Way back in the earlier years of the 1900’s, there was a family by the name of Frenkel fleeing from Belarus. The ruling Russian Empire at the time didn’t have Jewish folk on their nice list, so they had to look for greener pastures. What ended up happening after some country hopping was that they settled right here in Egypt – Alexandria to be exact – some time after World War I. Slowly but surely, this troupe of Ashkenazi folk started making some seriously impressive handmade furniture. So impressive that people from all over the country were commissioning their pieces. But the Frenkel brothers had their hearts set on more cinematic ventures. And after accruing enough experience, expertise, and some starting funds, they started Egypt’s first animation studio: Frenkel Animated Pictures.
Walt Disney’s legendary Mickey Mouse cartoons took the world by storm. And after reaching Egypt, there was a sweeping call for talented animators, cinematographers, and pretty much anybody with a passion for film in all its forms. Cartoons were exceptional entertainment; besides helping folks escape the grim realities of war back then, it also had strategic uses for business, education, and most importantly, morale. To cut an already long story short: the Frenkels would go on to produce a series of cartoons based on Egyptian life back in the day. Its star would be one prim and proper Mich Mich Effendi.
On the 8th of February, 1936, Mich Mich Effendi would see his grand debut at the Cosmograph Cinema in Downtown. It gained so much traction and attention that the Government started noticing the power of animation. They then commissioned the brothers to produce a Mich Mich sketch centred around teaching farmers how best to deal with invasive cotton parasites back in 1937. It managed to be a subtle success, but the true potential of Mich Mich Effendi would truly shine when World War II would come roaring in. Commissioned by the joint Egyptian-British authorities back in the day, “National Defence” would see Mich Mich rally his friends and answer the call to arms.
For being the very first Egyptian cartoon, way back in the 30’s to boot, it was quite the piece of art. The voice work is excellent, the animation is smooth albeit slightly choppy, and the writing was simple enough and straight to the point. It would even go on to include stars of the era, such as singer Sabah, and legendary dancer Tahiya Karioka.
Eventually, the Frenkels would be forced to hop countries once more, following the Second Great War’s tense political turmoil in the MENA region. They headed off to France sometime after the Revolution of 1952, and they’d continue to produce animated features well into 1964.