The Journey, an animated historical epic co-produced by Saudi Arabia’ Manga Productions and Japan’s Toei Animation, has announced distribution deals for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and Japan.

Here are details:

  • For the MENA region, the film has struck a deal with Dubai-based exhibitor Vox Cinemas. In Japan, it will be released by T-Joy, a subsidiary of Toei. These deals were announced during the European Film Market, which ties in with the Berlinale festival currently happening in Berlin, Germany.
  • The Journey tells the story of Aws, a potter with a secret past who’s caught up in an epic battle to defend his city. Manga Productions conceived the project and fully financed it — to the tune of $10-$15 million, according to Variety.
  • Manga collaborated on pre-production with Toei, Japan’s biggest animation producer. The animation is being done in Riyadh, where Manga is located, and Tokyo, where both Toei and Manga’s satellite studio are located. Kobun Shizuno (the Detective Conan films, Knights of Sidonia) directs, from character designs by Tatsuro Iwamoto (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney).
  • The project expands on a 2017 pact between the two companies that has already resulted in a short film, The Woodcutter’s Treasure, and a 13-episode tv series called Future’s Folktales. The pact was struck one month before Saudi Arabia lifted its 35-year ban on cinemas.
  • Manga is a subsidiary of Misk Foundation, which was set up by Mohammed bin Salman — before he became crown prince of Saudi Arabia. According to its website, “Manga Productions seeks to launch several animation and video game projects to promote Saudi ideas and messages internationally through unique and professional productions.”
  • In a statement, Toei Chairman Shinji Shimizu said, “It was an honor — and also a great responsibility — for the Japanese to create a feature-length animation based on the ancient history of the Arabian Peninsula, with different cultures, lifestyles, and customs than ours. It is a collaborative movie that Japanese animation professionals and young Saudi Arabian talents created side by side, a cultural exchange I am proud of.”
  • Manga, which holds worldwide distribution rights to the film, will pitch it to buyers for other territories at the Cannes Marché du Film in May.


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