'The Journey' becomes first Arab film to screen at Hollywood's famous Chinese theatre

The movie is a collaboration between Manga Productions, a subsidiary of Saudi crown prince's Misk Foundation, and Tokyo-based Toei Animation

'The Journey' made its US premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Tuesday. Photo: Manga Productions
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Saudi-Japanese animation The Journey has become the first Arab film to screen at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre, a movie palace on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A dubbed version of the film in English made its US premiere at the venue on Tuesday.

Directed by Kobun Shizuno, the Japanese filmmaker behind several Detective Conan and Godzilla titles, the film is a collaboration between Manga Productions, a subsidiary of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Misk Foundation, and Toei Animation, the Tokyo studio behind cult classics including Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon.

Set in the kingdom 1,500 years ago, The Journey is an epic fantasy story inspired by the region’s ancient civilisations. It tells the story of a potter in Makkah who takes up arms to protect his city against ruthless invaders who threaten to destroy the Kaaba.

The film was originally released regionally, as well as in Japan, in last June.

Following the US premiere of The Journey, Manga Productions also announced a new partnership with Crunchyroll, a distributor of anime, manga and dorama in the Americas. The deal, Manga Productions said, would help the company expand its viewership and compete on a global level.

Set in the kingdom 1,500 years ago, 'The Journey' is an epic fantasy story inspired by the region’s ancient civilisations. Photo: Manga Productions

Crunchyroll has already begun distributing The Journey to more than 50 streaming platforms across North and South America, giving an audience of more than 125 million access to the film.

“We are thrilled that through The Journey, Arab and Saudi cinema established itself in Hollywood, the capital of filmmaking,” said Essam Bukhari, chief executive of Manga Production Company. “We screened at the historic Chinese Theatre, and it is merely the beginning for films coming out of Manga Productions and other Saudi films.

"We are proud of this partnership with Crunchyroll, which is one of the largest animation platforms in the world. We are going to work with them to connect Saudi art and creativity with the world."

Production of The Journey began in 2019 and took place in Riyadh and Tokyo. A dozen Saudi creatives were involved in story development, character design, pre-production, storyboards and colouring.

The Journey took two years to complete and had a production team of more than 330 people. The film was originally planned to premiere at the Cannes in 2020, but was cancelled during the pandemic.

Manga and Toei have previously collaborated on The Woodcutter's Treasure, a 20-minute animation based on Saudi Arabian folklore. The team is also producing a 13-episode animated TV series.

Updated: April 14, 2022, 1:35 PM