x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

There's more to Mansour than meets the eye

Mansour isn't just a cute animation - it's also a subtle attempt to engage young Emiratis with the challenges the country faces.

The team behind Mansour. Courtesy Edelman PR
The team behind Mansour. Courtesy Edelman PR

As cartoons about Emirati life go, Mansour is on the more earnest end of the scale. This new 13-episode series of 11-minute cartoons is removed from the irreverent madness of Shaabiyat Al Cartoon, or the hand-wringing of the four old women from Freej.

Instead, Mansour follows the antics of a 10-year-old science buff from Abu Dhabi as he grapples with issues becoming ever more pertinent to life in the UAE.

Sounds dry? Although each of the 13 episodes in a season will have "an indirect message and moral", according to Rashed Al Harmoodi, the creator of the bright-eyed title character, a mix of good writers and top-flight animation has turned out an exciting and engaging cartoon.

Produced by the UAE-based Fanar Productions and funded by Mubadala Development Company, Mansour's 3D visuals look polished and show off a quality of animation rarely brought to the small screen.

The story

Mansour dreams of being an aeronautical engineer and this urge gets him and his chums (wild-eyed Salem and portly Obaid) into all manner of high-tech high jinks. Mansour has somehow managed to build a robot called Nano, who rattles around on screen, and his grandfather is always on hand to offer sage advice learnt from his life as a pearl diver. As if things couldn't get any more wholesome, Mansour's father is a pilot while his mother Mariam "believes in the important role women play in building the country's future". Ren and Stimpy this is not.

Who Mansour is aimed at

Getting through to "the second generation" of Emiratis - particularly those between the ages of five and 12 - is at the root of Mansour: "We believe that the best way to talk to a child is through what he or she is interested in and cartoon is the best tool for this," Al Harmoodi explains. The cartoon not only emphasises the importance of the Arabic language to Emirati culture, he tells us, but also the value of a healthy lifestyle.

Primarily, the cartoon subtly nods to the jobs and fields that will become increasingly important to the Emirati workforce over the next decade: "The UAE is diversifying away from oil and gas, and there are more industries being created such as aerospace, high tech industries and satellite industries," says Al Harmoodi.

"In 10 to 15 years the UAE will require nationals to lead those opportunities, and they will need to be equipped with the right qualifications. We'd like to make the majors for those fields attractive to the next generation." Hence Mansour's love of all things high-tech and his aeronautical dreams.

With all this message and meaning, is this still going to be lively?

Judging from the trailer (www.mansourcartoon.ae), Mansour retains a slapstick air, in-jokes and action-packed storylines about air races and F1. The team has brought in several writers from Shaabiyat Al Cartoon, which should keep this snappy and very local in its humour.

How it looks

Mansour raises the bar in visuals for home-grown animation. "I think this not only stands out in the UAE but worldwide because I've not seen anything [on TV] with the consistent quality of animation than what we're achieving here," says Stu Gamble, the producer and studio director of Fanar Productions. "It's got feature-film quality acting and a final render that looks lovely.

"We're going for big, epic environments and not the small interior environments found in much TV animation," he continues. "I honestly believe that this show is good enough to be entered into animation festivals around the world."

When you can catch it

Al Harmoodi says that Mansour is currently in negotiations for release on local TV stations and should be on screens by September.