Sharjah Animation Conference turns the spotlight on regional pioneers and their vision of the future of Arab world’s animation industry
- Mohammed Saeed Hareeb, the Emirati known for Freej Folklore and World Expo 2020 mascots Latifa and Rashid, takes audience on a fascinating journey of Lammtara Studio
- Spacetoon Go GM traces company’s journey from pan-Arab free-to-air TV channel specialising in animation and children’s programmes to video-on-demand app with millions of views per month
Sharjah, May 4, 2023
Attendees of the debut Sharjah Animation Conference (SAC) have heard from two Arab visionaries in the animation industry – the Emirati creator of Freej Folklore, Mohammed Saeed Hareeb, and Kamel Weiss, the General Manager of Spacetoon Go – gaining exclusive insights into their creative process, learning about how their in-depth understanding of the ever-changing needs of the industry and customer aspirations have always led these professionals to success.
At the three-day event, taking place on the side-lines of the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF 2023) in Expo Centre Sharjah, Hareeb, made an impassioned pledge to continue wowing the masses with more inspiring content.
“I am not done yet. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is developing and we are trying to see how we can use it to streamline our productions to make content that’s better than ever before,” said Hareeb at a workshop when asked what kept him going after years at the top of his game.
The creator of UAE’s first 3D animated TV series who started the Dubai-based Lammtara Studio, UAE’s leading think tank and creative studio, back in 2005 after quitting a successful alternate career, also encouraged the audience to harness emerging technologies for powerful storytelling. “Never compromise on quality, come what may,” he further noted.
Will ChatGPT and AI shape the future of the region’s animation industry?
“We have evolved fast and forever,” shared Kamel Weiss, the General Manager of Spacetoon Go, as he regaled a packed audience narrating how his company reinvented itself to become one of the Arab world’s biggest original content platforms in the modern era with millions of followers and a repository of over 5,000 episodes of original content and more than 100 special cartoon projects.
Looking back at how the ‘digital era’ quickly changed things around for many traditional content companies around the world, he added: “In 2020, when we were locked in our homes with nothing to do, we innovated and Spacetoon Go was born,” tracing the company’s digital evolution.
Responding to a question from the crowd on whether and how ChatGPT and AI will further shape the future immediately ahead of us, Weiss opined: AI “helps in dubbing and providing other creative solutions” making the process of producing animations very “sustainable in the long run”. “Yet the question is whether AI can match the creative emotions of a director? I would say no and that remains the biggest challenge for our fraternity,” he said.
Weiss also touched on why he thought the animation industry in the Middle East has still to pick up pace compared to other regions in the world. “There’s no doubt that we lack good animation studios here and one reason is because it’s always an expensive business to be in. There are few good companies that do work on original content and a lot is changing rapidly now with the advent of streaming platforms. There are studios that are beginning to hire animators in volumes. We have the passion here and now the companies are also realising but we still have a lot of catching up to do,” he said, summing his thoughts on the industry in the region right now.