US/Arab companies partner to produce children's programme

Jordan animation company Rubicon has partnered with two American companies to produce a 13-episode children's programme that is aimed at addressing the cultural void between the United States and the Arab world.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  November 16, 2003

Jordan-based Rubicon has partnered with US companies Layalina Productions, Inc. and Fat Rock Entertainment to co-produce a thirteen-episode children's series aimed at addressing the cultural void between the United States and the Arab world. Although the distribution will principally be for the global DVD market, the production will also air on satellite and television broadcast networks in the Middle East and in the United States.

The series will follow the adventures of two young boys, one Arab and one American. The boys meet in Amman, Jordan, where their respective grandfathers, who are life-long friends, work on a massive archeology excavation project. There, the boys become friends, and through their adventures unearth an ancient treasure room containing a time travel mechanism that takes the boys back to great historical moments in the Middle East and the United States. This enables the boys to discover the similarities in the values and cultural developments shared by both cultures today.

"This production, titled Ben & Izzy, is the first step in helping children from both cultures discover and appreciate the deep and rich history and shared values from each others' past," comments Richard Fairbanks, chairman of Layalina Productions, Inc, which will assist in the financing and distribution of the production. Layalina was created in 2002 as a non-profit TV production corporation to produce and license Arabic-language programming for the Middle East. "What attracted us to the project in the beginning was the unique format of using a children's adventure story to explore the cultural differences and similarities in the two boys' upbringing. We are excited to be launching Layalina with this exciting co-production project," Fairbanks adds.

Amman-based Rubicon will be the principal animation studio and production company for Ben & Izzy. "This project is the culmination of a lot of creative cooperation and hard work by the staff at Rubicon and our partners in the US," explains Randa Ayoubi, CEO and founder of Rubicon. The Jordanian company is also a shareholder in Fat Rock Entertainment. "Rubicon has been working to create a project we could co-produce and that would both educate and entertain a worldwide children's audience. Our state-of-the-art production facility in Amman was built for just this kind of production," adds Ayoubi.

Rubicon and its investment partners, along with Layalina, have joined together to contribute and raise the production budget for the thirteen episode project estimated at US$5,000,000. The agreement and the financing business strategy for the project was put together by Baman Rusby of Atoka International in Washington, DC.

The parties plan to announce shortly the entire creative team that will produce the series. The team will be led by animation producer David Pritchard of The Simpsons fame, SD Entertainment headed by animation director Paul Sabella, former president of Hanna Barberra and MGM animation, and animation producer Jonathan Dern , formerly of DIC and MGM animation. Writing teams and animation teams selected from both the Arab and American creative communities will soon join these executives.

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