Sharjah Animation Conference concludes

Sharjah Animation Conference concludes, igniting passion for Arab animation on a global scale with over 5,000 visitors and 1,500 participants

The inaugural edition organised by the Sharjah Book Authority, hosted Emmy and Annie award winning industry leaders known for Oscar-winning productions

  • Facilitated 150 meetings between publishers and producers to develop the publishing and animation industry.
  • Sandro Cleuzo and John Nevarez shared more than 3-decades of experience with participants
  • Takahiro Yoshimatsu explored the creative process behind innovative anime projects
  • Mario Brioschi revealed his techniques for stunning visual effects in the House of Dragon TV series.
  • Mahmoud Hemeda, Founder of Samaka Studio, emphasised authenticity’s role in changing the region’s animation scene.
  • Meena Ibrahim discussed the role of animation and visual effects in feature films
  • Magical performances by the Florence Pops Orchestra

Sharjah, May 07, 2023

In a veritable feast for the senses, the inaugural edition of the Sharjah Animation Conference (SAC) has come to a close, after three exhilarating days that drew over 5,000 attendees from across the globe. This groundbreaking event, the first of its kind in the Middle East, treated its 1,500 animation aficionados, hobbyists, and industry professionals to an authentic and inspiring smorgasbord of masterclasses, workshops, and spirited discussions helmed by the likes of Emmy, and Annie award-winning experts known for their Oscar winning productions.

Organised and curated by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), the conference served as a dynamic platform for 150 publishers and producers in the animation industry to forge lasting connections and exchange ideas. With a rich tapestry of informative sessions and invaluable networking opportunities, the SAC has firmly established itself as a cultural touchstone for the animation community in the region and beyond.

Khoula Al Mujaini: The conference embodies Sharjah’s vision for developing creative industries.

According to Khoula Al Mujaini, Executive Director of SAC, “The Sharjah Book Authority has orchestrated a pioneering event that aligns seamlessly with the visionary objectives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and reflects the emirate’s unwavering dedication to advancing the publishing and animation sectors in the Middle East. By leveraging this landmark gathering, we aspire to pave the way for Arab creative industries, invigorating Sharjah’s unique identity and culture, spurring a wave of exceptional animated productions based on Arabic literary works. Through cultivating the next generation of Arab artists, illustrators, and content creators we aim to showcase the richness of the region’s literary traditions to global audiences while bolstering the pride of our culture within our own people.”

Expanding on the conference’s role as a catalyst for publishers, producers, and industry specialists from around the world to form strategic partnerships and co-create animated films based on Arabic literary works, the Executive Director stated, “Building on the success of our debut event, SAC will contribute significantly to the evolution of the global animation landscape enabling meaningful content that articulates our unique identity and culture, underscoring the conference’s potential to drive transformative change in the animation industry.”

Pietro Pinetti: The SBA has emerged as a trailblazer in the region’s animation ecosystem

Pietro Pinetti, the Artistic Director of SAC, underscored the immense potential of animation in the Arab region and the pivotal role that the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) plays in driving its growth. “Animation is a powerful medium that can transcend cultural and linguistic barriers, and the Arab region is home to a wealth of untapped stories and artistic talent that are ripe for animation adaptation,” he notes. Pinetti goes on to highlight the SBA’s unwavering commitment to nurturing the animation industry in Sharjah and beyond, citing the Sharjah Animation Conference as a prime example of its efforts to connect industry stakeholders and cultivate the next generation of animators, illustrators, and content creators in the Arab world. “The SBA has emerged as a trailblazer in the region’s animation ecosystem, and its strategic vision and collaborative spirit bode well for the future of animation, not only locally but globally too,” he concluded.

Talents unearthed and skills honed

For a spellbinding three days, conference attendees were treated to a masterclass in the art of animation, as they journeyed alongside a coterie of illustrious industry experts who regaled them with their remarkable stories of grit, perseverance, and triumph. Hailing from diverse corners of the globe, these luminaries brought decades of experience and hard-won expertise to the fore, leaving no stone unturned as they shared invaluable insights into the basics, tools, and techniques of animation production. With representatives from countries as far-flung as Japan, the UK, Italy, Brazil, and the US, this remarkable gathering was truly a melting pot of cultures and creative visions, each one united by their passion for the transformative power of animation.

150 meetings between global production companies and local and regional publishers

SAC, which was organised in partnership with Italy’s Bergamo Animation Days (BAD) festival, delivered an unforgettable experience that celebrated the boundless potential of animation in the Middle East and beyond. With 150 dynamic meetings that linked global production companies with an array of local and regional publishers, this historic gathering paved the way for fruitful collaborations and strategic partnerships aimed at breathing new life into the animation industry in the Arab world. At the core of this endeavour was a shared commitment to transforming literary works into visually stunning films and TV series that showcase the richness and diversity of the Arab world to a global audience.

Comprehensive and packed agenda

At the Sharjah Animation Conference, participants were afforded a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rub shoulders with the luminaries of the animation world, as they soaked up the invaluable insights and experience of industry giants from across the globe.

Among the highlights of this extraordinary gathering were the sage words of John Nevarez, a renowned figure in the animation industry known for his work on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Astro Boy, and The Emoji Movie and contributor to the Oscar-winning animated film “Coco”; Sandro Cleuzo, an Annie Award-winning 2D animator and character designer, known for such works as Mary Poppins Returns; Takahiro Yoshimatsu, widely considered one of the best anime directors in the world, most famously known for Dragon Ball Z, Overlord, Vampire Hunter D, and Hunter X Hunter; Oli Hyatt, the founder and MD of the BAFTA-winning production house, Blue Zoo; Emmy award-winner, Mario Brioschi, compositor and VFX supervisor for blockbuster hits such as Avengers: Infinity Wars, Wonder Woman and Star Trek: Beyond; and Mamoru Yokota, world-famous character designer and animation director for Death Note, and Naruto Shippuden.

Participants were also able to enjoy truly magical performances by the Florence Pops Orchestra as they recited renditions of musical scores from some of the most memorable animated feature films such as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Pixar’s Toy Story and Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke to name a few.

Ten workshops, six master classes

The SAC’s immersive workshops and bespoke courses were meticulously crafted to elevate the proficiency of more than 1,500 participants, spanning an array of creative domains. Attendees gained invaluable insights into diverse artistic elements, ranging from fundamental drawing techniques to advanced 2D and 3D animation. The event also delved into the intricacies of character design principles and techniques, from constructing characters to mastering their physical dimensions, facial expressions, and movements. Further expertise was shared on storyboarding, visual effects, and digital illustration, as well as the vital skills of crafting a compelling resume and cover letter to attract industry recruiters. The conference’s comprehensive curriculum offered an enriching educational experience to aspiring animators and professionals alike and will surely go on to do great things in the years to come.


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