In advance of Dubai International Content Market, Dubai-based North Wind Studios is promoting its new animated adventure series "Ali and the Secret Gate" inspired by Middle Eastern legends. Kristina Kleymenova, Creative Producer and Partner at the company, talked exclusively with Señal News about this Arabic story that can resonate worldwide.
Could you introduce North Wind Studios to our global readers?
"Founded in 2015 in Dubai by three international industry professionals, North Wind’s goal is not only to produce local content that stands up against the best in the world, but also to create authentic stories with global appeal. And that’s precisely what 'Ali and the Secret Gate' embodies. While it originated in the Middle East, the story will transcend borders and resonate with audiences worldwide."
North Wind Studios is currently working on a new animated story "Ali And The Secret Gate". What's the series about?
"Taking inspiration from our Middle Eastern home and our multicultural families, we set out to create a story that reflected contemporary global realities woven with elements of beloved Middle Eastern legends. It’s a story full of action, humor, and exciting characters. We see it as a new twist on a classic tale: 'The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe' but set In the Middle East. The story evolves around our hero - fourteen-year-old Ali and his multicultural friend duo, Angus (Scottish) and Shanaya (Indian). They mistakenly open a Secret Gate to a parallel world full of dark, ancient magic – a gate that had been closed for millennia, and for a good reason. Their mistake launches the trio into a thrilling journey of adventure and swashbuckling action, as they race against the evil forces they have awakened to close the gate again for good, before their own world falls under their control. Guided by a mythical falcon and with the help of his friends, Ali will battle to save the human world, as well as the parallel Garden of Eternity – a mysterious dream realm that has always haunted him."
Why this Arabic story can resonate worldwide?
"Besides the entertainment factor and captivating storytelling, 'Ali and the Secret Gate¿ can resonate worldwide for so many reasons like universal themes. The story is built around universal themes such as adventure, coming of age, friendship, and the classic battle of good versus evil. Cultural Representation: The story draws from captivating Middle Eastern legends and cultural elements, which provide a fresh and unique perspective that hasn't been widely explored in mainstream Western media. Diverse Characters: The characters in the story, including Ali and his friends, come from diverse backgrounds. This diversity mirrors the global reality of today's multicultural societies in the Middle East and beyond, making it easier for a wide range of viewers to connect with the characters. Addressing a Gap: The story aims to fill a significant gap in the representation of Arabic heroes in children's content. It offers an alternative to the limited portrayals often found in Western media, providing a more positive and inclusive image for Arab children to identify with."
What are your main challenges in the current dynamic audiovisual landscape?
"I won't sugarcoat it; there have been numerous challenges throughout the development of this project, and still are. One significant challenge we've faced is the presence of cultural factors that influence content censorship. The other is that many local broadcasters tend to play it safe by airing content that has already been successful internationally, rather than taking risks with original programming. But we are finding partners to help us continue development and bring on board a regional broadcast partner in MENA. We know this show is a good investment. We believe Ali and the Secret Gate's story is forward-thinking while being relevant to the diverse landscape of the region."
How could you define this year for the company and what your main objectives for 2024?
"At the start of the year, North Wind partnered with Cookbook Media to support our development and commissioning strategies. With their help, we aim to complete our funding and greenlight the project next year. We’ve been excited to explore interest in partnerships and co-productions for Middle East stories, particularly from South East Asia. We are currently collaborating with international animated studios in that part of the world, but we will have more news on this front shortly."
North Wind’s goal is not only to produce local content that stands up against the best in the world, but also to create authentic stories with global appeal.” Kristina Kleymenova Creative Producer and Partner at North Wind Studios