The Grand Night Animated Feature Movie
Behind the Scenes
The Grand Night is an Egyptian animated feature film produced by Giraffics. The film has been selected for the Annecy MIFA pitches in 2020 round. “The Grand Night," English for “El Leila El Kebira,” is the original name of a famous Egyptian operetta that was created in the 60's. It portrays the atmosphere of “El-Moulid,” a traditional folkloric festival in which Egyptian families gather to chant songs, watch shows, play games, enjoy street food and more. With modernized features, relatable struggles and an original plot, the movie revives the popular characters and songs of the operetta, along with other folkloric figures in the Egyptian culture. The film is expected to be released by the end of 2022.
"It’s the grand night, my uncle ... and crowds of people have arrived ... filling up every corner, coming from the Banader and the countryside..."
Salah Jaheen chants these words while holding the script of the operetta. He passes by Sayed Makawi who plays the tunes on his Oud, while having his dark sunglasses on. Salah al-Saqqa adds his final touches to the direction of the Operetta, while Naji Shaker - owner of the idea of turning the radio operetta into a puppet theater - manipulates brilliantly his perfectly sewn marionettes with his fingers. When four great minds sit in one room to bring an authentic folkloric Egyptian operetta into the light, then the result is naturally the greatest Egyptian and Arab operetta recorded in history: The Grand Night.
Sixty years later, a group of young Egyptians working under “Giraffics Studio” shall release the first teaser for an animated film that is mainly inspired by the Egyptian operetta, walking in the footsteps of the great four, specially, the puppet creator, Naju Shakler, who gave his blessing to the project days before his passing away.
Hamouda, CEO of Giraffics and the producer of the film, said that "Dr. Naji’s blessing highly motivated us to embark on such an arduous journey, especially after we learned that he was very enthusiastic about the idea. The Grand Night is a dedication to the great four and all our grandfathers, the storytellers, who narrated to us their experiences in honest tales and stories."
The Grand Night was shortlisted to compete at the world’s largest animation festival, Annecy Festival in France (known as the Oscars for Animation). Indeed, the film received worldwide recognition and it got a big share of attention from the biggest animation newspapers.
“After our presentation at Annecy, we were flooded with distribution offers from companies from five different continents, this assured us that we are on the right path and that the world is ready to hear our stories” Said Hamouda
The producers of the film Ahmed Hammouda and Abdulrahman Khedr, traveled to attend several conferences in Europe, the most famous of which were Annecy Festival, the Trojan Horse was a Unicor and the Berlinare,, where they met with the world's animation professionals. Hamouda said, "These trips provided us with an opportunity to learn about the experiences of the makers of the best animated films in history. We were able to convince Max Howard, the former president of Warner Brothers and studio executive of Disney’s The Lion King, who provided us with consultations that added a lot to the film's business plan."
The team invited Ed Hooks to Egypt, he is the author of “Acting for animators” and one of the world's primary animation references.
Hamouda said, "Ed Hooks spent a week with us in Egypt and visited the neighborhoods of Hussein and ancient Egypt to get closer to Egyptian culture, offered his consultations to the writing team, and gave the entire team a workshop in which he taught them animation concepts that he, himself learned in the largest animation and video game studios in the world.
After that, Maggie Malone caught up with the cast. Maggie was a creative executive at Disney in which she participated in movies such as Big Hero6, Moana, Frozen & Wreck It Ralph. Hamouda added, "We learned from Ed and Maggie how to write a story that touches the hearts of the whole world without compromising the cultural essence of The Grand Night."
The film revolves around a little girl, Laila, and her passion for her grandfather's stories. After being bullied by her schoolmates, Laila escapes to a fictional world through the Bioscope, where she finds herself surrounded by her favorite characters from “The Grand Night” , but she will have to confront a villain, Ommena El Ghoula, to save her story and return to her home.
The journey of visual development took two years and the participation of more than 40 Egyptian artists. The teaser is the product of this stage. Currently, The Grand Night is in the final stages of development and production is scheduled to begin early next year and is expected to be ready for release by the end of 2022.
At the film screening in Annecy, Hammouda shared the following with the audience:
“Like every other modern child, I grew up watching Toy Story, Lion King and Mickey Magazine. Walt Disney was a genius story teller, but so was my Grandfather. And as a child I wondered, how come I never get to watch his stories on screen? or any other stories that carry the same essence? Today I am honored to be leading the first cornerstone story of many stories to come. Stories from Egypt, Stories from Africa. Voices from the land of stories to reach all the lands. "