UAE 3D animated series “FREEJ” by Emirati creator Mohammed Saeed Harib is set to be dubbed in Japanese and broadcast throughout Japan next year, becoming the first solely-Arab produced animated TV content to be exported beyond the Middle East.
Harib’s Dubai-based Lammtara Art Production has licensed the series to the Tokyo MX television channel, where it will air weekly with a reach of up to 15 million households. Abu Dhabi based licensing consultant Makiko Oi Allum, currently establishing a company at TwoFour54, facilitated the project.
The popular “FREEJ” series, which debuted on UAE screens in 2007, follows the stories of four elderly Emirati women living in a secluded neighborhood in modern day Dubai. The women live a peaceful life in the midst of the ever-expanding city around them, but the city’s boom unveils new social issues every day that they tackle and solve in their own simple and humorous way.
Tying in with the premiere date will be the launch of “FREEJ” themed ‘stickers’ within the popular messaging app Line, which has over 50 million users within Japan alone. Hundreds of millions of stickers are sent within the app each day, and are used evocatively in a similar way to emojis. Additionally, a dedicated Japanese website for the series has been developed at www.freej.jp
In a casting coup, Japanese actress Atsuko Takahata heads the Japanese-language voice-over cast, voicing the character of Umm Saeed. Ms. Takahata is known for a successful body of film roles along with voicing iconic anime characters. Her involvement will help create a buzz the Japanese debut of “FREEJ” on screens in Tokyo and beyond.
Atsuko Takahata said in a statement: “What makes FREEJ so interesting for Japanese viewers is that it is so different, and so unexpectedly funny. I understand this is the first 3D animation made in the UAE - the first animation for me in Japan was Astro Boy. I am very honored to be a part of this first introduction of UAE animation to Japan and I hope the show will become a huge success here.”
Mohammed Saeed Harib commented: “Like so many kids in the region I grew up watching Japanese animated series. It had a profound influence on my work, so I couldn’t be more pleased to see “FREEJ” air on Japanese screens. As the epicentre of world animation, Japanese TV is an important milestone for Arab animation and I’m proud to be sharing these characters with a new audience and showcasing Emirati culture on the world stage.”
FREEJ will premiere on Japanese television screens in 2019.