Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse arrive at the grand opening celebration of the premier Disney Store in Times Square, New York in this 2009 file photo. Image Credit: AP

The Walt Disney Company may be pushing the wrong side of 70 but the magic is still alive.

Bravely exploring new avenues and forever pushing boundaries, the huge corporation boasts a lifetime of "firsts". In 1928, the first silent film featuring a mouse destined for a lifetime of stardom premiered on Sunset Boulevard. Almost a decade later, the first full-length animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, captured the hearts of children all over the world.

Perhaps more notably it was Disney's first black princess, Tiana, star of The Princess and the Frog in 2009, who really started to show the company's plan for equality and diversity.

Next up, tabloid! can exclusively reveal, Disney is venturing into the Arab world — and we mean more than street rat Aladdin taking his magic carpet through a souk.

American-Jordanian Amin Matalqa has just completed shooting his second feature film, Disney's first Arabic production, in Jordan.

The movie is called The United and is in Arabic, with both French and English subtitles.

‘Real Arab script'

Egyptian director, producer and actor Amir Scandar works for the Doha Film Institute and was lucky enough to be involved. The 21-year-old who has lived in Qatar his entire life, said the movie is a breakthrough for the region. "It follows the story of two football teams made up of players from all over the Arab world," he told tabloid!

"Parallels are drawn between the cracks in the game, the set plays and the problems faced by the men. It's about Arabs standing together and joining forces to stand strong, even through the hardest times."

Scandar was contacted by friend Matalqa, whose first feature film, Captain Abu Raed, won the Sundance World Cinema Audience Award last year. He requested his help to make the script less "western" and more "real" for the Arab nations.

"It was a wonderful script and Disney accepted it, but it was written for the American society," said Scandar. "I wrote an adaptation, and the final version was submitted and approved. It is very exciting to be involved in such an adventurous project."

In November last year a call for actors — males aged 18-22 from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Sudan, Iraq and the Gulf countries and an Egyptian female actress aged 18-22 — went live. All actors were requested to have good football-playing skills.

"I got a call from Amin who asked if I wanted to audition for a role and was thrilled," added Scandar. "Based in Doha, I auditioned via Skype, which was weird but also fun and I got the job."

With filming wrapped, the movie is in post-production, but has no release date yet. Disney is remaining tight-lipped about the film and when it could hit the big screen. It was originally believed it would screen in December.

The film stars Egyptian superstar Farouk Al Fishawy and even has a cameo role for French footballer David Ginola, who made a name playing for Newcastle United in the English Premier League.

Where to from here?

"Working with the Disney team was such an eye-opener," said Scandar. "They work like clockwork and stick to impeccable deadlines. There is no room for error, and it's an extremely professional environment. It was fantastic to be a part of. I was also quite lucky as I shadowed Amin in much of his role as director, so I learnt so much."

Scandar started his career with mentors including Shekhar Kapur, director of Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush, and 2003's Girl With The Pearl Earring-director Peter Webber.

His latest role in Disney's inspiring project will be difficult to top, he says. "When people ask why I wanted to work in the film industry, I don't have a deep and [meaningful] answer like to bridge cultures, tell stories or strive for world peace," he joked.

"I just do it. Probably because I love it. That's it. Nothing more and nothing less.

"I'm so excited to be a part of this project, but also very scared because I'm not so sure where you go after script-writer and acting in a Disney movie. I hope it's not all downhill from here."

On the director

Amin Matalqa grew up in Jordan until he was 13, when he emigrated with his family to the US in 1989. After a five-year career selling technology solutions to corporate America, he moved to Los Angeles and started a new chapter making movies.

After 25 short films and an MFA in directing from the American Film Institute, he set about making Captain Abu Raed (below), which went on to be selected as Jordan's Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film.

Matalqa lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Claire Naber, head of Institutional Development for the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts in Jordan, as well as US Liaison Officer representing the Royal Film Commission in Los Angeles.