In an industry-building effort for Saudi Arabia, new Saudi animation studio Manga Productions has teamed up with Japan’s Toei Animation on a $10 million to $15 million animation feature titled “The Journey,” an epic based on Saudi folklore to be directed by Shizuno Kobun, whose credits include “Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle.”
Manga and Toei will collaborate on the pre-production and creation of story and the character design with Japanese and Saudi artists working together, they said in a joint statement.
The co-production stems from a pact between the two companies made in November 2017, one month before Saudi Arabia lifted its 35-year ban on cinemas.
“‘The Journey’ is a milestone project for Manga,” said Manga Productions CEO Bukhary Essam, who is at Cannes with members of the Manga creative team.
“What we are doing here with ‘The Journey’ is representative of our larger role in creating an ecosystem throughout Saudi Arabia and the Arab world in which young talents are given opportunities and are supported, and high-quality work representing our culture is produced,” he added.
Toei Animation managing director Shinji Shimizu said it was “a great honor to cooperate in making Saudi Arabia’s very first animation film based on the history and culture of ancient Arabia.”
Tetsuro Iwamoto, whose credits include the “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney” video game, is the project’s lead character designer, and Japanese composer Kaoru Wada is also attached.
Animation work will be done in Japan and Saudi Arabia. Manga has two branches – one in Riyadh and another in Tokyo – and both will have teams working on this project with the Toei team.
Manga is fully financing the relatively low-budget project, which will be its biggest-budget project to date. They are holding onto worldwide distribution rights.