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Astana, Kazakhstan • 07 March, 2024 | 14:28

Solar Cats: What Makes New Project by Kazakh Animators Special?

An Almaty-based animation studio has released a 3-minute-pilot packed with wholesome super-cat adventures

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Ara Studios
Ara Studios

As animation studios in Kazakhstan continue to produce more projects claiming awards at international film festivals and getting positive feedback from local and foreign audiences, some creators have started to broaden their focus. While auteur shorts are an effective way to promote an animation studio and make headlines, such animator teams as Almaty-based ARA STUDIOS have set themselves on a mission to, in their own words, “withstand competition with foreign content” in the domestic market. The studio sees a problem with local content “failing the battle in the cultural war to win the attention of our children”. So, for over a year, the animators have been working on a project to solve the problem they claim exists.

Meet Solar Cats (Shuaqty Msyqtar), a new animation series about the adventures of a family of superhero cats, who with the help of a giant robot, protect the city of Shanyrak and its inhabitants from a genius mouse villain named Sasyq (Kazakh for stinky). To defeat their enemies, they must reach an understanding and become a truly friendly family, reads the blurb on the project’s page.

In early February, ARA STUDIOS published a 3-minute pilot showcasing the chemistry between the characters as they fight against their arch-enemy, as well as the striking animation style. In a short yet true-to-concept storyline, five cute characters are having a family quarrel before they unite to defeat Stinky. The colorful battle demonstrates the technical prowess and artistic style of the studio, be that memorable character design, effective blend of 2D and 3D elements, and even a nod to Spider-verse animation features with distinctive but not distracting frame rate changes.

The problem and the message

Last year, when the Solar Cats series was still in the making, QazMonitor talked to the studio’s producer Bakhytzhan Shabdukarim, who said that the project aimed “to explore the theme of family values, relationships between parents and children, as well as situations happening outside the home, at school, social issues, bullying, some bad habits, and so on.”

Now, as the awaited pilot is out of the bag, the studio’s team explains more about their motivation and message right after the episode’s end in the same video.

“The upbringing of a country begins from the cradle! We have to admit, we [are] failing the battle in the cultural war to win the attention of our children. In particular, we do not notice how our children forget their native language and absorb controversial beliefs and ideologies from foreign cartoons. Why is this so? The reason for this is the small number of domestic cartoons or their inability to withstand competition with foreign content. Who is responsible for this? Love for the homeland starts from a family. That is, you and we are responsible, as parents, as a conscious society.
Therefore, with the will of God we made 3 minutes of the pilot episode of “Solar Cats” in 1 year using our own funds we earned by working. But with your support, within the same one year we will be able to make the first 5 episodes of our series each 10 minutes long,”

the team says in the YouTube video.

Speaking of support, the studio launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the production of five episodes which means that the future of the project is linked to the audience response. The team tried to ensure transparency in the fundraising process and posted a video instruction on how to support the series as well as a projected timeline on when to expect the episodes if enough money is raised.

The blurb to the first planned episode called “The Day of the City” is as follows: “The cats, who haven't vacationed together in a long time, go out on a nature walk. However, the villainous mouse, wanting to spoil the celebration in honor of the day of the city, becomes a hindrance to the family weekend.” The gist is clear and falls in line with the overall wholesome concept of Solar Cats.

But there’s one more thing left to be clarified.

What makes the Cats solar after all?

There’s a movement in different creative media called Solarpunk, which promotes sustainability and focuses on the problem of preserving nature. In Solar Cats, all the positive characters strive to protect it. They adhere to a lifestyle using "clean" energy and have the necessary technology for this. “The series shows what a society that preserves nature for future generations can look like,” reads the explanation on the project’s website.

The bottom line is that while the studio’s stance on this whole “battle for the attention of our children” can be debated by some viewers, the audience feedback on YouTube to the pilot and the studio’s previous projects proves that animation studios from Kazakhstan can deliver successful products in terms of animation quality and engaging storylines.

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