Driven by local animation growth and a desire to teach kids around the world about Arab culture, Beirut-based animation house WeZank is on the hunt for co-pro partners to bring its first TV concepts to market.
The studio was founded in 2013, and started out making animated corporate videos. But seeing a gap in the market for content that teaches children Arabic or highlights Lebanese culture, WeZank decided to expand into original kids animation, says co-founder Maya Zankoul.
The small six-person team’s first project was the Arabic and Lebanese educational kids YouTube channel Lila TV, which launched in 2017 and now has over 400,000 subscribers. The studio’s next goal is to expanding its catalogue with longer-form programming.
To that end, WeZank has created Zaya, a 2D-animated series for six- to 11-year-olds about a child scientist in Dubai who fixes her parents’ wacky inventions with the help of her robot bestie. The 26 x 11-minute toon will be be set against animated backdrops of real Dubai locations, and its design and characters will closely reflect what you may see on the streets of the United Arab Emirates city, says Zankoul.
WeZank is also working on Micros (pictured), a 2D-animated series about a family of microorganisms seeking out new adventures and working together to solve problems. The 52 x five-minuter targets preschoolers, and will feature some basic Arabic language education, such as counting and color identification.
The studio has bibles available for both projects, and is now seeking broadcasters, financing and co-producers.
Zankoul is driven by a desire to create content that reflects the experience of growing up in the Middle East—which is rarely explored by the local broadcasters, which she says largely air international content. Through its Iniminisini kids content unit, WeZank’s aim is to infuse its shows with little details (backgrounds, building design, characters’ clothing, etc.) that show what daily life in the region is like.
“We want to connect kids with the Arab culture, which is being erased,” says Zankoul. “The industry here is growing, but we haven’t had a big success story yet. We want to be that first success by teaching children here, and abroad, about the region and its people.” UNICEF estimates that there will be 271 million children living in the MENA region by the middle of the century.
Zankoul also sees this as a great time to jump into kids content, given that the local animation industry is growing, with more students graduating and entering the workforce and more local studios popping up. According to business trend tracker Research and Markets, this expansion is being driven by greater government support for education and new business programs in the animation sector.
MENA prodcos that have lined up new kids projects recently include Dubai’s Blink Studios, The Hive in Tel Aviv, and free-to-air channel Spacetoon, which is partnering with YouTube’s The Moshaya Family.