By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: From being a fan of Marvel to being a part of Marvel’s team, Kuwaiti animator Ahmad Jamal was hired by Sony Pictures Imageworks in 2022 as a character animator for a VFX movie, specifically for the Marvel movie ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’. He relocated to Vancouver and joined the James Gun-supervised animation team for his first dream job as an animator. Kuwait Times spoke with Jamal to learn more.
Kuwait Times: Tell us more about yourself.
Ahmad Jamal: I graduated in Architecture Engineering from Drexel University. I’m a co-founder of a local production company in Kuwait – ‘in-visible’ VFX and film production house. From my childhood, I was always interested in filmmaking and animation, as my father works as a director of well-known plays. When I was five years old, I went with my father to the Aladdin play, and was fascinated by how the designs were created. That was a step towards what I have become today.
During the pandemic, I decided to do more character animation like Disney and Pixar movies, so I started an online school to learn animation levels up to industry standards. I took advantage of the lockdown. Then I start applying to a lot of studios and got a lot of rejections.
KT: Can you tell us about your involvement with ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy’ project?
Jamal: At the beginning of 2022, I received a job offer to work on Marvel movies. I started working as an animator at Sony Picture Imageworks for two ongoing projects – ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special’, which is out on Disney Plus, and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3’, which will be released this summer in theaters. It’s a dream come true to be working there and have my name in the credits of the movies.
I was part of a crew of 20 animators. We are responsible to bring characters Groot and Rocket to life. I had training before I started, then we worked on smaller shots. But they were not small for me, as these shots will be in the movie. It was huge. I watched the first film in college and never thought I will be a part of the latest movie. It is crazy to think about it. Groot was my favorite character, and seeing him come to life in shots I made was worth all the time and effort I spent.
KT: How was the experience? What has it added to your professional work?
Jamal: I got more experience from the supervisor and the director’s notes. It is a lot of hard work, but you learn a lot as you do it – how to work faster and how to take and apply the notes efficiently. The cool thing is how the team is completing the work by defining tasks for each process in order to be focused on your part of animating.
KT: Were you involved in similar projects?
Jamal: Right after my undergrad studies, I started working as an Imagineer at Walt Disney Imagineering for Pandora: the World of Avatar theme park. It was an amazing experience, where I learned how I could use my technical skills and creative thinking to bring a fictitious world to life. It was an opening experience to do more creative things. I was also part of the operation team at Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre at the end of 2016.
KT: Are there any upcoming projects you are working on?
Jamal: I will be part of other movies coming up in the summer.
KT: Last word.
Jamal: I see a lot of potential in many self-driven Kuwaitis to represent Kuwait. This is an achievable dream. The skills are there. I would love to have those skills invested and bring Kuwaiti productions to life with the support of the government or the private sector. It will bring back Kuwait to the surface, as it used to be one of the top in the industry.