Cartoon alien aims to ease World Cup culture shock in Qatar

Cartoon alien aims to ease World Cup culture shock in Qatar
Creative director Amal Al-Shammari (left) and managing director Hossein Heydar pose for a picture in the capital Doha. (Photo: AFP)
DOHA — A cartoon series on an alien who crash-lands in World Cup host Qatar aims to ease a culture clash between more than a million foreign football fans and the conservative state’s residents.اضافة اعلان

Like the arriving fans, Kawkabani, star of the series launched by Qatar’s first animation studio, has to learn Arabic pronunciation, how to drink coffee — and to discover that Qataris prepare way too much food for their guests.

Creators Hossein Heydar and Amal Al-Shammari hope the series will help Qataris to be more understanding of the 1.4 million football fanatics expected to besiege them in November and December.

Conservative Qataris prefer sipping on specialty coffee and fruit juices while European football fans are known for their beer-fuelled good times in the street.

Kawkabani seeks “to explain to Qataris that there must be acceptance of these cultures ... and help them (visitors) coexist or understand the Qatari culture as well,” said Shammari, who wrote the scripts.

The first two 10-minute episodes of “Kawkabani” — which means “The Planet Person” in Arabic — have already been launched on YouTube by their company, Nefaish Animation.

“As an animation studio, we looked at content in the region, even in Qatar, and we felt there was a lack of content that represents Qatari culture,” said Shammari, Nefaish’s creative director.

Arabic words were sometimes garbled and costumes not always quite right.

“We felt like we need a studio in Qatar that pays attention to all these details and represents Qatari culture in the right way,” he said.

Tiny Qatar’s triumph in securing the right to host the World Cup gives it the opportunity to show off its customs and idiosyncrasies.

“When the Alien falls into Doha, again he is an alien so he doesn’t know anything so we are not expecting him to understand the Qatar society and in the Qatar society we have,” said Shammari, who wrote the script.

“We want to explain a lot of things and share our culture with the visitors.”

Nefaish only hired artists from the Middle East with knowledge of Arabic culture, added Heydar, in charge of animation.

Besides Kawkabani, the series has three main Qatari characters representing what the creators consider to be the main strands of the 270,000-strong indigenous community, which lives alongside more than 2.5 million foreign workers.

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