As Lammtara's FREEJ, the Middle East's first 3D animated TV series, enters its third season this Ramadan, students have much to say about its success. They believe the show has had a significant impact on the UAE community and that it foreshadows a promising future for the country, especially in terms of the media industry.

Meerah Ketait, business student at Zayed University (ZU), says the show provides youth with the motivation they need to fulfil their aspirations.

"The programme reflects the talents of UAE nationals and encourages others to go ahead and begin pursuing their dreams," she said.

Meanwhile Noor Abulhoul, public relations management student at ZU, says FREEJ, like all media, plays a crucial role in promoting national identity.
"These days, kids are mostly exposed to English cartoons and the messages that come with them," she said. "But through this show, kids can be both entertained, and they learn about our culture through the wisdom of the old women and the strong messages they portray."
Amna Al Nakhi, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) director of du, one of the programmes key sponsors, highlighted the show's impact on the community.

"The focus of our CSR strategy is to support initiatives which educate people on the UAE's culture and heritage and support young UAE talent," she said. "As the first 3D animated series in the region, Freej has raised the bar by increasing awareness of the UAE heritage and way of life."

Sense of belonging

Abulhoul believes that what is most important about this programme is its international success.
"We always see movies and TV shows from Broadway and Hollywood," she said.

"For the first time we have proved to the world we are capable of doing something with high standards and have received international recognition for our work."
Abulhoul said that for her the show is a daily event – one that approaches reality.
"The programmes bring all of my family together," she said. "No matter what we're doing, we stop to watch the show. Sometimes you can hear others speak of the characters as if they're real and not cartoons."

Woman power

Another element that makes the show unique, and what students find of great importance, is the female characters.

"Not only are the characters females, but so are the writers of the show," Ketait said. "And this demonstrates how women are capable of doing anything."

"Unlike many other shows, the main characters are women," Abulhoul added. "And this sends the message that women are just as wise, just as talented and can take on any role that a male can."

Breaking records
FREEJ was voted the number one Arabic TV show in 2006 and 2007;
It's the first UAE TV show to be broadcast on an English TV channel – Dubai One;
It's also the first UAE TV series to be available on flights (Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways)

— All information supplied by Mohammad Saeed Harib,
FREEJ creator

One-on-one with the creator

Mohammad Saeed Harib, creator of FREEJ, spoke to Notes

What inspired you to create FREEJ?
FREEJ actually started out as a college project back when I was studying in the US. We were asked to come up with a super hero figure and I wanted to come up with one that reflects our culture.

Of course, Aladdin and Ali Baba were the most popular figures from our region at that time — but I wanted to create something different. I looked at the history of female figures and realised they weren't given too much credit. Focus was placed more on the male gender. I wanted to shed light on all the effort and wisdom our grandmothers and mothers put into raising us.

So how did you get into the business?
In 2003 I got a job in Dubai Media City and later I participated in the Dubai International Film Festival. I was still only in the back-end of the industry. However, there I met people who recognised my work and gave me the support I needed to break into the media. After three years of dedication and hard work, I took the step of launching FREEJ into the market.

What kind of message does FREEJ send to the younger audience?
One of culture. Many of us look back to the old days and wish we could go back and live during that period. As Dubai continues to develop into a globalised city, it's important that we engrain a sense of culture in today's youth. FREEJ does that in a way that is appealing to the younger generation. It freezes time and teaches everyone that this is how the older generation grew up — these are our morals and these are our values.

What message would you
like to send to those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Never give up; and work in the field you have a passion for. When I was younger I struggled a lot because my parents wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer. It was difficult for me to get them to accept the idea of working in the media. But when you have a love for what you're doing, you can be anything you want to be.