Arab Avengers? UAE studio eyes superhero animation market
The Al Ahli Holding Group has already been involved in Marvel's Iron Man franchise. (Wikimedia Commons)
Having done superhero movie merchandising and gotten into publishing comic books in Arabic, the Al Ahli Holding Group is going for the final frontier — developing broadcast-ready animation for a global audience. The options include a possible “reviving” of a superhero character that has not yet been adapted for the big or small screens, as well as build stories around mythic characters from within the region.
“There’s still a lot of space available yet to make a mark in the superhero space,” said Mohammad Nasser Khammas, CEO. “One of the characters we are looking at has been dormant for 40 years and we believe it could be a good time to create fresh stories around it. People always crave a good storyline.
“One should not forget that Marvel (Comics) not too long ago was on the verge of going broke — the turnaround happened from just the one movie, Iron Man (released in 2008). And then came its acquisition by Disney for $4 billion [Dh14.7 billion] and what happened next we all know about.
“As for creating animation series featuring characters from within this region, it has been done in the past. But those stories or histories can be recreated with newer stories and aimed at a new generation of audiences.
“And we are not talking just about a regional audiences — they can have an international play.”
An Al Ahli Group-owned studio, Legends based in Abu Dhabi, has been working to bring these ideas from the drawing board into commercially viable ventures. According to Khammas, the project could come to fruition in the next 12 to 18 months. “There has to be a long gestation period to come up with something that work internationally. We are working closely with the owner of the intellectual property to recreate that vision.”
Superhero territory is not something new for the group. It has had an association with Marvel since 2006 and that meant an involvement on the first of the Iron Man franchises. In fact, Khammas has Tony Stark’s, Iron Man’s alter ego, ‘iron’ heart from the movie as part of his collection.
Another entity which was into online games development was acquired by Disney in March 2013. More recently, there was the launch of the Iron Man collectibles conceptualised and made by Comicave Studios, the group’s Singapore-based subsidiary, at the Los Angeles premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron. A Comicave retail outlet is located at the group-owned Dubai Outlet Mall.
Having created a universe of aligned interests, could theme parks be the next step? Khammas does not believe it is. “There is a Marvel-inspired theme park being built by another developer in Dubai,” said Khammas. “We have always taken a holistic approach in the spaces we want to be in, such as licensing, publishing, distribution and content creation.
“There have been projects where we have been partners, but kept to the background. In time, we may take on a more direct role in such projects when we feel it will pay off.”
By Manoj Nair
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