'Catsaway': Strays' search for home brings old area of Abu Dhabi back to life in animated film

Set in 1999, the film will feature much-loved old Abu Dhabi landmarks such as the Volcano Fountain and the Old Souq

Catsaway. Courtesy Fadel Al Mheiri

Production has started on Catsaway – an animated movie about a group of street cats trying to find a home as Abu Dhabi rapidly expands around them.

The feature-length film, directed by Emirati director Fadel Al Mheiri, is being produced by Tent Pictures Productions, based at Abu Dhabi media hub twofour54, in cooperation with Juice Studios in Poland.

"Featuring traditional hand-drawn animation, Catsaway is going to be the perfect nostalgia-trip for adults, as well as being entertaining and educational for youngsters," said Al Mheiri of his production.

Catsaway. Courtesy Fadel Al Mheiri

The film, set in the Abu Dhabi of 1999, will feature much-loved, old landmarks such as the Volcano Fountain and the Old Souq. The Clock Tower will play an important role too.

Al Mheiri realised that nostalgia would be the unique pull of the movie.

"We thought – aha, the nostalgia value," he said in an earlier interview with The National. "This is our selling point. Everyone was like 'amazing. When's this out? We need to tell our kids about it'. You might say 'so what? It's just an old water fountain, just an old souk,' but it's more than that. It's to do with culture intertwined with history. That weird effect you get when you see somewhere that you remember from high school"

The story sees the city's stray cats seeking out a home as the city evolves around them: “All the cats used to live in the Volcano Fountain,” he said, “where they had a spa and they’d go to the Old Souq where they’d eat all the nice shawarmas. But that started to fade away, then they ended up in the water tank area in Khalidiya – it’s one of the only squares in Abu Dhabi that’s remained untouched for the last 50 years.”

Khalidiya's water tank area from 'Catsaway'. Courtesy Tent Picture Productions

Tent Pictures was founded by Al Mheiri, and partners Mohamad M. Numan, and Mohamad Jawad at twofour54 in 2013. It has already made several productions, with Catsaway being its latest project.

The multi-talented Al Mheiri had film success at the Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) with his live-action "guerilla" movie Abood Kandaishan, which was nominated for 2014's Muhr Emirati award.

H.E. Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority – Abu Dhabi and twofour54, said: “We are particularly delighted to see a homegrown firm such as Tent Pictures producing this feature-length animated film. It showcases the incredible talent, creativity, and facilities of our thriving media industry in Abu Dhabi. As a champion of quality Emirati produced content, it is rewarding for twofour54 to see that consumers have appetite for content that reflects this region’s heritage and character and it reinforces our commitment to supporting its production.”

At the Abu Dhabi Book Fair in 2016,  Al Mheiri  presented a 3-D model of the water tank area in Khalidiya, and some sculptures of the cats. "We got amazing reaction, especially with the old landmarks that have disappeared.”

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of State for FNC Affairs with Fadel Al Mheiri at the Catsaway stand at last year's AD Book fair.

Tent Pictures expects to have the first teaser trailer of the movie ready by April, and will be seeking theatrical distribution when the full film is finished.


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