Delhi Crime producer, Apoorva Bakshi, also comes onboard as one of the film’s executive producers.
very few weeks something remarkable happens in Pakistan’s cultural cosmos. This time around, it is because of news that’s coming out of Mano Animation Studios (MAS), Pakistan’s first (and only) hand drawn animation studio.
With its head office based in Karachi, MAS is founded by Usman Riaz but he is clear that the core team is just as important to the entire process.
Apart from Usman Riaz, who is the director, co-composer and storyteller, the core team includes Khizer Riaz (producer), Mariam Riaz (assistant director), Sofia Abdullah (character designer) and Aamir Riffat (animation director). But that is the original core team.
There is also an international collaboration network, extending to Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Peru, Argentina, Spain, United States of America and United Kingdom. And with approximately two dozen artists working in the Karachi studio under the aegis of this core team, Mano Animations Studios’ first major project, The Glassworker seems to have gained attention, locally and on the global front. Well-established international partners have been coming onboard. Among them is Manuel Cristobal, who came onboard as producer for The Glassworker last year. Cristobal’s career is not something to dismiss. Having produced eight animated films, winning the Jury award at Annecy (twice) and many more accolades, his understanding of animation as well as the international film market makes him a unique collaborator.
Equally important was Mano Animation Studios’ partnering with Charades – in 2022 – a French international distributor and production company, who are well-known for distributing unique films around the world.
Just two months ago, Chinese audiences were beguiled by Mano Animation Studios’ The Glassworker. Most impressive fact was that it wasn’t released by MAS but made its way to China as someone uploaded it to a YouTube-like video sharing platform called BiliBili with over 70 million active daily users. More than 500, 000 people viewed it according to a report by China Economic Net and were delighted by what they saw.
But here’s the latest jaw dropping news coming out of MAS.
An exclusive footage, designed specifically for Can-nes, was shown at Cannes Film Festival this month, just one year after its selection and showcase at France’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival. In both cases, the showcase did not mean screening of the full-length film but a showcase footage designed for the festivals. The showcase reels were powerful enough that they managed to (a) get selected in the most prestigious festivals in the world and (b) found international partners as well.
Explaining these ideas in articulate fashion, the humble as ever Usman Riaz revealed to Instep that “The Glassworker was one of the six films that Charades, our Paris-based sales agent, screened at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival” before adding, “It is a huge honour because the other five films were live action films and we were the only ones with animated film footage. Khizer Riaz and Manuel Cristobal, producers of The Glassworker, went to Cannes. It’s been incredible and a huge honour to have Mano Animation Studios’ first film be part of such a prestigious film festival. We had the opportunity to show exclusive footage and share it with the amazing people there and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Riaz noted that along with Mariam Riaz, he had stayed back in Karachi to work on finishing the film, which is scheduled to release later this year.
As The Glassworker continues to make a splash across the animation world, exciting things are happening for the film.
After the post-Cannes accomplishment, another high-profile name came onboard as an executive producer, namely Apoorva Bakshi, who is an Emmy Award winning producer of Delhi Crime.
In a story that broke on Deadline, Bakshi said, “The Glassworker is a truly remarkable project spearheaded by the gifted trio – Usman, Mariam and Khizer, alongside a team of young artists in Pakistan who are igniting a creative revolution in South Asia through their exceptional work.”
She added: “We are collaborating on a slate of projects which marks my first venture with Pakistani creators in the realm of animation, aiming to cultivate story engineering excellence in a format that has been long underserved in the region and is truly deserving of recognition.”
Responding to the Deadline piece about Apoorva Bakshi coming onboard, Mano Animation Studios’ chief creators said, “We are thrilled to welcome Apoorva to The Glassworker family and our upcoming slate at Mano Animation Studios. Apoorva has been an invaluable supporter, mentor, and advisor, and we feel privileged to collaborate with such a distinguished South Asian producer who builds an ecosystem for creative endeavors to thrive.”
Apart from these executive producers and a partner like Charades, The Glassworker cast will be in English and Urdu.
The English dub is backed by strong ensemble voice actors such as Art Malik (Sherlock, True Lies), Sacha Dhawan (Hulu’s The Great, Marvel’s Iron Fist and BBC’s Doctor Who) and Anjli Mohindra (The Sarah Jane Adventures, Doctor Who and BBC One drama Vigil).
The film will also showcase the fascinating art of glassblowing as well as the intertwined stories of its protagonists: Vincent and Alliz.
Speaking to Variety, Usman Riaz said, “The Glassworker is a glimpse into how we grew up in Pakistan. It can be seen in the conflicts, the local legends, the characters’ clothing, the food they eat, and the colonial architecture.”
Will The Glassworker become the first hand-drawn animated film to go global from Pakistan? In some ways, it already has. The footage designed particularly for festivals like Annecy and Cannes depict a beautiful, original story with beautiful images and perhaps the only interpretation that can be drawn from this expansion is that the upcoming film is already on its way in playing a major role across the animation world in and outside of Pakistan.
Inspired from Japanese animation, particularly by works from Studio Ghibli, Mano Animation’s first project is already looking different than other CGI animated films made in Pakistan.
For now, keep watching this space. It is equally possible that by the time you read this, something exciting emerges from MAS camp.