Animation Conference Opens in Sharjah With Film Music

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The centerpiece Sharjah Animation Conference at the Children’s Reading Festival has a screening room and an Italian pops orchestra.

Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi of Sharjah and the Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi listen to music of the Florence Pops Orchestra in the opening, May 3, of the Sharjah Animation Conference. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Daily Film Score Concerts at Sharjah’s Animation Conference
As the networking and workshop programming of this year’s Sharjah International Booksellers Conference has concluded, today’s opening (May 3) of the 11th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival has been highlighted by Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi visit to Expo Sharjah to open the first iteration of the Sharjah Animation Conference.

Ahmed Al Ameri‘s Sharjah Book Authority this year has brought together these three events—the children’s reading festival, the still new booksellers conference (now in its second year), and the inaugural animation conference, taking advantage of the many world publishing professionals who have flown to the United Arab Emirates to take part in this three-way framework keyed on high-visibility speakers, intensive interactive engagement, and “nearby creative industries” such as the animated film world.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, festival director Khoula Al Mujaini, in announcing a roster of 512 featured guests from 66 nations for the reading festival, has told the news media that these programs are staging as many as 1,658 workshops and other sessions during 12-day run of the Children’s Reading Festival, themed this year “Train Your Brain.”

Hashtagged #SAC2023, the animation conference—with its first full concert tonight a sellout—is housed directly across Expo Sharjah’s main concourse from the booksellers conference in a cavernous space entirely dedicated to the masterclasses and performance elements of the cinematic program, as quickly illustrated in this tweet today from the Book Authority, produced just as the new space was completed:

When ‘BAD’ Is Good

The Florence Pops Orchestra prepares for Sheikh Sultan’s arrival at the opening of the Sharjah Animation Conference, May 3. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

No one present at the opening today seemed to know exactly what program’s logo-creature may represent: It has the ears of a cat, the teeth of the Grufalo, and the eyes of a jet-lagged journalist.

Nevertheless, a human was gamely suited out in a six-foot mascot rendition of this critter was padding around the spacious enclosure, which is built with its own screening room and a “main arena” for workshops, masterclasses, and other events with accomplished craftspeople in animation.

And as Sheikh Sultan and his daughter Bodour Al Qasimi—president of the American University of Sharjah and the immediate past president of the International Publishers Association (IPA)—arrived for today’s opening of the space, the animation program’s most lavish component, a specialized Italian ensemble known as the Florence Pops Orchestra was ready with a quick preview of tonight’s sold-out full concert of animated film clips and soundtrack samples.

The reason that an Italian orchestra has traveled to the United Arab Emirates to open the Sharjah Animation Conference in association with the United States’ Walt Disney Studios and Studio Ghibli is that the program itself is produced in association not only with Lilium but also with Italy’s Bergamo Animation Days. The Bergamo program likes to use to its acronym “BAD,” but the four singers and more than 30 instrumentalists onstage sounded anything but bad today, quickly regaling Sheikh Sultan with music from Beauty and the Beast, what sounded like a motif from the Sleeping Beauty score, and more.

Indeed, the musical cohort is in place to provide a daily concert called “In the Middle of Magic,” as well as tonight’s opener, “Notes for Dreaming,” and a closing program, “The Melody of Fantasy.”

77 Emirati Publishers

A presentation area designed into the Sharjah Animation Conference’s space. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

As we’ve reported, the program is slated to present featured speakers including John Nevarez, film-story artist and Oscar winner for Coco; Sandro Cleuzo, the animator and character designer and Annie Award winner for Mary Poppins Returns; and Takahiro Yoshimatsu, the animator and director of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.

Pietro Pinetti is the animation conference’s artistic director, and a new site has been launched, on which you can find more information and details specifically about the Sharjah Animation Conference.

The animation program runs through Friday (May 5), and the Children’s Reading Festival will continue for 12 days. Top participating countries in this edition include the United Kingdom, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Australia, India, Pakistan, Algeria, and Iraq.

This year, the UAE tops the list with 77 publishers, followed by Lebanon with 12 publishers.

Sharjah’s Sheikh Sultan joins kids in a reading session at the opening of the 2023 Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, May 3, with Bodour Al Qasimi looking on. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

See also:
Markus Dohle, Bodour Al Qasimi, Ahmed Al Ameri: Sharjah Booksellers Conference
Discussions: Sharjah Booksellers Conference Workshops
Sharjah’s International Booksellers’ Conference: 400 Attending
At Sharjah’s Reading Festival: A New Animation Conference


More on Sharjah Book Authority and its programming is here, more on Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival is here, and more on publishing issues and trends in the Arab world is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.