This week we highlight some of the Arab world’s most creative and inspired animation startups. These artists are bringing new series, short stories, and powerful superheroes to life. The traction of these animators highlights a strengthening animation ecosystem in the Arab world that is encouraging new illustrators, designers, and producers to turn creative ideas into original Arabic content and entertainment.
Check out some of the below animations and let us know in the comments section if there are other MENA animators that you enjoy. The startups are listed alphabetically.
Caricaturist Abdulaziz Muzaini is developing his own animations after working as a newspaper cartoonist in Saudi Arabia. His goofy and simple animation style brings life to relatable characters facing everyday challenges. Muzaini's animation also deals with political subjects in the region, satirizing political figures and issues throughout MENA. His 2D animation presents caricatures of his subjects, exaggerating facial features and behavior to present a pointed message. Muzaini has since co-founded Fanar Productions to take animation one step further, focusing on local Emirati characters.
Jordan-based Crazy Piranha is developing some intense and sometimes shocking cartoon animation that stands apart from many of the other animation studios we are highlighting. Their blood-spattered website offers several short videos premised on taboo topics and downright strange characters. The animations are well-done, showing every gruesome detail, and the heavy metal music accompanying some of their work highlights their artistic originality. Despite their usual motif, they do occasionally release some cuter animations. With clients from Comedy Central to MTV, Crazy Piranha is making a name for itself on the world stage.
Curl Stone Studios, founded by Jordanian entrepreneur Fadi Barghouti in 2009, develops original content for TV networks, web portals, telecom operators, and game studios. Incubated by Oasis500 and supported by Endeavor Jordan, Curl Stone is addressing a lack of Arabic content in the cartoon animation space. They started with a creative short movie with a clear environmental message and are moving into the television space to increase the exposure of their cartoons, especially Jordanian superhero Nashmi Man. Curl Stone hopes to spread their reach across the globe and enhance the image of creativity and media in the region.
4) David Habchy
Using several mediums for artistic expression in Lebanon, David Habchy has demonstrated his skill as an illustrator and animator, creating very unique and thoughtful stop motion animations. By designing characters out of physical material and stringing together a series of images, Habchy’s stop motion animation tell stories with a captivating and unique tone. Habchy’s work has been featured in commercials and in his clients’ advertisements. His blog, Klekeesh, showcases the art mediums with which he works, from photography to sketched illustrations and animations.
Kharabeesh, which means doodles in Arabic, is aptly named to describe the feel of this Jordanian animation studio’s creative Arabic-language cartoons, music videos, and talk shows. The content mostly focuses on political issues in the Arab world, with their most popular videos, of between 2-4 million views, focusing on Moammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak in the wake of the Arab Spring. Co-founded in 2008 by Wael Attili, Mohammad Asfour and Firas Al Ataybi, Kharabeesh’s satirical animation is dealing with modern events in a fresh, witty, and entertaining way.
UAE-based Lammtara Studio was founded by Mohammed Saeed Harib in 2005. Their major project, FREEJ, first appeared on Emirati television in 2006. The brand follows four old women characters who face life within a city expanding around them. After gaining several high profile partners and a strong development team, the cartoon show quickly became a national hit. The Lammtara team aims to be more than just a cartoon show, they aim to create a household brand.
Saudi animation studio Nejercom is producing Mesameer, a sarcastic and witty 2D animated series with a simple design that comedically highlights challenges in daily life. Started in 2011, the 24-episode series' is supported by Saudi marketing firm AD. The series has been very popular throughout Saudi Arabia, many episodes garnering several million views on their YouTube channel.
Founded in 2007 by Zaidoun Karadsheh and Tamer Qarrain alongside Media Plus, Jordan-based Sketch in Motion (SIM) has developed several cartoon series focusing on local stories, many appearing on Jordanian television. After introducing previous animations centered around telling funny family stories, health and diabetes awareness, and Palestinian pride, SIM built a Bedouin-oriented cartoon series, Al Masageel, which aired on MBC during Ramadan in 2011, to reflect the realities of Bedouin life today through sarcastic comedy. From storyboards to final product, Sketch in Motion does their entire production in house.
Teshkeel Media’s series, The 99, showcases ninety-nine different superheroes referencing Islamic culture and society to express universal values in their struggle against evil. Naif Al Mutawa of Kuwait, creator of the comic book and animated series, has worked with Teshkeel Media Group to expand his brand around the world. The story has been controversial in different markets, but its message has generally been well-received around the globe. The series is currently available in English and Arabic, with several other languages in development.
10) Tunis 2050
Tunis 2050’s stylish 3D animation delves into the lives of a normal family living in Tunisia in the year 2050. Their captivating website transports you into the world of their characters, featuring an interactive city, talking characters, and a helpful robot tour guide. The series, inspired by popular series The Simpsons, presents relatable and comedic characters facing daily challenges in a fictional Tunisia. Created by Tunisian Riadh Ghariani and his team out of design studio CGS, Tunis 2050 has aired on television during Ramadan 2011 across North Africa on Hannibal TV and is also showcased for free online.