Dubai-based SpaceToon Media Group has announced plans to set up an animation production facility and related teaching academy in Dubai Studio City (DSC). The media house, which has offices in several parts of the Middle East and North African region dealing with TV, radio and licensing of media products, has leased 57,861 sq. ft. in DSC to build the Spacetoon Academy, a studio and offices. The facility is tentatively scheduled for completion in mid-2009 and a budget of US $10 million has already been allocated for the project.
"We have tied up with a Canadian animation school called da Vinci to bring this Academy to the UAE and we will have several Canadian instructors here as well," commented Fayez Sabbagh, president and CEO of SpaceToon Media Group. "Once the facility is ready, we hope to offer several short- and long-term courses in 2D and 3D animation, film production and the media business as a whole. Those with talent will have the opportunity to pursue a career with us as we have offices across the whole of the MENA region including Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Jeddah, Lebanon, Dubai etc. Our move to Dubai Studio City will also give us a much larger opportunity for commercial and social growth."
Sabbagh also stated that Spacetoon was better placed than most other regional companies to produce a cartoon series and intended to produce them for international audiences. "It's often difficult for small companies here to produce an Arabic animation series because on an average, a small number of episodes could cost them as much as $120,000. We, however, have diverse media interests and will be able to invest in a series like this. We are also ready to do Arabic cartoons but we have to characterise them well for international viewers. We can't just do a traditional Arabic story; it must have an international charactertistic," he stated.
Speaking about Spacetoon's expansion plans to Studio City, Jamal Al Sharif, director of the Dubai's new production hub, said: "The arrival of SpaceToon at Dubai Studio City adds a fresh dimension to the bouquet of production entities present in the cluster. SpaceToon's plans to combine education and entertainment components will add high value to the niche regional programming for children."
Al Sharif added that Studio City would extend all the help necessary to help grow the local animation industry. "We are not just here to build the infrastructure and provide the real estate for production houses. We want to be directly involved in developing a new generation of talent in this region, and, to this effect, we will also conduct related workshops and activities that will help boost the animation industry. We have already seen how cartoons on the Samurai and Ninjas have been accepted worldwide although they come from a specific culture and we are sure Arab animation can also find international appeal if produced well."
Spacetoon's Sabbagh added that children will also have the opportunity to tour the company's new building at DSC and experience first-hand the step-by-step creation of animations.
In the meantime, SpaceToon is expanding to new markets with a Hindi-language channel, which is scheduled to launch early next year. This will be followed by three additional channels in Farsi, Russian and Turkish. SpaceToon aims to launch channels in 10 languages by 2010.