U.S. Animation Distributor Gkids Moves Into Production

Eight-time Oscar-nominated company boards ‘The Breadwinner’

New York-based Gkids is moving into production, with top execs Eric Beckman and David Jesteadt boarding “The Breadwinner,” the third feature from two-times Academy Award nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon.

Gkids will also distribute “The Breadwinner” in North America, and has slated a fall 2017 theatrical release. Beckman, Gkids CEO-founder, and Jesteadt, its distribution SVP, join Angelina Jolie Pitt as executive producers on “The Breadwinner,” the first time that Gkids will serve on a film in a producing and financing capacity as well as handling distribution.

The departure marks the latest growth move at Gkids which has carved an unrivalled reputation as a distributor of highly crafted, often 2D, art or crossover animation movies from Japan’s Studio Ghibli, France’s Didier Brunner and Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon, among others, which have won it eight animated feature Academy Award nominations since it launched in 2008.

Initiating production last month, “The Breadwinner” marks a re-teaming of Gkids and Cartoon Saloon after Gkids handled U.S distribution of the Dublin animation studio’s first two films, “The Secret of Kells” and “Sing of the Sea.” Both featuring young protagonists, the Dark Ages Ireland-set “Kells,” which was co-directed by “Breadwinner” helmer Nora Twomey, is a mostly hand-drawn 2D feature about a young novice struggling to help illustrate the Book of Iona at his monastery while a Viking attack looms. Equally painterly, “Song of the Sea,” also directed by “Kells’” Tom Moore, is also richly drawn, and peopled by the witches, giants and selfies – half-human, half seals – of Irish legend.

In “The Breadwinner,” which is also hand-drawn 2D, a young Afghan girl cuts her hair and dresses up as a boy in order to support her family after the Taliban imprison her father. Released by Cartoon Saloon, early visuals (pictured) look quite stunning.

For Jesteadt, there is a through-line between the three films visuals and stories of young protagonists wise beyond their years battling with family and cultural time period issues beyond their control. That said, Jesteadt added: “It’ll be exciting to see how Cartoon Saloon, a company known for films based on Irish folklore, is able to explore a contemporary global stories in a very different setting and with a real socio-political [import].”

Describing “The Breadwinner” as “one of our biggest investments to date,” Jesteadt told Variety that an executive production role would allow Gkids to bring its promotion expertise to the table at a far earlier time in the film’s creation and for the benefit of not just the film’s North American market.

“The global barriers are gone. A film’s promotion is becoming an increasingly international concern,” Jesteadt said.

He continued: “Rather than Cartoon Saloon creating a beautiful film and bringing it to us once it’s finished, we wanted to support the production in its earlier stages, work to help make an increasingly larger film for critics, award voters and audiences.”

“The Breadwinner” is produced by Aircraft Pictures’ Anthony Leo and Andrew Rosen in Canada, Cartoon Saloon’s Tomm Moore and Paul Young, and Melusine Productions’ Stephan Roelants, who is based out of Luxembourg.

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