli and dresses cut in the shape of a vase, as well as gowns embroidered with precious ingredients including orange blossom, peach bud, patchouli, magnolia, fig, neroli and myrtle.

In an effort to incorporate eco-conscious practices into their designs, the couturiers opted for faux fur and feathers in the collection. Adding to this conscious practice, the couturiers also utilized raffia, a natural and renewable woven fiber, in the looks.

The label has been worn by the likes of Beyonce, Cardi B, Kendall Jenner and Queen Rania of Jordan.


5 fall 2021 couture dresses with wow factor from Arab designers

5 fall 2021 couture dresses with wow factor from Arab designers
Zuhair Murad Fall 2021 couture. Supplied
Updated 30 July 2021

5 fall 2021 couture dresses with wow factor from Arab designers

5 fall 2021 couture dresses with wow factor from Arab designers

DUBAI: The recent Paris Haute Couture Week brought with it an array of wedding dresses that brides-to-be – and even those not yet engaged – will surely have their hearts set on.

For this year’s fall, Middle Eastern couturiers have presented a range of ethereal dresses for the big day. Here are the best wedding dresses by the industry’s top Arab designers from fall 2021 couture shows.

Zuhair Murad

The Lebanese fashion designer closed out his fall 2021 couture show with a glamorous, heavily embellished bridal gown embroidered with intricate pearls that evoked the opulent chandeliers of a palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal.

Elie Saab

The embroidered buds and petals that emerge and unfold across the princess-worthy gown are emblematic of rebirth and renewal.

Rami Kadi

Fit for royalty, Kadi’s couture bridal gown is delicately embellished with crystals, sequins, and beads in a baroque design.

Georges Chakra

The ethereal, pure white gown is adorned with symmetrical crystals and a cape nouveau pouring from the shoulders in white tulle with ribbons of satin.

Georges Hobeika

As with every Georges Hobeika creation, embroidery and embellishments played a big role in amping up the glamour on this off-the-shoulder gown.