Saladin, a 12th century Middle Eastern hero who ruled over Egypt, Syria, Meospotamia, Hejaz and Yemen, and was widely admired for his chivalrous behavior towards followers of all religious faiths, is ready to make a comeback on the international animation scene.
The new 26 x 26 co-production between MDeC (Malaysia) and Al Jazeera Children’s Channel (JCC) takes a fictitious look at the life and times of this historic figure and finds the swash-buckling hero as an 18-year-old, ready to take on the world along with his best friend Tarik. We interviewed Mohd Sharain Jamaluddin, the show’s production manager, in conjunction with Saladin’s debut at the MIPCOM market in October:
Animag: Can you provide us with a little bit of background on the show’s development history?
Jamaluddin: The original idea started as early as 2001 and evolved right up until we created a movie trailer in 2006. The trailer brought Al Jazeera Children’s Channel and MdeC into co-producing 26 episodes of Saladin -The Animated Series in November 12, 2007; the real production work started in 2008.
Who are the producing entities?
Jamaluddin: Pre-Production ‘ by MDEC
Production ‘ Young Jump Animation
Audio ‘ Elemental Ventures
Funding ‘ 50-50 between MDEC & JCC
Where is the animation done? What is the estimated cost per episode?
Jamaluddin: The animation is done in Malaysia by Malaysian studios.
What technologies do you use to create the animation?
Jamaluddin: We adopt the VICON MOCAP for motion and MAYA for 3D modeling, animation and rendering.
What are the challenges of creating an animated Middle Eastern historic hero?
Jamaluddin: We were involved in a few rounds of research where historians, scholars, designers and scriptwriters met regularly to come up with something in context with the past, consider possible sensitive issues and to add some commercial values in the series.
What kind of feedback have you received from buyers so far?
Jamaluddin: The majority of buyers have responded positively to Saladin due to its uniqueness in terms of art direction, storyline and concept, where a medieval hero is situated in a modern story-telling approach utilizing the latest in 3D animation technique.
Have you received any negative input because the character is a Muslim fighter?
Jamaluddin: Saladin is not a fighter, he’s a liberator for all the people of Jerusalem; Muslims, Christians and Jews. So far we have received positive feedback due to the fact that Saladin is a well known figure who has been well received in the East and West then and now.
Is the show currently airing in any of the territories?
Jamaluddin: Saladin has made its mark in 22 Middle East countries through our partner, Al Jazeera Children’s Channel since September 2010.
How long does it take to produce each episode? How many people work on each show?
Jamaluddin: Due to heavy pre-production and production mobilization work, we started a bit slow in the beginning. The production is now moving at a rate of one episode per month pace. We currently have 50-plus people in the 3D Production, 20-plus in Pre-Production and ten-plus on the audio (this doesn’t include the 30 plus voice over artistes).
How much of the production cost is supported by the Malaysian government?
Jamaluddin: The Malaysian government supported 50% of the entire production cost.
What do you think sets the series apart from other similar fare on the market right now?
Jamaluddin: Even though Saladin – The Animated Series is an action packed series, it instills kindness, comedy and a touch of romance. It brings the beauty and ambience of the medieval period to today’s audience.
You can view a clip of the series here: