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Posted On: 10 March 2022 07:00 pm
Updated On: 11 March 2022 07:51 pm

Aisha Al Jaidah: award winning Qatari female animator and founder of successful Blue Penguin Animation

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Aisha Al Jaidah is an animation director/producer, entrepreneur and founder of the Blue Penguin Animation and a mother of four beautiful children - three boys and a girl. Aisha graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Illustration and Animation from Kingston University, London, in 2009, after being awarded a scholarship and fulfilled her dreams of studying animation abroad.

She started her career with the Al Jazeera Children's Channel as a Motion Graphics Artist, quickly moving on to become the Senior Animation Producer and was successful in creating Qatar's first animated children’s series.

Aisha's skills in animation have earned her a name in the industry. In fact, her animated film '1001 Days' won the “Special Jury Narrative Award” at Ajyal Youth Film Festival 2017 and was also screened at Cannes Film Market 2018 as part of 'Shortcuts to Qatar' to promote Qatar's incredible film talents. This motivated her to start Blue Penguin Animation with the aim to show people around the world the inspiration and creativity Qatar has to offer.

She recently won the 'Business and Innovation Award' at the UK Alumni Awards 2021-2022 for her contribution to animation and the success of her Blue Penguin Animation business specialising in 2D animation, character designs and infographics all of which are created in-house.

The (ILQ) team brings you an exclusive Q&A with Aisha whose passion for animation has earned her a name in the filmmaking industry in Qatar and beyond.

1. How do you feel about winning the Business and Innovation award at the UK Alumni Awards?

Aisha Al Jaidah: award winning Qatari female animator and founder of successful Blue Penguin Animation
Image provided by Aisha Al Jaidah (image credit: British Council Qatar)

Aisha: Thank you. It was overwhelming to win this award and for my accomplishments to be recognized and appreciated. Especially knowing that there were over 1,500 applicants. I feel very proud to have been selected as the winner this year.

2. How did you get into animation?

    Aisha: Since my childhood, I always loved watching animated films. I was amazed at how they were created and magically appeared on the screen. My parents encouraged me to start a career in animation even when I was scared to tell them that this is the field I want to major in! Eventually, with a push from a friend of mine, and the support of my parents, I was off to study animation at Kingston University London.

    3. Tell us about Blue Penguin Animation? Why and how did you start it?

      Aisha: My first job after graduation was at Al Jazeera Children’s channel (currently part of beIN). I was comfortable working there but always knew I could do more. One day at home, my husband, a successful businessman, mentioned to me: Why not start your own animation company?”. With his support and guidance, that was how Blue Penguin Animation came to life.

      4. What kind of animation do you make?

        Who's Who in Qatar: Aisha Al Jaidah: award winning Qatari female animator and founder of successful Blue Penguin Animation
        Image provided by Aisha Al Jaidah

        Aisha: Mainly 2D animation. The styles differ depending on the clients' needs. We provide infographics, frame by frame, cut-out animation, etc. We have also co-produced an animated short with Doha Film Institute (DFI) called '1001 Days' that has won several awards at festivals all over the world, with a screening at Cannes Film Festival.

        Video credit: Doha Film Institute - Head Quarters

        We also provide illustrations for children's books, character designs for mascots, comic illustrations, posters, etc.

        5. What kind of animation would you like to make?

          Aisha: Full feature animations as well as a few shorts. We would like to expand the business further and not only cater to the needs of clients but also produce more award-winning films.

          6. How do you keep up-to-date with animation trends?

            Aisha: By making sure I watch and read everything animation-related. I still enjoy going to the cinema and watching films with my kids and discussing with them. I still buy books, listen to podcasts and surf the internet daily. I attend workshops, masterclasses and go to festivals.

            The world of animation is huge, and you definitely have to keep up with it as it is constantly developing.

            7. What are your favourite animation methods to use?

              Aisha: I love the classics. I grew up falling in love with Disney’s animated films. My favourite style of animation is the hand-drawn frame by frame method. With all the new technology and advanced methods available today, I still find the “old style” to be the best and most attractive.

              8. What has been your challenging project so far? How did you overcome the challenges?

                Video credit: Doha Film Institute - Head Quarters

                Aisha: The animated short that I directed and co-produced with DFI, was the most challenging project so far. It had many people working on it from different parts of the world. There were a lot of hardships, but because I had a great team, we managed to create a wonderful film that is still requested to be seen today.

                9. How important is animation in today’s world?

                  Aisha: I find animation to be one of the most underestimated mediums in our part of the world. Sadly, it is not given much attention here and is still considered to be mainly targeted at kids. This has been proven wrong on many levels in other areas of the world.

                  Animation was one of the things that did not stop during COVID-19, which shows its capabilities. In fact, it has grown because of how flexible it can be to work with. Many animated films were created from people’s computers at home, without the need to physically be at an office or studio.

                  Everything uses animation today, from airplane videos to kids' classrooms. From fire safety videos to luxury shopping products. The list is endless.

                  10. What is your next project?

                    Aisha: I am working on a few at the moment. One of which is “Reviving the traditional Qatari songs”. We are currently working on the second song. The other project is, unfortunately, too soon to disclose at the moment, but I am excited to say it is bigger and more challenging.

                    11. Who is your inspiration?

                      Aisha: My family. It sounds cliched but without them, I wouldn’t be able to push myself more every day. Here’s how:

                      My kids inspire me to always create something. They give me ideas for my stories and I always check with them if they make sense!

                      My parents for their never-ending support. Although they both don't have an arts/ animation background, they do appreciate it and are by my side whenever I need them.

                      My husband for his guidance. He constantly pushes me to do better and dream bigger.

                      My partner Kholoud Al Ali. With my partner's support and guidance and with my passion and determination Blue Penguin Animation was born.

                      12. What do you consider to be your career highlight?

                        Aisha: The multiple festival awards I won for my animated short. It also captured the attention of CNN and they interviewed me at the Cannes Film Festival.

                        13. Who is your favourite animator?

                          Aisha: I currently don't have a favourite. It has become difficult to have a ‘favourite’ because of the massive amount of talented animators and creators out there today. However, I still make sure not to miss the works of Walt Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Sony, Cartoon Saloon, and Studio Ghibli, whenever they have a film released.

                          I do enjoy the work of Glen Keane, Kevin Parry, Hayao Miyazaki and a few others.

                          14. Any advice for emerging animators?

                          Aisha: Don’t be scared to dream big. Then go for it! Remember if you don’t, someone else will. Also, always keep learning. Talk to people, watch their work, try different methods, and keep practising. Animation has no boundaries, so have fun with it!

                          15. What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?

                          Aisha: Patience and perseverance. You have to be extremely patient if you want a career in animation. It takes months and years to create one film.

                          16. What's the best thing about what you do?

                            Aisha: I love what I do. I love seeing people’s reactions and connecting with them on different levels. You get to create new emotions, worlds, characters. It’s magical!

                            17. What would you like to be remembered for?

                            Who's Who in Qatar: Aisha Al Jaidah: award winning Qatari female animator and founder of successful Blue Penguin Animation
                            Image provided by Aisha Al Jaidah (image credit: Al Jazeera)

                            Aisha: The creation of great animated films from Qatar!

                            I also want to show people that they need to fight for what they want and not settle for anything less. Many people still take the wrong career path just because it's ‘safe’ or ‘easy’. This is upsetting because once they start their career, 99% of them would be working at a job they don’t like.

                            I chose animation because it was what I wanted to do. It was the most difficult field back in my days; it had no future and was a huge risk. But that didn’t stop me.

                            18. What do you like doing in your spare time?

                              Aisha: Spending time with my family and friends. My schedule does get very busy, but I always make sure I have time to enjoy.

                              19. How would you describe yourself in 5 words?

                              Aisha: Loyal, kind, determined, passionate and fun.

                              20. What skills should someone in your field have?

                                Video credit: Giorgos23412

                                Aisha: During my educational career, we were told we must be good at drawing. Therefore, figure drawing and proper human proportions are a must. You need to know the rules before you can go ahead and break them. As for the software, times have changed and there is always a new software nowadays, therefore it is based on one's preference.

                                21. What are you most passionate about?

                                  Aisha: Creating good stories.

                                  22. What are your hobbies?

                                  Aisha: I enjoy watching films (in any genre). Playing sports such as padel and football.

                                  23. What is your favourite food?

                                  Aisha: I love all food, except spicy ones.

                                  24. What is your, favourite travel destination?

                                    Aisha: I love travelling, doesn't matter where to as I enjoy learning about new cultures and getting inspiration for new stories. I love meeting people.

                                    25. Do you have any message for the people in Qatar?

                                      Aisha: One quote that stuck with me all throughout my career life: “If you can dream it…you can do it!” - Walt Disney.

                                      You can reach out to Aisha Al Jaidah here:

                                      Cover image credit: image provided by Aisha Al Jaidah

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