Junior Reporter e-Interview: Animator, The Breadwinner

March 2, 2018

Junior Reporters from Xyza recently got an opportunity to attend the Bay Area International Children’s Film Festival! Our awesome crew watched movies, attended workshops, and talked to movie makers, directors, and more.

Sixth-grader Maisy B. was at the movie festival and watched The Breadwinner. After the movie, Maisy had the opportunity to ask Stuart Shankley, the assistant director of the movie, some questions. Thank you, Mr. Shankley and good job, Maisy!

Check out Maisy’s e-interview and some of the other movies that Mr. Shankley has worked on below! 


— Do you think there will ever be a time when it is possible to screen Breadwinner in Afghanistan?

“Yes! Great question. It has actually already screened at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, and the producers are finalizing plans to show it on television across Afghanistan. They hope to make an announcement once they have a premiere date.”

— Do you think it is important to change the look and style of the animation depending on the theme of the movie?

“The style is definitely something we put a lot of consideration into. We wanted the designs to have mass appeal while not being too cartoony and also not overly realistic. Having a secondary world within the film was a great opportunity for us to lighten things up visually with a more cartoony sensibility to provide a sense of relief for both Parvana and the audience.” 

— Do you always work with the same team of people on the animation? 

“It’s rare to work with the same crew on multiple projects. There is often some overlap, but animation tends to be a very transient industry. Animators usually get hired on a contract to complete a project, and once it’s done, they move on. Sometimes they get asked to come back for another project in the future, but it all depends on their availability.”

— Are the animations drawn by hand?

“On Breadwinner, all the character animation in the real world was done by hand. We draw on computers with a stylus rather than paper and pencil, though some studios still like to use paper. We used a software called Moho to animate the story world characters because we wanted a very different style and it was the best way for us to simulate paper cut-out animation by using rigged puppet-like designs.”

-When you were a kid, did you want to be an animator?

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I really didn’t know that animation was a job until I was about sixteen. Back then, there weren’t as many studios and even less schools where you could learn it. As soon as I realized it was a possibility, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

— How long is the process to make a movie like Breadwinner?

“The producers at Aircraft Pictures acquired the rights to the Breadwinner book in 2009. They initially planned to make it a live action film, but they soon realized it would be more effective as an animated project. They contacted Nora Twomey at Cartoon Saloon about working with them, and she said yes as soon as she read the book. They began working on a script and early development in early 2013, so it was pretty close to five years of devoted work for roughly 300 people to make this film.”

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