Cartoon Saloon, the Irish animation studio behind Oscar-nominated wonders Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells just landed an Oscar winner for its next feature.
Angelina Jolie Pitt and her production company Jolie Pas Productions have partnered with Cartoon Saloon on The Breadwinner, directed by The Secret of Kells co-director Nora Twomey. It is adapted from the 2001 novel of the same name from antiwar activist Deborah Ellis, which is based on her experiences visiting refugee camps in geopolitically volatile Afghanistan during the 1990s. Jolie will executive produce the animated feature about Parvana, a young girl who disguises herself as a boy and struggles to feed her family beneath the Taliban.
Co-produced with Aircraft Pictures and Melusine Productions, and developed with support from Telefilm Canada, the Irish Film Board, the Film Fund Luxembourg, Corus Entertainment, the Harold Greenberg Fund and the Belinda Stronach Foundation, The Breadwinner is still in the casting and pre-production stage, and due for arrival in early 2017. A version will be made in the Dari language as well as English.
“Millions of young girls like Parvana are growing up today under oppression or conflict, and helping their families to survive in those conditions,” Jolie Pitt said in a press release. “This story is a reminder of the immense value of their contribution. I am delighted to be working with a talented team of artists who I know will do justice to the richness, creativity and strength of Afghan culture and to little girls like Parvana.”
Jolie is right about the talent: With Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, Cartoon Saloon has created two of the most moving animated films in recent memory, mostly because the studio envisions animation as a vehicle for enlightenment and education, not just ephemeral stimulation.
“As storytellers, we have opportunities to broaden the way people think about the world, and while we may not change anyone’s mind, we may hopefully be a part of the slow chipping away at indifference,” Moore told Cartoon Brew in January, as his poetic, powerful Song of the Sea arrived stateside. “So we have a huge responsibility when we make movies aimed at kids to say something they need to know, instead of just distracting them with fart jokes and talking animals. Hopefully, we say something that benefits them when we have the opportunity.”
Moore and Cartoon Saloon co-founder and CEO Paul Young are co-producing The Breadwinner alongside Aircraft’s Anthony Leo and Andrew Rosen and Melusine’s Stephan Roelants, in conjunction with executive producers Jehane Noujaim & Karim Amer. Cartoon Saloon’s Gerry Shirren will also serve as executive producer.
Jolie Pitt has said that she plans to donate any profits derived from her role as executive producer of The Breadwinner towards the education of Afghan girls. Much like Ellis, who has donated to the same cause more than $1 million from sales of The Breadwinner series, which has cumulatively sold 2.5 million copies.
The Breadwinner’s sociopolitical and environmental conscience fits in quite well with Cartoon Saloon’s previous and future work, which includes the series Puffin Rock, debuting in September on Netflix. Now with Jolie, and her considerable cultural and ambassadorial clout, on board, chances seem pretty good that The Breadwinner, will have a larger audience than any previous Carton Saloon film.