Turner Broadcasting is to launch a Middle Eastern animation school and studio in partnership with Abu Dhabi-based producer Twofour54.

The international broadcaster, which owns Cartoon Network, will open the animation training centre “within a few months”, as part of Twofour54’s existing production academy, and will train locals in storyboarding and developing ideas as well as in the technical aspects of animation. It then aims to launch the studio early next year.

The partnership comes in line with plans by Twofour54 to grow an indigenous animation industry in the Middle East and to develop more ideas specifically tailored to the region. It will fall under the aegis of Michael Carrington, the former CBeebies controller who joined Turner as chief creative officer EMEA this month.

Twofour54 chief executive Tony Orsten told Broadcast: “Over the next five, ten, 15 years we want to build a sustainable business for the region. We want people [in the region] to understand that if they want to become animators, this is the place to do it.”

Orsten added that the students will have a chance to shape Middle Eastern animation culture as there is currently very little being done in the region. However, he pointed to the Dubai-produced Freej animation as an exception – and the kind of thing the new academy will aspire to. “We want ten of those,” he said.

Turner recently closed its UK development unit and the move is likely to spark fears of a further talent drain on the UK industry. However, Orsten said this is unlikely. “I wish it was [a threat] but what we are doing is not going to be cheaper and it’s not going to be better,” he said. He added that Turner was not offered a cash incentive to open the business, but that Twofour54 attracts overseas producers by “de-risking” the move, for example by providing free office space or introductions.

The new studio and training ground will initially focus on content geared towads the Middle Eastern region, and will only look at internationally exportable output in the longer term, he added.