Ben & Izzy: A Jordanian Cartoon On Tolerance

A Jordanian media firm hopes its new TV cartoon series can achieve what politicians have failed to do so far: bridge the cultural divide between East and West.

It sounds like a tall order, but the Rubicon firm named after the river Caesar crossed to establish the Roman Empire is armed with an equally mighty motto: “to embark on a mission from which one cannot turn back.”

Even more important is that the cartoon, called “Ben and Izzy” and aimed at 8 to 11 year olds, has royal backing from Jordan’s media savvy rulers, King Abdullah II and Queen Rania, who have made it their goal to promote tolerance.

Rania will showcase Jordan’s first TV cartoon export in New York on May 8 at a black-tie dinner she’s hosting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. American media ‘royalty,’ like Barbara Walters and Katie Couric, are expected to be on hand.

“Ben and Izzy has all the right ingredients,” Rania told The Associated Press. “It uses the fun medium of a children’s cartoon, promotes important intercultural understanding and educates our children as well.”

“It’s all about partnership. This isn’t about East telling West, or West telling East, but rather East and West putting their heads together and figuring out what’s best for us both,” she added. [article]

Two words: wicked cool! On their website there are a few cool guest stars on the show including, now get this, Mark Twain, Ibn Al-Haytham and Al-Kindi.

Can it get cooler? Hell yes. If I’m getting this right Lucy Lui will be the voice of Yasmine and Mark Hammil (aka Luke Skywalker from Star Wars) will be doing Professor John “Jake” Martin.

“Izzy” Aziz is the Jordanian character whose full name is Issam Aziz but goes by the nickname of Izzy.

The show is done in the 3D stylings of Pixar type animations like “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story”. It’s cost around $6 million so far, mainly from Jordanian investors.

Both Americans and Jordanians have come together to make this show happen. Headed up by David Pritchard who once produced both “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” as well as a creative team of Iraqis, Jordanians, and Palestinians.

The gala on May 8th will basically be pitching it to networks in the U.S. and abroad. They’ll get to see a 4 minute clip from the pilot episode where Ben and Izzy travel back in time to meet Mark Twain who travelled to Petra in Jordan when he was a young writer.

[Ben & Izzy]
[Watch a short clip]
[Also check out the New York Times article]


  • I appreciate the initiative and the idea, but I question the outcome. I personally think they should have gone with a movie instead of a cartoon series. First, it woud mean less scenes to focus resources on. Second, cartoon movies almost always sell good in the US coz kids just love to go to the movies and parents will never say no. A series will get more competition from other cartoons on a network, well require more resources, and will have to not only fight for a good spot on air, but will also have to fight for getting kids to come back to watch the 20 or so other episodes and not just the first one, whereas a movie simply has to sell tickets.

    It’s a good project, I wish it success and I hope it opens the door to more similar productions. I’d like to see big Arabic productions targetted towards all Arab and Muslim kids worldwide. It’s time that our kids got their own teenage heroes instead of having to always lookup to imported ones.

  • The reason why it is a series and not a single movie is because there is a lot of historic characters and locations that Ben and Izzy get to meet and go to. Sticking all of those into an hour and a half would be an overload for the kids. Plus part of the project has an educational component which will allow schools and parents to use it as an education tool.

    Also having someone like David Pritchard producing this project makes it carry a lot of weight in the TV and animation business.

    After it is released in english, an arabic version will be made, hopefully i can do a couple of voices 🙂

    I’ll see if i can sneak a camera in to the dinner on monday and snap some pics.

  • Actually this is a great initiative! Good work, great stuff!

    Now I think Jordanians themselves, need another cartoon to talk about our own differences and promote tolerance among us! ARe we ready for an honest dialouge?

    The V.Clip is short, but did that kid (Izzi) had an Indian accent? Lol this could confuse people(kids) if you know what I mean!Maybe Laith you could follow up on this issue!

    It takes few actions or words to spread animosity, but it takes a lot to win love!

    And of course this should not be a movie! It will most probably be shown in school and stuff, so it shouldn’t be a movie.

  • Laith,

    there’s always room for a sequel AND for a TV show and educational material including books. A movie probably has better chances of being the first step through the door, also who knows, maybe a Ben and Izzy movie could get an Oscar nomination or better yet even win an Oscar!

    Here’s a question. The clip that was shown, that’s just a sample, right? I mean it’s not actually a fully finalized scene, is it? And the people doing the voices aren’t necessarily the people who’re gonna do them for the real episodes, are they? Coz God knows that boy’s accent got on my nerves, lol

  • Hmmm nice, at least they are trying… ya3ni if we couldn’t do anything to this generation let’s hope we will do soemthing for the next!

  • I love the idea of the show and i think that it is better as a cartoon series not a movie because as a series it will give the child in each episode a new moral of friendship, peace, love, etc… . I loved the reason of why the show is being made at the first place and I would love to supoort it! I think that Izzy in the short clip above ahs a weird accent. It is neither Arabic nor English, I think that he should have an English because even if he is an arab, he might have a really good english accent. I also would WISH to be in “Ben and Izzy” as a character and if you can’t afford that, maybe a guest star in one episode! Please, Please, Please, Please, Please, PLEASE, let me be in the show and make my name “sami Tabbara” famous. If you considerd having me you can look me up in the phone directory and I live in Jordan, Amman, Shemisani! I also have researched that ALL cartoon series are shown in the U.S then in the Middle East o I wish that this show would be shown in Jordan and thee rest of the Mddle East at the same time that it will be first shown in the U.S. So again I beg of you to consider making me in the series and showing the series at the same time in the U.S and in the Middle East!

  • Hi I am Raneem Al-zoubi and and when i heared about this cartoon series I gathered all the information about it and iwas soooo happy because I thought the charecters weren’t chosen yet yet and I tried my best to get on this show as the girl (Yasmin)i even tried to send Queen Rania a letter to tell her how badly I wanna be this show and by the way I am a seventh grader in Al-ma’aref schools in amman and I participated in a play called ( اÙ?سÙ?Ù?Ù?Ù? Ù? اÙ?اÙ?Ù?ر اÙ?سعÙ?د)and i was the اÙ?سÙ?Ù?Ù?Ù? in the play and it was all playback and there were I practiced to record my voice while movies or plyas and we won first place on the private schools in amman and we were nominated to win first place in jordan but unfortunatlly i dont know yet if we won or not but i will ask the great director (Ghnam Ghnam) the director of my play, all I wanted to say that please please please PLEASE PLEASE make me a guest on your show or any charecter of this show it is my dream to be a succeful actress and my name will be as the greatest actress in jordan.

  • Raneem, I appreciate the comment(s) but next time just one will do. As far as I’ve seen they’ve already cast the actors for the show. Also this is not my show so I can’t help you but keep sending letters to Her Majesty and who knows, maybe you’ll get a part.

    p.s. hope you do win first place

  • um…I know I said this earlier but it seems that ms.raneem has stolen my idea! I am the one with the acting talent not her!!! I am so much better! I have joined 5 school plays and one of them was visited by 12 different schools! I a, the one that should be famous! And I am older than her by oe year! 13 years old are qualified to be actors but 12 year old girls THINK they are good, but they actually aren’t!

  • We are now working on the Arabic version. They are now being translated into Arabic (At last something interesting to work with!) in order to be dubbed… I’m really excited to be part of this and that the dubbing process is probably going to take place in our comapny’s studios so we may get to sneak a peek on how things are going once in a while!

  • Ola: interesting…although it is kind of weird that a Jordanian-produced animated series was done in english only to be “dubbed” in Arabic. Of course I get the underlying purpose, but it still sounds kind of strange (in a celestial way). Good luck! And throw in a few “Al-la3nehs” in there just for good measure! 😀

Your Two Piasters: