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RIYADH: It all started with a dream and now Manga Productions has its first animated film, ‘The Journey’, which premiered in 2021, and is working on the second season of Future’s Folktales, and a mobile game due out this year.

Speaking on The Mayman Show, Dr Essam Bukhary, CEO of the company, an affiliate of the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, or Misk, said he has fond memories of how it all started.

It was in 2017, the year the company was founded, that the company decided to speak with a leading Japanese counterpart.

“So the first step was to negotiate with Toei Animation, convince them (of) the idea. They liked it. They accepted the offer. But we had an important condition in the contract. What offers internship opportunities to Saudi talent,” Bukhary explained.

Initially, a competition was held in the Arab world to determine which project to support.

The company met in Riyad with Shimizu Shinji, a former Toei Animation board member who became the executive producer of “The Journey.”

After this meeting, Manga Productions started hiring the first group of Saudi artists to work on the project.

The students were sent to become interns in Japan for two months. “After that, we hired them to start working hand in hand with our Japanese partners.

“In 2017, we signed the contract with Toei Animation during the Misk Global Forum to officially launch the production of ‘The Journey’ movie,” Bukhary said.

Boukhary said the “high quality” film was made in Saudi Arabia and demonstrated the talent and commitment of young artists.

He recalled how Manga Productions sent 1,300 reshoots to Toei Animation, leading one board member to praise the team for producing such quality that “we don’t even think about it in Japan”.

He said the film was an amazing experience as it was a collaboration involving two companies with totally different cultures, languages, artistic styles and even ages. “Toei Animation’s experts were in their 50s and 60s while the Manga Productions team were in their 20s and early 30s,” he explained.

The plot of the film revolves around a man trying to defend his city, Makkah, against a huge army. The hero has a dark past but uses his skills to overcome his opponents.

Manga Productions focuses on animation, video games and comics. They have two offices, in Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Bukhary is also the editor of Manga Arabia and holds a PhD in technology and innovation management. He is also co-chairman of the executive committee of the Mohammed bin Salman Center for Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo.

About Sandra A. Powell

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