UAE, Britian to co-produce Driver Dan’s “Story Train”

ABU DHABI, Mar. 31st, 2009: twofour54 ibtikar, the media industry funding and support pillar of twofour54 Abu Dhabi, has announced the signing of its first partnership deal, an agreement with 3Line Media of the United Kingdom to co-produce a fun, educational Arabic/English children’s series, �Driver Dan’s Story Train’. The series will debut in the spring of 2010 in the UK on the BBC’s flagship UK children’s channel CBeebies.

“With the deal to co-produce �Driver Dan’s Story Train’, twofour54 is taking its first steps towards establishing a sustainable media and content industry in the MENA region,” commented twofour54 CEO Tony Orsten. “The fact that we have already secured an agreement with one of the world’s leading children’s TV channels shows how great the programme is and we are sure it will be well received by Arabic TV channels throughout the MENA region.” �Driver Dan’s Story Train’ is an animation and live action television series developed to introduce young, pre-school age children to the delights of storytelling and reading books. The 52 x 11 minute episode series was created by well known British illustrator and children’s author Rebecca Elgar, and features a cast of animated animal characters who read and explore a different children’s storybook in each show.

twofour54 ibtikar will co-produce the series with 3Line Media, developing and producing the property for the Arabic speaking region, including sourcing and producing original stories from Arab authors. The format has been developed specifically to enable the programme to be localised for its viewing audience in each country. Rather than re-formatting or dubbing into Arabic, live action footage of actual children responding and play-acting to the story will be produced and will constitute a key part of the show format.

Arab animators who have been on vocational training courses at twofour54 tadreeb, the vocational training academy, will be given invaluable work placements and internships in order to gain hands-on experience working with 3Line in the UK. �Driver Dan’s Story Train’ will be produced using twofour54 intaj’s state of the art production and post-production facilities in Abu Dhabi, providing even more benefits to the Arab world.

“One of our objectives is to stimulate and produce high quality, original content for the MENA region and �Driver Dan’s Story Train’ offers us the opportunity not only to co-produce a delightful and distinctive new children’s property but also to directly develop its content in an appropriate direction for the region and its culture,” added Orsten. “Increasing and improving the levels of literacy amongst Arabic speaking children is a priority in many MENA countries and a TV show such as �Driver Dan’s Story Train’ is the perfect vehicle upon which to build an early reading programme.” Estelle Hughes, Director of 3Line Media and Executive Producer, said, “We are very excited to be working with twofour54 on �Driver Dan’s Story Train’ and are looking forward to collaborating with them to shape the project directly for the Arab world. It is well accepted in educational circles that introducing children to storybooks and reading at an early age is very important. The MENA region has one of the world’s fastest growing child populations with an increasing demand for relevant and high-quality children’s content.” “Storytelling-based properties such as �Driver Dan’s Story Train’ can play a major part in driving higher levels of reading and educational attainment as well as providing genuine entertainment to this new emerging children’s marketplace,” she added.

twofour54 ibtikar provides media and entertainment industry funding and support for start up and early stage businesses and individuals with creative ideas and a passion for success. As part of its investment strategy, twofour54 ibtikar has formed ibtikar kids, a kids IP (intellectual property) platform focusing on the pre-school and school age groups, a sector with enormous growth potential in the Middle East ‘&’ North Africa (MENA) region.

twofour54 ibtikar offers two sources of funding: ventures for entrepreneurs and businesses that need start-up, early stage or growth capital, business development and operational support; and creative lab grants for talent that would benefit from seed funding, development guidance and planning to get a great idea off the ground.
ibtikar ventures is the first dedicated MENA-based media and entertainment investment fund. It will target entrepreneurs and businesses from the region that are willing to be based at twofour54, with the aim of creating a thriving and diversified Arabic content creation sector serving the broader MENA region. Investments will range from $500,000 to $5 million.

In addition to financial support, ibtikar ventures will assist with business planning and provide ongoing mentoring, assistance with strategy and business development, finance, legal affairs and marketing support as required.

Launching later this year, ibtikar creative lab will provide grant funding on a not-for-profit basis. It will be the first creative ideas incubator focused on the media and entertainment sector in the MENA region. It will primarily provide grant funding to UAE Nationals, ranging from US$1,000 to US$50,000, for ideas across all media platforms demonstrating exceptional creativity and originality.

Alongside funding, ibtikar creative lab will also offer guidance and expertise to facilitate the development and execution of ideas, helping turn concepts into commercially viable propositions.