x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

UAE studio aims to make cartoon blockbuster

The next children's cartoon blockbuster could be created in the UAE, if an ambitious team of animators has its way.

DUBAI // The next children's cartoon blockbuster could be created in the UAE, if an ambitious team of animators has its way.

Blink Studios see no reason why the next SpongeBob SquarePants or Ben 10 cannot come from the Middle East.

The team has created, written and produced animated cartoons since being launched in 2005.

They hope to appeal to young audiences not only in the UAE, but around the world.

The studio is part of Twofour54, Abu Dhabi's media zone, which supports local creators and artists.

Blink is promoting its Arab roots with two new projects. The first, called Pearl Hunters, is inspired by the nation's pearl-diving history.

The action-adventure story follows a team of superheroes who draw their powers from mystical pearls, set against a backdrop that the keen eye might recognise as Dubai, albeit underwater.

The company is pitching the programme international channels including Cartoon Network Arabia, Al Jazeera and MBC3.

Another major project for the team is JO-HA, which is largely based on Arabic folklore.

"There is no greater power than that of media to change perception and to exhibit values that Arabs carry," said Nathalie Habib, Blink Studios' executive producer and general manager.

"The strongest medium is content that can be watched, enjoyed and yet portray how great, wonderful and rich in values the Arab world truly is."

It is a message shared by Twofour54's chief executive, Noura Al Kaabi, who travelled to Washington last week to highlight the importance of Arabic media to US government officials and industry representatives.

Blink's projects sound fun, but it is difficult to convince financial backers that a cartoon about superheroes and talking animals is a worthwhile investment.

"Investors, broadcasters and influential media figures have yet to recognise and understand the financial returns that animation can bring back," Ms Habib said.

"We spend the majority of our time in Blink educating, explaining and proving to such people how the numbers work and hopefully we are closer to making a change of ideology on this level."

Blink is also looking to broaden its horizons and is working to break into the feature film market, with a major announcement expected in coming weeks.

A major past success for Blink was Driver Dan's Story Train, co-produced with the UK-based 3Line Media.

The programme was first broadcast in English on Britain's CBeebies channel in January 2010 and in Arabic, under the title Captain Karim, on Baraem.

ksinclair@thenational.ae