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Emirati debut animation feature seeking funds for production

Emirati director Fadel Saeed AlMuhairi.

The makers of Emirati debut animation feature Catsaway are seeking funds for production. Emirati director Fadel Saeed AlMuhairi has confirmed to BroadcastPro ME that that he is “currently looking for big sponsors who can fund the project”.

He added: “We announced the project in April-May at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair. We have received support from twofour54 that will see us through post-production. I already have two distributors for the MENA region.”

Catsaway is being produced by Tent Pictures Productions which is based in Abu Dhabi, in cooperation with Juice Studios in Poland.

The movie, which is the director’s first animated film, is about a group of cats trying to make a home in Abu Dhabi as the city evolves around them. It features traditional hand-drawn animation rather than computer-generated images.
Earlier this year, a teaser was released on twofour54’s YouTube channel, along with a 3D display at the Abu Dhabi Book Fair.

AlMuhairi stated the project will be completed only next year. “The more money that comes in, the faster we can be. Juice Studios will be able to hire more artists and save time.”

Confident of getting the required financial support, AlMuhairi said: “Feedback to our minute-and-a-half teaser was amazingly positive. We set up a 3D display at the book fair with models of the characters. A story teller then narrated the story in two minutes and what we found was the huge factor of nostalgia that drew even older persons to the story.”

Describing Abu Dhabi of 2004 as a “character in the film” AlMuhairi believes the format of classical hand-drawn animation with the digital inputs ensures that the film’s budget will be manageable, and the look of the film will appeal to a younger generation.

He elaborates: “3D was not financially practical as a first attempt at animation and any quality less than what Pixar and others produce would not appeal to audiences. A lower quality of 3D would have been dull because the story is set in alleyways and underground spaces and those details need to be vibrant, so the best way to tell the story was the hand-drawn classical style We chose Juice Studios in Poland specifically because they combine classical animation with a digital touch. This secret recipe allows us to keep the budgets manageable and the overall treatment contemporary.”

With the story inspired by a cat that wandered into his workplace, the tent outside his home in Abu Dhabi, AlMuhairy touched upon the detailed two-year process of pre-production and story development Catsaway underwent.

He recounts: “I had four screenwriters helping me including a couple of ex-Disney employees who had worked on Disney classics. We wanted to develop the screenplay and give it as much time as possible because everything else was execution. It is set in Abu Dhabi of 2004 when the Volcano feature was demolished in the Corniche. It was a milestone as we started to see changes around us. It was a turning point in all aspects, so I thought 2004 was the perfect period to start the story.”

More than 90 voice artists have auditioned for the English version.

“We had very talented persons auditioning. Initially we are producing the film in English but the good thing about animation is we can dub easily – whether in Arabic, Mandarin or any other language.”