MEET OUR LEADERSHIP TEAM

Sara Sawaf

FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

 

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Sara Sawaf is the Founder & Executive Producer of AYA Animations. Sara established the organization in 2015 with a vision to bring values-based content to children around the world. A mother herself, Sara is passionate about moral education and oversees the company’s production of the edutainment series in the form of books and animations, all rooted in universal values.

Alongside the AYA Animations team, Sara directed and produced the pilot episode Sara and Fares. This set the foundation upon which Sara and her global team of experts produced the upcoming series Aya and Yusuf. The hero series will be available in both English and Arabic in Spring of 2020.

Throughout her life, Sara attended Qur’an explanation classes led by Muslim visionary peacemaker Randa Hamwi Duwaji for nearly two decades. These classes inspired Sara to promote the universal values found both in the Qur’an and other religious scriptures.

Prior to establishing AYA Animations, Sara worked in various marketing and fundraising opportunities in London and Riyadh. She holds a degree in Finance and Marketing from the American University of Sharjah.

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Rama Chakaki

Partner

 

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Rama’s career spans over 25 years of education, technical, communications and management expertise. Combined with her passion for social impact, Rama spent the last 15 years building startups to benefit youth and today, she runs VIP.fund, a venture philanthropy fund investing in youth programs and technology startups. Rama brings her passion for education, experience with marketing to youth, technical knowledge of digital content and operational experience to AYA Animations. With her considerable startup experience, Rama drives all growth for AYA Animations from business development to investor outreach and strategy. Based in LA, Rama represents AYA Animations in the Los Angeles media and entertainment industry. She also oversees all operations for the organization including finance, accounting and technology.

Rama has served on the board of a number of organizations including TechWadi, PCRF, PACES and The Impact HUB – UAE. She currently serves on the board of the Syrian International Business Association and co-leads Syria Digital Lab, a technology ecosystem for Syrian entrepreneurs.

Previously, Rama ran Baraka Ventures, investing in a portfolio of social impact and tech startups in the Middle East. Among the portfolio were Tawasul, a youth education and adventure company, BarakaBits, the first publishing platform for positive news from the region and Baraka Advisors, a cause-focused communications agency. Rama’s tech experience includes co-founding a startup to build out data centers and serving as Director of product development at Cable and Wireless.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and a Master’s in Engineering Management from George Washington University with continued education programs at Stanford.

t: @rchakaki
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MEET OUR CREATIVE TEAM

ALFONSO RODRIGUEZ

Director

 

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Alfonso is the Director of Aya and Yusuf. He exquisitely brings the stories to life in his work on the series’ storyboards, animatics and animations. Alfonso ensures the Aya and Yusuf series are in line with the vision set out by the leadership team.

Alfonso has been working in animation for over 17 years, and has been Director and Animation Supervisor of POCOYO for over 10 years. Pocoyo is an award-winning Spanish preschool comedy animation; broadcasted on major children’s networks in Spain, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Dubbed by famous English actor Stephen Fry.

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Alex Maldonado

Head of Production

 

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Alex is Head of Production & Development for the Aya and Yusuf series. In her role, Alex oversees the entirety of the production with her creative flair and attention to detail. She is a Creative and Art Director for Film and TV and owner of D.Bond, a VFX/Animation studio whose credits include TV series DA VINCI’S DEMONS and HOUSE OF CARDS, as well as feature films ENDER’S GAME and PIXELS. She works closely with Alfonso Rodriguez, Director of acclaimed Spanish kids series POCOYO.

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Nizar Wattad

Lead Writer

 

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Nizar is the Lead Writer of the Aya and Yusuf series. Through his compelling storytelling, Nizar chronicles the adventures of Aya and Yusuf making the content insightful, enriching and enjoyable for young audiences of all backgrounds.

Nizar was raised in East Tennessee, earned a Masters in screenwriting from USC in 2006, and collaborates with Golden Globe winner / two-time Oscar nominated director Hany Abu-Assad. Walt Disney Pictures recruited Nizar to write the first Arabic-language film ever produced by a major studio (The United, Touchstone 2012). He created a story for iOS game Tribal Rivals, which debuted at #1 in the App Store in 2014. His TV crime drama ‘Blood’ is in development with Element 8 Entertainment, and he is developing a TV series based on the best-selling Joe Dillard books.

Wattad’s work was chosen for the 2008 Sundance RAWI Lab, 2010 Dubai Film Connection, and 2016 Sundance Producers Summit. He also teaches for Elon University, produced the first compilation of Arab-American hip-hop, and has hosted live performances, lectures & workshops around the world.

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MÓNICA ARMIÑO

Lead Illustrator

 

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Mónica is a passionate and talented illustrator working with the AYA Animations team on the development of the art for the Aya and Yusuf series. She brings the characters and environments to life with her alluring sketches.

Mónica has worked on several books with various publishers and agencies both in Europe and the United States. Within the animations industry Mónica is a character designer, background artist and color/texture artist for feature films and pre-school TV series such as award-winning Puffin Rock and Pocoyo.

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ANGELA AGUADO

Illustrator

 

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Angela is a dedicated and proficient illustrator for the Aya and Yusuf series. She works closely with Mónica Armiño to deliver quality artwork for the project. Angela has been a designer and illustrator for over 10 years with experience in digital art, character design and animation.

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Sami Matar

MUSIC COMPOSER

 

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Sami is the music composer of Aya and Yusuf producing all music and scores for the upcoming series.

Sami has worked in film, television and video games in Los Angeles for over a decade. Previously, Sami composed music for Dreamworks, Electronic Arts, Konami, FIFA, LucasArts, and Sony. His work has been featured on worldwide media including CNN, MTV, G4TV, Al-Jazeera and BBC. Sami is on Spotify’s top soundtrack playlist and is listed as 5th alongside notable composers such as Hans Zimmer and Alan Silvestri.

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MEET OUR ADVISORS

Karim Wali

LEGAL CONSULTANT

 

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Karim is a Legal Consultant to AYA Animations overseeing all contracts, implementation and banking processes for the company. He is a Partner at Khoshaim & Associates law firm. He specializes in Banking and Finance and has extensive experience acting for lenders and borrowers on finance transactions. He qualified and practiced in London for a number of years, now based in Riyadh. Previous Law firms include Clifford Chance and Skadden.

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Randa Duwaji

CONSULTANT/SPECIALIST

 

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Randa is a content consultant to AYA Animations, reviewing and ensuring all material is rooted in Qur’anic teachings and Universal values. Randa is a bilingual author, Qur’an researcher, and peace-builder whose published works include children’s books in English and Arabic, poetry anthologies, articles, radio talks, and a haiku featured on a commemorative plaque in New York State. Her most important work includes an opus on comparative interpretation of Qur’an which sheds light on the original intent of important words as understood using a renowned 10th century Arabic lexicon.

Today, Randa is finalizing a trailblazing book to be published in both English and Arabic- which recovers and presents a major Qur’anic dynamic that can be activated by anyone seeking awareness and working for peace. Randa’s work offers readers the unique privilege of observing Islam in its earliest light, reclaiming its identity, and drawing a clear path to the fulfillment of potential and conciliation with humanity at large.

Randa brings this peace and richness to AYA Animations, as well as her vision of humankind joined by common values and united in the desire for a better future for our children.

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Nour Wali

CREATIVE CONSULTANT

 

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Nour is a British Curator and Art Advisor of Syrian heritage based in London. Nour is a Creative Consultant for AYA Animations. She works closely with the team reviewing script storylines, concept art works, character designs and production.

Nour Wali graduated from Sotheby’s Institute with an MA in Contemporary Art and worked at the renowned Contemporary Art Society (CAS) for four years. As Curator of Corporate and Private Collections at CAS, she was an advisor to several private and corporate collections and managed a number of exciting projects including the Economist Group’s outdoor sculpture exhibition program and a landmark public art commission by Langlands and Bell, “Moving World” for BAA Heathrow Terminal 5.

In 2008, she set up Nour Wali Art Consultancy, offering advice on creating ambitious and versatile contemporary art projects with international clients and artists, with special focus on art from the West and the MENA region. Her projects have ranged from curating exhibitions in London, Berlin and Dubai ; curating a permanent public art commission by Nicky Hirst for the Bulgari Hotel and Residences in London; to advising clients on building museum standard private and corporate collections.

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MEET OUR Affiliates

Tala Odeh

PR & SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT

 

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Tala Odeh and Holly Wallace began working in PR together at Memac Ogilvy, an award-winning global creative agency. Through creative storytelling and strategic thinking, Tala and Holly manage all external communications of AYA Animations. From website content to PR pitches, they handle all-things press and social media.

Holly Wallace

PR & SOCIAL MEDIA CONSULTANT

 

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Holly Wallace and Tala Odeh began working in PR together at Memac Ogilvy, an award-winning global creative agency. Through creative storytelling and strategic thinking, Tala and Holly manage all external communications of AYA Animations. From website content to PR pitches, they handle all-things press and social media.

Amir Hallak

SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT CREATOR

 

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Leveraging his experience working with Adobe Photoshop and Premiere, Amir is the creative behind the AYA Animations social media pages. He is passionate about the content, and having grown up in Syria, Amir identifies with the lack of modern Islamic content in the entertainment industry. When he’s not creating content, Amir is working hard to complete his MA in Economics at the University of Calgary, Canada where he is also a research assistant. Upon graduation, Amir hopes to pursue a career in machine learning research methods and data science.

Batool Almoslmani

CONTENT TRANSLATOR

 

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AYA Animations strives to offer all content in both Arabic and English; and without Batool, this would not be possible. Batool is the English-Arabic content translator working with the communication and social media teams to offer an authentic bilingual experience.

Batool has a BA in English literature, and a higher studies Diploma in Linguistics. Previously, she worked as a freelance translator and has taught Arabic as a foreign language in the UK for many years.

Obai Sukar

VOICE OVER SUPERVISOR

 

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Obai oversees a number of production-related operations for AYA Animations leveraging over 19 years of experience in sound design and engineering specifically within the cartoon and animation fields. Obai is also a talented voiceover coach/director for the character “Aya” as well as the voice over and sound effects supervisor for the upcoming series Aya and Yusuf.

Previously he has worked on hundreds of episodes, songs, commercials, and short films including “Cloud Kumo”, a film that won a student Academy award. Obai was the sound designer and mixer for this project in 2016 which was granted the silver award for the “Alternative” category. Obai has also served as a sound engineer with major animation companies in the MENA region such as Spacetoon, Space Power, Tiger Production and Star Animation.

Alejandro Verdugo

Production Coordinator

 

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Alejandro Verdugo is currently working under AYA Animation’s Head of Production & Development, Alex Maldonado at D.Bond. Alejandro is involved in the pre-production and production of the first season of Aya and Yusuf, coordinating the production of the series and organizing the different teams as an Assistant Producer.

Alejandro’s speciality is short-film direction. He has directed and produced short films under his own label, Yayomedia Producciones. Alejandro has significant experience in camera operation and post-production video editing.

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