An animation studio set up by Turner Broadcasting Systems in the UAE to create 2D Arabic content for the Cartoon Network will be operational by September, and help nurture talent developed at the nascent local Cartoon Network Animation Academy.

The Cartoon Network Studio Arabia, part of Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 media zone, will employ four staff to start with to develop concepts, and increase this number to 30 when in full content production. It is headed by Michael Carrington, the general manager, and will be run by the newly appointed Adam Khawja, who brings experience working on children’s formats across multiple platforms.

The animations created will either be in Arabic or with an Arabic flavour, according to Mr Khwaja, the studio’s creative director - who ultimately hopes to produce a local television programme which has a global appeal.

"We want to make content that reflects the cultural values of the region," Adam Khwaja, told the Abu Dhabi daily The National. "There is a great storytelling tradition here … And that's the kind of thing that we want to bring into a contemporary cartoon world.”

An Arabic version of the US’ Cartoon Network - home to Scooby Do, Ben 10, Powder Puff Girls and a host of other kids’ favourites – has been broadcast free-to-air across the Middle East and North Africa via satellite since October 2011. The Cartoon Network is also available on pay-TV channels in the region.

Turner has also initiated a local Cartoon Network Animation Academy - set up in 2010 in conjunction with twofour54 - and formed partnerships with Lammtara, the UAE-based creators of the popular animated show Freej, plus Jordan’s Rubicon Group, which produces children’s TV programmes like Ben & Izzy.

Speaking to The National, Alan Musa, the general manager and vice president for the Middle East and Africa at Turner Broadcasting System Arabia mused: "Abu Dhabi's twofour54 is becoming a real creative, innovative hub. Maybe we can find the next Joe Barbera or the next William Hanna from the Middle East.”

Wayne Borg, deputy chief executive officer and chief operating officer at twofour54 added: "Animation is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing media disciplines in the region and one we are focusing heavily on. Since we signed the agreement with Cartoon Network, we have seen the first class of students enter the world's first Cartoon Network Animation Academy.

“The next phase of our agreement is the opening of the development studios and this will contribute significantly to our efforts to build the talent pool by providing career development opportunities for Arab animators, especially graduates from our Academy," said Mr Borg.

Rebecca Hawkes | 29-06-2011