Czech doctors deliver baby girl 117 days after mother’s brain-death

BRNO (Reuters) – When a helicopter rushed an unconscious Czech woman who had suffered a severe stroke to hospital in April, her chances of survival were slim – and those of the fetus she had carried in her womb for 15 weeks little better.

And yet, on Aug. 15, against all odds, a healthy baby girl was born by cesarean section – weighing 2.13 kg (4.7 lb) and measuring 42 cm (16.5 inches) – to her brain-dead mother, setting a new record in the process, Brno’s University Hospital said on Monday.

It said the 117 days that she had been kept alive in the womb – a process fraught with potential complications – were believed to be a record for the longest artificially sustained pregnancy in a brain-dead mother.

The mother, whose identity was not revealed, had been declared brain-dead shortly after reaching the hospital, upon which doctors immediately began the struggle to save her child.

They put the 27-year-old woman on artificial life support to keep the pregnancy going, and even regularly moved her legs to simulate walking to help the child’s growth.

After the delivery in the 34th week of gestation, with the husband and other family members present, medical staff disconnected the mother’s life support systems and allowed her to die.

“This has really been an extraordinary case when the whole family stood together … without their support and their interest it would never have finished this way,” Pavel Ventruba, head of gynecology and obstetrics at the hospital, told reporters.

(This story was refiled to correct doctor’s surname in last paragraph)

Reporting by Jiri Skacel; Writing by Robert Muller; Editing by Kevin Liffey

Reuters: Oddly Enough

D23: Pre-K ‘Spidey,’ ‘Moon Girl’ Toons set for Disney TV

Exciting new animated takes on a familiar web-slinger and a brilliant next gen heroine are heading to TV screens! Announced at D23 Expo in Anaheim this weekend were Marvel Animation’s first full-length preschool series Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends for Disney Junior, and Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur for Disney Channel (announced by screen icons Laurence Fishburne and Kermit the Frog!).

Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends

Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends

Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends (set to debut in 2021) will take the normally solitary Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) on a journey to discover what it takes to be a truly amazing super hero: being a super friend who works well with others! Peter and pals Miles Morales and Gwen (Ghost-Spider) will team up with heroes like Hulk, Black Panther and Ms. Marvel to defeat evil and use teamwork to save the day.

“Preschool kids already love Spidey, so they’ll be delighted to have Peter Parker thwipping across their screens in this new series,” said Cort Lane, SVP Marvel Animation & Family Entertainment. “Everyone at Marvel is thrilled to launch our first preschool series on Disney Junior, the gold standard platform for the audience. We believe parents and kids will be excited about these stories filled with themes of friendship, cooperation, solving problems and using your abilities to help others.”

Joe D’Ambrosia, SVP Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior, said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Marvel on this new series showcasing the exciting adventures of Spidey and his friends as they model the importance of teamwork and helping others in their community. This is the perfect series to introduce preschoolers to the super hero powers of friendship and working together to help others in need.”

Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends is executive produced by Alan Fine (The Avengers), Joe Quesada (Avengers Assemble), Dan Buckley (Marvel’s Spider-Man), Cort Lane (Ultimate Spider-Man) and Eric Radomski (Avengers Assemble); co-executive produced by Marsha Griffin (Marvel’s Spider-Man) and supervising producer Harrison Wilcox (Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy). Alfred Gimeno (Marvel Rising) serves as supervising animation producer, and Ashley Mendoza (PJ Masks) as story editor.

Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur from Disney Television Animation is based on the hit Marvel comic books about 13-year-old super-genius Lunella Lafayette and her 10-ton T-Rex, Devil Dinosaur. After Lunella accidentally brings Devil Dinosaur into present-day New York City via a time vortex, the duo works together to protect the city’s Lower East Side from danger.

The pick-up was announced by Laurence Fishburne — who is executive producing — during Disney Television Animation’s panel at Disney’s D23 Expo:

“As an avid comic-book fan, I am thrilled to be involved with Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Disney Channel is the perfect platform to explore this pint-sized female African-American superhero and I can’t wait for their audience to enjoy the lighthearted adventures of Lunella and Devil Dinosaur.”

“Lunella doesn’t know she is the smartest person on the planet, but audiences will soon know how very cool Moon Girl is,” said Marvel’s Cort Lane. “Her adventures with giant buddy, Devil Dinosaur, are filled with so much wonder and joy, and this historic partnership with Disney Television Animation and Cinema Gypsy Productions proved the right formula to bring them to television.”

Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is executive produced by Fishburne and Helen Sugland’s Cinema Gypsy Productions (black-ish), Marvel Animation & Family Entertainment, and Emmy Award winner Steve Loter (Kim Possible). Jeff Howard (Planes) and Kate Kondell (The Pirate Fairy) serve as co-producers and story editors.

“Disney TV Animation is thrilled to collaborate with renowned producers Laurence, Helen and Steve and the talented Marvel Animation team to bring this modern-day roller-skating, gadget-wielding tween superhero and her larger-than-life partner to Disney Channel,” commented Meredith Roberts, SVP Animation Strategy, Disney Channels.

Animation Magazine

‘Dilili in Paris,’ ‘Wicked Girl’ Win Top Animation Césars

Michel Ocelot’s acclaimed movie Dilili in Paris won the César (French Oscar) for Best Animated Feature tonight. The other two nominees were Alexandre Astier and Louis Clichy’s Asterix and the Magic Potion and Juan Antin’s Pachamama.

The César for Best Animated Short went to Ayce Kartal’s powerful Wicked Girl, which centers on an eight-year-old Turkish who is a victim of sexual abuse. The other nominees were Between the Shadows (Au cœur des ombres) by Alice Guimarães & Mónica Santos, The Death, Dad & Son (La mort, père et fils) by Denis Walgenwitz & Winshluss, and Raymonde or the Vertical Escape (L’évasion verticale) by Sarah Van Den.

Samuel Goldwyn Films plans to release Dilili in Paris in the U.S. later this year. The movie centers on a young girl who becomes caught up in a mystery that will take her through the upper levels and lower depths of Belle Époque-era Paris. In the course of her investigation, she visits incredible places and encounters a series of extraordinary characters, each providing her with clues that will help in her quest to save the women of Paris. The French voice cast includes Prunelle Charles-Ambron, Enzo Ratsito and Natalie Dessay voice the cast.

Ocelot is one of the most acclaimed French animation helmers working today. His past credits include acclaimed films such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, Princes and Princesses and Azur & Asmar: The Princes’ Quest. The movie opened the Annecy Festival last year and played in French theaters last fall. Pic is produced by Christophe Rossignon and Philip Boëffard.

The César Awards were held at the Salle Pleyel in Paris and here hosted by honorary Academy president actress Kristin Scott Thomas. The live-action feature Custody won the lion’s share of the other awards, including Best Picture.

You can watch the trailer for Dilili in Paris here:

Here is the trailer for Wicked Girl:

KÖTÜ KIZ/ WICKED GIRL/ VILAINE FILLE Trailer from AYCEKARTAL on Vimeo.

Animation Magazine

Cartoon Network, Pixelatl Announce Girl Power Finalists

Cartoon Network Latin America and Pixelatl have announced the ten finalists from Mexico, Peru and Argentina for the “Girl Power: Pitch Me The Future” pitching competition. The pitching competition is an opportunity for female animators and creators from Latin America to pitch their original show ideas to Cartoon Network. The finalists (selected from 289 original ideas) will have the chance to pitch their ideas to Cartoon Network executives at the Pixelatl festival which will take place in Cuernavaca, México between Tuesday, September 4th and Saturday, September 8th.

This year’s Girl Power finalists are:

  • Romy Little Apple and Dr Broccoli by Karen Acosta from Hidalgo, Mexico
  • El Circo de los Hermanos (The Circus of the Twin Brothers) by Jesica Yamile Aran from Argentina
  • Lisa Estufas (Smooth Stoves) by Daniela and Mariana Delgado from Mexico City, Mexico
  • Witchlike by Mirelle Ortega Molina from Veracruz, Mexico
  • Escuadrón Basura (Garbage Squad) by Jimena Montañez Arica from Peru
  • Cuatro Caminos (Four Roads) by Karen Acosta and Ross Marisin from Hidalgo, Mexico
  • Useless by Colectivo Xixo from Mexico
  • El Bosque Olvidado (The Forgotten Forest) by Madelein Treviño from Nuevo León, Mexico
  • Garrido Legacy by Florencia “Ootoro” Torres from Hidalgo, Mexico
  • Baddie and Maddie by Julieta Colás from Nuevo León, Mexico

The show creators will have the chance to pitch their projects to industry veterans Hernán La Grega (Cartoon Network Latin America), Jaime Jiménez (Cartoon Network Mexico) along with Burbank Studio’s artists Kat Morris (Steven Universe) and Hillary Florido (Regular Show), who will also participate in Pixelatl’s giving a panel to talk about creating universe’s for animated shows.

Axur Eneas, the creator of Toontorials” and winner of Pixelatl’s and Cartoon Network’s Pitch Me Evolution 2017 competition has been invited as a special guest at this year’s Pixelatl festival to showcase some of the art of the original show that will be released in the future. Other speakers include Alan Ituriel (Villainous) and Ivanobich Verdusco (Viking Tales) who have been developing shows for Cartoon Network Latin America.

El Festival Pixelatl is the main event linking Latin American artists with the global industries of animation, comics and video games. For five days, the festival brings together executives, professionals, students, and amateurs from all areas of the audiovisual work. For more info, visit https://www.elfestival.mx/2018/en-US

Witchlike

Witchlike

Useless

Useless

Romy Little Apple and Dr Broccoli

Romy Little Apple and Dr Broccoli

Lisa Estufas

Lisa Estufas

Garrido Legacy

Garrido Legacy

Escuadron Basura

Escuadron Basura

El Circo de los Hermanos Twin

El Circo de los Hermanos Twin

El Bosque Olvidado

El Bosque Olvidado

Cuatro Caminos

Cuatro Caminos

Baddie and Maddie

Baddie and Maddie

Animation Magazine

News Bytes: ‘Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ Trailer 2, Who Is Squirrel Girl?, ‘Space Kid and Cat’ Takes Off & More

10 Times Hollywood Ripped Off Anime (And 10 Times It Was Vice Versa
“Ripped Off” may be a strong turn of phrase, but some of these instances of creative influence between big budget movies and Japanese toons may surprise you!

WATCH: Christina Aguilera Sings the ‘PJ Masks’ Theme Song as a Lullaby
The celebrated pop diva shared her special cover of the pre-k tune on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. And it’s pretty amazing.

‘Lost in Oz’ Expands into Educational Space with Live-Action STEM Shorts
Working with Amazon in the Community, Bureau of Magic has developed a series of videos exploring Science, Technology, Engineering and Math for young fans of its L. Frank Baum-inspired animated show. The shorts are hosted by Ashley Boettcher, the voice of Dorothy Gale. The first two vids are available here and here.

WATCH: ‘Space Kid and Cat’ Ep. 1 “Blerm”
Nickelodeon’s new exclusive digital toon follows a blustery 12-year-old and his skittish talking cat as they roam outer space in a cardboard spaceship, trying to get back to Earth!

WATCH: Who Is Squirrel Girl? With Milana Vayntrub | ‘Marvel Rising: Initiation
Get to know the upbeat and down-to-rumble fuzzy tailed hero and her rodent BFF, Tippy-Toe, in this fun featurette! The six Marvel Rising: Initiation shorts will premiere back-to-back on Disney XD on Monday, August 13 at 7:30 PM ET/PT.

WATCH: ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ Trailer 2
Disney has unveiled a very promising trailer for this epic fantasy based on the classic Christmas-y tale by E. T. A. Hoffmann — loaded with scrumptious characters, magical effects and stunning CG environments. The flick is directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, due in US theaters on November 2.

Synopsis: All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key — which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fair.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Animation Magazine

This Little Girl Has Rare Uncombable Hair

Eighteen-month-old Taylor McGowan has a shock of blond hair that obeys no brush or comb. And if it reminds you of Albert Einstein’s famous mane, you’ll understand why her parents made her a Facebook page called Baby Einstein 2.0.

“When we say ‘please show me your hair,’ she proudly points to it,” says Taylor’s mom, Cara McGowan. “We thought it was really cute and thought eventually it would fall out, as most baby fluff does eventually. But for Taylor, that was not the case.”

The little girl’s standout ’do first caught her parents’ eyes when she was 5 months old. After it showed no signs of relaxing, Cara and her husband, Tom, searched online for explanations. They started to suspect Taylor might have uncombable hair syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that changes the shape of hair shafts. 

The condition only affects the hair on your head, and clues of it can become noticeable when you’re as young as 3 months old. Bit by bit, your hair gets more and more dry and unruly. It may stand out or grow in different directions. And it gradually turns straw-colored or silver-blond. Some children with the disorder also have bone or eye problems, but that’s less common.

Taylor was healthy, and the McGowans only had a hunch she had uncombable hair syndrome. They wanted to find out for sure, but the condition is hard to confirm, with only 100 or so reported cases of it.

So the Chicago-area couple reached all the way out to Europe for answers. They contacted Regina Betz, MD, a researcher in Germany who helped discover gene mutations that can cause uncombable hair syndrome.

The McGowans sent Betz samples of their blood and Taylor’s for testing — and the results soon confirmed their suspicions. Cara and Tom both carried a mutated gene called PADI3, and by chance Taylor inherited a copy of it from each of them. Having two copies brings on the disorder. 

“And that’s how she ended up expressing her beautiful hair,” Cara says.

Betz says there’s no real treatment for the disorder, although conditioner might help tame it a bit.

Otherwise, some doctors recommend biotin supplements, says Meghan Feely, MD, a board-certified dermatologist who practices in New York City and New Jersey. She’s treated a patient with the disorder.

Feely says people with the condition should use brushes with soft bristles, and they should avoid excessive heat, chemical relaxants, and other harsh hair treatments.

When a child with the disorder hits puberty, there’s a chance their hair could relax on its own, she says.

Cara McGowan knows this, but she still wants to give Taylor the confidence to be proud of her hair no matter what. That’s what inspired her to launch the Baby Einstein 2.0 page.

“We want to explain to her that, yes, she is different and unique, but that we celebrate it and embrace it,” she says. “There’s no reason why we can’t love one another or ourselves for things that are different about us.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

WebMD Health

5-Year-Old Girl Paralyzed by Tick

June 12, 2018 — A Mississippi mother is warning parents to be on alert after her 5-year-old daughter, Kailyn, was temporarily paralyzed from a tick bite.

After waking her daughter to get ready for daycare, Jessica Griffin noticed that Kailyn struggled to stand on her own and was slurring her speech, according to news reports. As Griffin began to brush Kailyn’s hair, she noticed something alarming.

A tick had embedded itself on her daughter’s scalp.

Griffin called her husband, who told her to immediately remove the tick, put it in a plastic bag, and rush Kailyn to the hospital.

Kailyn had a CT scan and bloodwork at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where doctors diagnosed her with tick paralysis, The Washington Post reported.

According to the CDC, a nerve toxin found in a pregnant female tick’s saliva is believed to cause tick paralysis. Symptoms usually begin to show about 4 to 7 days after the tick starts feeding. Paralysis sets in slowly, starting in the legs and spreading into upper body, stopping your breathing if left unchecked.

Sources

The Washington Post: “A 5-year-old girl’s sudden paralysis was a mystery. Then her mother checked her scalp.”

MS News Now: “5-year-old girl temporarily paralyzed after tick bite.”

Facebook: Jessica Griffin, June 6, 2018.

CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): “Tick Paralysis — Washington, 1995.”

© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

WebMD Health

Spice Girls Bringing Girl Power to Animation in Superhero Flick

Spice Girls

Spice Girls

UK pop princesses the Spice Girls will be giving a new meaning to their “girl power!” catch phrase by voicing animated alter egos in a new superhero-themed movie.

Variety reports that a source has said all five members have signed off on their likenesses being used for the animated feature: Victoria Beckham (a.k.a. Posh Spice), Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice) and Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice). Each tooned up super spice will have a special “girl power” unique to their personality.

The group members,who first united in 1994 and became the biggest British musical sensation since “Beatlemania,” are reportedly “fired up about the idea,” according to the source, who added “The Spice Girls are thinking big in terms of a franchise on a global scale. They’re the most successful girl group on the planet. It’s just what Marvel or Disney needs.”

Throughout their luminous and well-seasoned career, the Spice Girls have sold 85 million records worldwide and earned a number of awards, including five Brit Awards, three American Music Awards, three MTV Europe Music Awards, one MTV Video Music Award, and three World Music Awards. They set new chart records and achieved the highest ever annual earnings by an all-female group in 1998 at $ 49 million USD.

In 1997, the group starred in the live-action musical comedy Spice World, directed by Bob Spiers, which unfortunately only really impressed the Razzy Awards committee — but great art is rarely appreciated in its time. In 1998, a claymated crew of brawling Spice Girls faced off with Hanson in MTV’s Celebrity Deathmatch: Deathbowl ‘98 special — which aired during the Super Bowl XXXII, earned top all-time ratings, and turned into a six-season series.

Spice Girls

Spice Girls

Celebrity Deathmatch

Celebrity Deathmatch

Animation Magazine

GKIDS Imports ‘Satellite Girl and Milk Cow,’ Streaming Now on VRV

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

GKIDS is bringing another unique animated treat to hungry North American fans, picking up distribution rights to the highly original ride Satellite Girl and Milk Cow, from Korean director Chang Hyung-yun. (Sales agent INDIESTORY represents the film worldwide.) Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is available now for streaming exclusively on VRV, while GKIDS sets up a theatrical and home video release for the summer.

“I knew from the moment I first saw Satellite Girl and Milk Cow that we had to be involved,” said David Jesteadt, GKIDS’ president. “It is safe to say that you are unlikely to have ever seen anything like this movie before–a truly original, fantasy anime sci-fi rom-com, just bursting with humor and heart. I’m hoping as many people as possible get the opportunity to see this remarkable film.”

The film, which received an Asia Pacific Screen Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, was produced by Cho Young-kag (The Fake, The King of Pigs) and features the voices of award-winning actors Jung Yu-mi (Train to Busan, Silenced) and Yoo Ah-in (The Throne, Veteran).

Synopsis:

An out of commission satellite picks up a lovelorn ballad on her radio antenna and descends to Earth to find the source of such sincere emotions. But on the way she is caught in the crossfire of a raging magical battle and is transformed into Satellite Girl, complete with Astro Boy-like rocket shoes and weapon-firing limbs. Meanwhile, the balladeer in question – a loser 20 something at a café open mic – meets the fate that befalls all broken-hearted lovers: he is turned into a farm animal. But love knows no bounds, and aided by the wise and powerful Merlin – a wizard who has been turned into a roll of toilet paper – our duo must evade the all-consuming incinerator monster, the wily pig witch, and other nefarious adversaries in an attempt to be together.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

Animation Magazine

Medical Marijuana: How a 12 Year Old Girl Is Suing Sessions For Legalization

Medical Marijuana helps with many symptoms of illnesses including helping a young girl with epilepsy. It’s not every day you find a 12-year-old girl standing up to General Attorney Jeff Sessions let alone suing. She filed a suit along, with her father, at the Southern District of New York according to a news report from NBC news.

Alexis Bortell has suffered epilepsy for years until cannabis came into her life. She now uses her medical marijuana where ever she goes or where ever it’s legal. She hopes to gain her rights to cannabis, so she can use her cannabis to public places like Disney Land.

However, she wasn’t the only plaintiff filing this suit against Sessions. There are other plaintiffs who’ve gathered together to help find peace within the cannabis industry by tackling, theoretically speaking, Jeff Sessions, The Department of Justice, and the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency.

The other plaintiffs are ex-NFL player Marvin Washington, six-year-old Jagger Cotte, disabled veteran Jose Belen, and the Cannabis Cultural Association.

What do all of these people have in common? They use medical marijuana to help ease their illnesses.

Alexis Bortell has epilepsy ever since she was 7 years old. She’s taken cannabis after several attempts of using prescribed medication. Alexis now has the freedom to operate a normal lifestyle without recurrent seizures, because of medical marijuana. She even wrote a book regarding medical marijuana.

Marvin Washington desires to help treat other football players through the use of medical marijuana. This will help them to reduce opioid dependency and enhance their overall performance. However, the Federal Minority Business Enterprise program is unable to allow Marvin his eligibility to work toward opening his business for medical marijuana as a source of treatment.

Jagger Cotte is a young six-year-old boy who consistently has severe pain, because of Leigh’s disease. What is Leigh’s disease? In a report, “X-Linked Leigh’s syndrome”, it states that it’s an extremely heterogeneous disorder. The symptoms are the failure to thrive, ocular-motor dysfunction, and neurological regression.

Jose Belen a disabled military veteran has post-traumatic stress disorders. He uses cannabis to treat his PTSD.

Cannabis Culture Association is a community of colored people. The CSA was enacted, but they’ve been forced in a discriminatory manner which prohibits them to participate in the cannabis industry.

They are challenging the Controlled Substance Act, implying that cannabis doesn’t follow the requirements of an actual “drug”.

The case was filed in hopes of persuading Jeff Sessions and his department into allowing cannabis be legal federally.

All in all this case with Alexis Bortell is very interesting to see where it leads. Alexis Bortell has the following of 20k fans on Facebook as they hope to tip the scales in favor of allowing her to bring her medical marijuana where she desires. If we could lead this case into federal legalization then this will change the entire industry.

The 420 Times

The Breadwinner: Through the Eyes of a Young Afghan Girl

The Breadwinner

Director Nora Twomey discusses the making of Cartoon Saloon’s powerful and beautifully animated feature The Breadwinner.

In the past few decades, animation fans have been lucky to experience several award-winning animated features that tell poignant stories about people going through harrowing times and political turmoil in their countries. This year, director Nora Twomey’s acclaimed feature The Breadwinner joins classics such as Grave of the Fireflies, Persepolis and Waltz with Bashir in telling an animated story that resonates far beyond the confines of the movie theater.

Based on the award-winning book by Deborah Ellis, The Breadwinner centers on a resilient 11-year-old girl named Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry), who is growing up under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001. After her father is wrongfully arrested, she disguises herself as a boy to help buy food for her family and to survive under the wartime conditions.

The film is directed with a delicate touch by Nora Twomey, one of the co-founders of Ireland’s acclaimed studio Cartoon Saloon, who also co-directed the Oscar-nominated 2009 feature The Secret of Kells with Thom Moore. As she tells us during a recent phone interview, the beginnings of the project go back more than four years ago, when producers Anthony Leo and Andrew Rosen of Aircraft Pictures brought the book to Cartoon Saloon and asked if they’d be interested in developing it as an animated movie. “I read the book in one sitting,” says Twomey, “I was captivated by the character of Parvana. She is so real, and is both flawed and very strong. I knew we could latch on to her and tell her story for the big screen.”

Twomey and the film’s screenwriter Anita Doron (The Lesser Blessed) worked with many Afghan cultural and historic consultants to keep the story’s authenticity and socio-political resonance. “The book was published in 2000, and many things have happened since then, such as 9/11, the formation of ISIS, etc. And for us, the big challenge was making a film that respected all the gray areas,” says the Irish-born director. “We tried hard to acknowledge the political complexity of the situation and to respect that history of that country before the events that we’re portraying in the movie.”

She also points out some of the universal dilemmas that Parvana deals with in the movie. “The simplicity of a girl’s love for her father, the need for approval from her parents, her complex relationship with her annoying older sister, and the necessity to fill your body with food every day—these were all very interesting challenges,” says Twomey. “We were fortunate to have a brilliant team of 300-plus cast and crew that worked on the movie and we mined their talent to put their creative vision on the screen.”

A Star’s Involvement

To help produce the project, Aircraft Pictures and Cartoon Saloon joined forces with Luxembourg’s Melusine Productions (Song of the Sea, Ernest & Celestine), Toronto-based Guru Studios (PAW Patrol, True and the Rainbow Kingdom) and U.S. distributor GKIDS. “There were certainly differences in the way we approached the animation to depict the characters’ experiences in the real world,” says Twomey. “We wanted to get a sense of realism and subtlety and to respect the cultural differences. We also pushed our cast as much as we could to really inhabit the characters. Many of our cast members were either born in Afghanistan or had parents who grew up in the country, so they were bringing their own childhoods and experiences to the parts they played and they spread the knowledge around.”

Of course, Angelina Jolie’s involvement in the project as producer added a bigger spotlight on the movie. The first time that Twomey met the amazing actress in person, she pretended that she just happened to be in town on business, but in fact the director had flown out to Los Angeles for the sole purpose of meeting Jolie face to face.

“She is such an extraordinary woman and is extremely knowledgeable about the situation in that part of the world,” says Twomey. “She has spent over a decade promoting education and equal rights for young women in Afghanistan and understands the complexity of the situation and history of that country. On a personal level, she appreciated the subtlety and sensibility of the story we were telling. She watched every stage of the project as we progressed, and she even recorded a heartfelt message for everyone when we had a Christmas party for the cast and crew, and everyone felt very appreciated. She has the ability to shine a light on the issues facing children and bringing more visibility to an indie film, so her involvement was so valuable.”

The director, who had worked with the animation team in Melusine in the past, says she shared as much information about each scene as possible as they went into production. “It was crucial for everyone to understand why every scene exists and what kind of crescendos we were bringing to the film. This was our third co-production at Cartoon Saloon, and we really value our co-production partners. For a movie of this scale, we had to make sure we had enough production managers, as the flow of communication is very important.”

The Cartoon Saloon team used Shotgun software to go over the scenes with animators at the different studios in real-time. “My assistant director Stuart Shankly, who is an incredible artist and shares my sensibility, helped immensely as he ensured a consistency between all the studios,” she notes.

The production used TVPaint for the animation and Photoshop to incorporate the real-world backgrounds. For the simpler animated segments that represent the fables and stories of the narrative, the team used Moho to rig the characters and Nuke to composite them. “Things have changed so much since we made Secret of Kells,” says Twomey. “Back then, all the scenes were done on paper, and they were literally shipped around the world. I think the hands-on nature of animation is incredible. I love every stage of the process.”

Promoting Empathy Beyond Borders

Beyond raising awareness of the plight of young women in Afghanistan, one of the most important goals for Twomey and her team was to keep the audience entertained. “For a story like this to work, you have to make sure the audience is going on a rollercoaster adventure,” she offers. “Subject matter aside, the film had to be structured in a way that you love the characters and you don’t want to see it end. You have to be able to empathize with all the characters, good or bad. I think it’s so important to be less black and white in terms of how we view the world; bring more nuance and understanding towards everyone, especially in this day and age with all the craziness around us.”

Paul Young, Cartoon Saloon co-founder/CEO and one of the film’s producers, says he loved it when at the premiere of the movie in Toronto, a young Afghan girl stood up and said that, like Parvana, she dressed as a boy to make money for her family and she called herself Genghis Khan! He says he was also quite moved when another young girl asked, “What can we do to help?’ after the screening. “She had really enjoyed the movie and was entertained, but the film had left her with more than just the story to think about,” Young recalls. “She was already thinking about other children like her on the other side of the world living a much more difficult life than her own. Angelina Jolie’s answer was great: That being brave and standing up and asking that question was already going to help.”

GKIDS releases The Breadwinner in theaters on November 17, 2017. The movie also plays at the Animation Is Film Festival on Friday October 21st.

Animation Magazine