The world of animation is one that’s filled with countless creative and talented individuals- but the concept of animation and animated cinema is noticeably absent in Pakistan, or at least until now. Usman Riaz, who is an artist, filmmaker, musician and a storyteller, founded a studio called Mano Animation Studios, the first hand-drawn animation studio of its kind in Pakistan. The young animation director recently appeared on Momina’s Mixed Plate to talk about his journey.

“I’ve always been fascinated by animation and the power of visual storytelling. When I was growing up, I would watch cartoons and animated films and try to recreate the characters and scenes in my own drawings. That’s when I knew that animation was something I wanted to pursue”, Usman Riaz shared his early inspiration for pursuing animation, which eventually led him to explore further and establish himself in the field.

“I gave a talk in Japan, nobody spoke English and my talk was in English, there was no response, I thought I blew it. But then I was miraculously invited to my favourite animation studio in the world: Ghibli”, Riaz shared how he continued to hone his craft, eventually creating ‘The Glassworker’ and solidifying his reputation as a rising talent in the world of animation.“That’s how the ball got rolling and Mano Animations started”, Riaz stated.

The young talent talks about the challenges he faced to birth the first ever animation studio, in a country foreign to the concept of the art and lacking the kind of technology needed to aid it. He spared details of the dedication required for the film such as 1400 individual cuts that he himself hand drew to kick off the project and its idea, to the animator bringing life, movement and expression to each character themselves due to no real actors, and hence nobody to bounce ideas off- Usman Riaz shared about the real effort that goes behind the scenes, each person giveing their 100% to bring the film to life, needless to say that collaboration and teamwork has been a vital factor.

Momina asked Usman for the much awaited insight on the film and to share a little teaser, if he may, upon which he expressed “Mystery is very important, that’s what creates intrigue, people whisper, this is all very intentional, some people even thought Mano animations had shut down and The Glassworker wasn’t being made”, however, he did show his enthusiasm stating that the film was in its final stretch and he couldn’t wait to share more with everybody.

With his combination of artistic talent, technical skill, and emotional depth, Usman Riaz is a true visionary and an artist to watch in the coming years. And thanks to Momina’s Mixed Plate’s recent episode, we now have a deeper understanding of the man behind the art.