Abu Dhabi’s media industry ecosystem brings Iftah Ya Simsim to GCC homes


03 Sep 2015

World class Arabic edutainment enabled by twofour54 campus partners

The Muppets have chosen Abu Dhabi as their Arabic home, thanks to the burgeoning media industry in Abu Dhabi. twofour54’s campus partners, led by Bidaya Media, have enabled the return of Iftah Ya Simsim, the Arabic version of children’s programme, Sesame Street, which will officially go live in GCC countries on Friday 4 September.

twofour54’s efforts over the past eight years to build a world class media industry ecosystem in the Capital have resulted in a combination of award winning production facilities, industry leading services and talented media professionals, which is increasingly being utilised for film and television projects from around the globe. In the last three years, Abu Dhabi has attracted major local, regional, and international productions including Fast & Furious 7, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Bold and the Beautiful, Top Gear, Bang Bang, Baby and Al Ikhwa.

Now Arabic children will benefit from the synergy that can be achieved between these twofour54 campus partners, through the revival of Iftah Ya Simsim. This production exemplifies Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem operating at its full potential, with the entire production – from conception and scriptwriting through to filming and post production – being executed in the Capital by twofour54-based media companies.

Noura Al Kaabi, CEO of twofour54, commented: “twofour54 is very proud to be playing a role in the return of Iftah Ya Simsim to the region. Iftah Ya Simsim is a superb example of the quality of content that can be delivered by the media ecosystem we have built, and continue to build, here in Abu Dhabi.

“Our comprehensive infrastructure of studios, post-production facilities and production services, professional local talent, and network of media companies streamlined the completion of Iftah Ya Simsim, making it possible to complete the project in just one location – Abu Dhabi.

“Muppets and children had the run of twofour5’s studios for six weeks to film the live components of the show; alumni of our own creative lab initiative worked on the script and set; and now post-production is underway at our recently refurbished post production facilities.

“The skills and services of a number of twofour54-based media companies were also critical to the success of the Iftah Ya Simsim project. As part of twofour54’s goal to develop a self-sustaining media industry, it is imperative to build a solid network of partners and a capable human capital to ensure continuous leadership and sustainability, and Iftah Ya Simsim demonstrates that we have achieved just that.”

Steve Youngwood, COO of Sesame Workshop, commented: “I would like to congratulate Bidaya, twofour54, and Blink Studios on launching the new version of Iftah Ya Simsim. We are excited about what we have accomplished so far having teamed up with Bidaya and Mubadala to make it happen. We wanted to create something that reflects the local culture and values of the region and we found that here in Abu Dhabi. twofour54 provided high quality services and facilities in addition to experienced  local talent who were able to deliver the project to the standards we were expecting and we look forward to what we can accomplish in the future.”

The project to reintroduce the Arabic version of this children’s favourite after a 25 year hiatus was led by Bidaya Media, a Mubadala sponsored company and twofour54 campus partner. Bidaya provided technical, educational and creative oversight for the programme, working closely with Sesame Street in the US to ensure the international standards for the international brand were met, and also liaising closely with ADEC to ensure scripts were in line with educational objectives.

twofour54 freelancer, Yasir Al Yasiri, was one of the studio directors on the production, while Maitha Al Khayat, an member of twofour54’s creative lab, was one of the scriptwriters. Al Yasiri’s film Murk Light won first prize in the short film narrative competition at Abu Dhabi Film Festival in 2012 and was selected for New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in 2013; Al Khayat is the well-known Emirati author of interactive digital children’s book I Love My Mom’s Pretty Veil among other titles.

Blink Studios, another twofour54 partner, produced the studio segments of the show, with Hani Kichi as main studio director, and led the post production working with a team from twofour54. Lamsa World, an Arabic digital specialist and twofour54 campus partner, has taken Iftah Ya Sim Sim beyond the television screen, creating the show’s learning materials in formats for children to easily consume such as games, apps and e-books.

Managing Director of Bidaya Media, Dr Cairo Arafat said: “Access to world class facilities and like-minded partners with whom we can collaborate are two of the advantages of being a media company at twofour54. There were key reasons why we chose to produce Iftah Ya Simsim in Abu Dhabi. All in one creative cluster, we were able to cast actors, write the scripts, film and edit the show, working with a fantastic group of bilingual freelancers and other campus partners.

She added: “There is a level of quality that we must achieve in order to use the Sesame Street franchise branding, and working with twofour54 and other campus partners, there was never any doubt in my mind that we would achieve it.”

Last Tuesday, twofour54 CEO Noura Al Kaabi, joined Director General of Abu Dhabi Education Council H.E. Dr Amal Qubaisi to officially launch the first series of the programme ahead of its return to air on 4 September.

The first season of Iftah Ya Simsim will include 28 episodes with more than 28 new and original songs, 28 live action segments, and 28 new animated stories along with the widely admired Muppets in their Iftah Ya Simsim neighbourhood.

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