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Sharjah Animation Conference explores cross-cultural collaboration opportunities, highlights new prospects for the Middle East

Sharjah Animation Conference explores cross-cultural collaboration opportunities, highlights new prospects for the Middle East
5 May 2024 22:26


A stimulating dialogue among broadcasters, producers, and distributors explored opportunities for collaboration across different cultures in the animation industry, with a specific focus on the prospects for Middle Eastern animation at the Sharjah Animation Conference (SAC), happening at Expo Centre Sharjah until May 5.

Titled “Cross-cultural collaboration: Shaping the future of Middle-Eastern animation,” the panel discussion brought together the representatives of Rai Kids, Spacetoon, Banijay Kids & Family, and Hasbro.

Panelists shared their experiences and visions, discussing the challenges and opportunities in working together to develop and distribute animated content that reflects the diversity and cultural identity of the region.

President of Hasbro Entertainment, Olivier Dumont, which has created multi-platform adaptations of the company’s priority brands such as Peppa Pig and My Little Pony, underlined that “it is in our DNA to co-produce in the world of animation”.

He observed that everything they do in content needs to have a licensing and merchandising programme around it.

They use data and insights in different ways; for digital content like YouTube series they use data a lot to look at the performance of the content while for linear content they use insights and research so that they are able to test things as they develop a project – the concept, the characters etc – and it helps not to make big mistakes, he explained.

“If the character is not resonating with the audience, we better know early on rather than after spending $10 million producing a season,” he said.

He added that Peppa Pig is very successful with preschoolers because she gives them the confidence to take risks, to express their opinions, to be strong and is therefore an aspirational character.

CEO of Banijay Kids & Family, Benoit Di Sabatino, who has over 30 years of experience in the children’s entertainment industry and was behind successful projects like Casper and Yellow Yeti, noted that coproduction is an interesting way to approach different cultures.

“For me cultural appropriation is very important. Now that the culture is global, our responsibility as producers is to ensure that we are not speaking for others.”

He said it was important to remember that AI is a tool for creators and not for creations, and at Banijay which believes in 120 percent of being creation and creators, they aim to respect that.

Manager at RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, Luca Milano, said that for animation there is great space for co-production as the language and interests of kids are similar than in other genres.

We want to create a line of communication, collaboration and distribution directly with the public and locally with schools and other institutions working for kids, he added.

“What we think is important is to keep a plurality of production and after the arrival of platforms like Netflix, there is a more decentralised way of production now.”

Senior Advisor and Executive Fellow of Kadokawa and Vice President of the Anime Tourism Association of Japan, Shinichiro Inoue, remembered how in 1976 the publishing company Kadokawa became involved in the adaptation of a mystery novel into a live action movie.

Since then, the company has seen many co-productions in Japan and internationally; it adapts many manga and other light novels.

“Anime has become more popular abroad and so there is an increase in collaborations," he added.

"The charm of anime is that you can’t say what nationality the characters are,” he said. The decline in the labour force in Japan has meant more international collaborations.

The Director of Strategy Business Development Business & Content Director, Spacetoon, Kamel Weiss, pointed out that they were always looking for different partners to co-produce with.

He pointed out: “As a broadcaster, we produce a lot of content with a lot of acquisition but in a way we can maintain the sustainability of production.”

He added that when they bring shows from outside the region, they try to culturalise or bring a cultural sensitivity into it to make it relevant. For instance, songs are very important in the Middle Eastern region.

"The narrative is changing in the kids’ industry, he noted. Hence Spacetoon tries to put messages relating to family values, loving one’s family and also 21st century skills that are not taught in schools in its shows."

Organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), SAC has emerged as a pioneering platform in the UAE and the world for animation enthusiasts, providing a platform for industry luminaries, aspiring artists, and creatives to converge, exchange ideas, and create meaningful connections.

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