Abu Dhabi's Cartoon Network Animation Academy (CNAA)
Success Story #02
I am sharing the following experience from my subjective point of view. In reality, it required team-effort to make this academy a success story, so i want to thank the following people from the bottom of my heart for their contribution.
Special Thanks to
Alex Gehrig (RIP my friend - you made it all possible)
Ellen Erikson (for being a wonderful teacher and such a pleasure to work with)
Badr Badruddin (for sharing your passion and knowledge with us)
Lavanya Gopi (for helping to facilitate our dreams)
Adam Khawja (for your collaboration)

In 2010 I have been hired to aid the Abu Dhabi government at twofour54
...in their ambitions to strengthen the local animation industry by establishing an animation programme under the branding of Cartoon Network. The Cartoon Network Animation Academy (CNAA) was part of the efforts to also establish the Cartoon Network Arabia production studio in Abu Dhabi.
Since animation on this scale was new in the region, the job of the academy was to identify and to train local artists into becoming production ready to join producing regional content and for the strongest graduates to join at the Cartoon Network Studio Arabia production setup in Abu Dhabi.
When I was brought on board to set-up and head the academy, I carefully evaluated the existing, and very academic, 1-year full-time animation programme curriculum.
In class giving feedback to Frank's animation. Frank was among the first batch and one of our first animation trainees at CNAA
It was very important for me to run the academy in a hands-on manner with practical assignments from script to screen that build on top of each other and helped the trainees to get a profound understanding on the procedures and application of contemporary animation productions. My request to rewrite the entire curriculum has been approved.
The outcome of the first intake quickly raised eyebrows and gained a lot of praise. The academy and its programme gathered momentum and with every year I have fine-tuned and improved the curriculum based on the current situation and demands in the region.
we have succesfully improved the content and outcome with every intake and we have managed to establish a good reputation for the academy
Eventually we have decided to extend the 12 months to an 16 months programme. To ensure consistent continuity and growth, me and my team hand-picked the trainees by collaborating very closely with local educational institutions, participating in fares and exhibitions, giving workshops and even offered internship programs for students within the academy. Our prime focus while selecting the next intake of trainees was always on passion, talent, and dedication, which in return resulted in a wonderful atmosphere and energy in the classroom.
The CNAA animation programme covers all key principles of creating story-driven animation content: From scriptwriting, to storyboarding, concept art, character design, 2D animation principles, CG character performance animation, editing and sound.
Graduating with a collaborative Animated Short Film
The content of the short-films were based on ideas the trainees developed independently throughout the course. The entire class voted their favourite project to be produced collaboratively.
PLAY the video for a 7min behind-the-scenes progression video that demonstrates the stages of producing an animated short-film at the academy.
After learning all the processes of filmaking for animation, the trainees efforts were put to the test throughout the last months of the course to collaobratively create and produce and animated short film together. The projects were supervised by CNAA and executed by the trainees, applying all necessary animation processes and filling all roles of a contemporary animated film production.
The Cartoon Network Studio Arabia (CNSA) followed the production processes and software choices established in the academy and all trainees of the academy had the opportunity to do an internship at the CN Arabia studio where they developed their own locally inspired TV Series idea to be pitched to the Creative Director for feedback and evaluation.
"Mansour" is an animated TV comedy series about an active, life-loving, 12 year old boy and his adventures with his best friends, Obaid and Salem. Whenever life throws this group of inseparable buddies an opportunity, they grab it with both hands and their everyday lives are made extraordinary through their wonderful adventures.
The series was created by Rashed Al Harmoodi, the award-winning Executive Producer of the cartoon, and was seed funded by Mubadala Investment Company. It was produced in partnership with twofour54 and Cartoon Network Studios Arabia.
CNAA graduates to produce 'Mansour'
About Mansour
The strongest graduates of the academy were hired by the studio, where they were instrumental in producing its animated TV comedy series "Mansour" for years to come. The creative DNA of the Cartoon Network Studio Arabia was eventually almost entirely made of CNAA graduates.
The Youtube Channel
Emirates 24/7:
"Bidaya Media, the entity responsible for the animated comedy and action series, "Mansour", today announced that the official YouTube Channel of the series surpassed one million subscribers, with over 500 million cumulative views since the launch of the channel. [...]
[...] Since the launch of the YouTube Channel, "Mansour" has expanded its reach across the global Arab audience base, with particularly strong viewership in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, the UAE and Kuwait. The cartoon series has also gained traction in communities across the wider Arab diaspora in North America and Europe."
I storyboarded this 'Mansour' Episode (S03/E01). With 37Million views, the most watched 'Mansour' episode on YouTube.
"Mansour" Copyright © Mubadala Trademark Holding Company L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.
The trainees had a vast variety of backgrounds and aged from 19 years all the way to the late 30s. We had nationals from Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Yemeni, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany Libiya, Africa, Sudan, Jordan and India going through the animation programme. None of them short of a trememdous amount of talent, passion and dedication to create something very special together. The creative vibe and athmopshere in the academy has always drawn people from all walks and sparked a strong sense of astonishment and curiosity for what we are up to.
After my departure in 2015 I stayed in touch with the developments in Abu Dhabi and worked remotely as the Creative Head Consultant for Abu Dhabi Media (ADM) / Majid TV. I am still engaging graduates and artists from the region in international projects when opportunities arise. I also temporarily worked remotely with Cartoon Network Arabia Studios as Story-Artist on "Mansour" (see episode above) and as a consultant for Cartoon Network Dubai on their training initiatives.
Futhermore I have initiated the successful connection and collaboration of the Mansour production with an Asian outsource studio to produce the animation content and CG assets for Season 5 there.
Concluding Words
We practised an open door mentality and we were always happy to share our passion and vision with anybody that is excited about animation and creativity in general. My five years at the academy and the people I have worked and created with will always stay dear to my heart and I am grateful for this experience.
The journey of establishing and operating the Cartoon Network Animation Academy stays one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I have done until today.
CNAA - Insights & Behind The Scenes Impressions
What people say
Emirati screenwriter, animator, and filmmaker
I am writing this letter to share my experience at the Cartoon Network Academy and how it helped me to achieve some of my goals...
Production Designer, Paramount Pictures, USA
Oliver is teacher and a professional. He provides support and knowledge in so many aspects of animation. He is a delight to work with — I hope to work with him again…
Content senior Manager at Dubai Media Incorporated
And thanks to the experts Mr. Oliver and Mr. Bader, Now we see the payoff of that investment, even though it took time for the market to realize it. we are proud to produced & directed animation inhouse...
VFX Production Manager / Screenwriter
Oliver is one of the most talented teachers I have ever had. He has a wonderful rapport with his students and his teaching style is very hands-on, oppose to academic, which I found to be an excellent way for Oliver to pass on his talent and wealth of industry experience...
Made on