Nora Twomey

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Nora Twomey
Nora Twomey.jpg
Born (1971-10-31) 31 October 1971 (age 49)
Alma materBallyfermot College
OccupationProducer, film director, animator
Years active2002–present
Known forThe Secret of Kells
The Breadwinner

Nora Twomey (born 31 October 1971) is an Irish animator, director, screenwriter, producer and voice actress. She is a partner in Cartoon Saloon, alongside Tomm Moore and Paul Young, an animation studio and production company, based in Kilkenny City, Ireland. She is best known for co-directing The Secret of Kells and directing The Breadwinner. Her work on both films earned Academy Award nominations for Best Animated Feature.

Early life[edit]

Twomey was educated at St. Mary's High School in Midleton, County Cork but left before completing the Leaving Certificate at the age of 15. She did manual labor at a local factory but continued to draw and briefly studied fine art before she was admitted to Ballyfermot College in Dublin to their School of Animation program on the basis of her portfolio.[1][2] She graduated from Ballyfermot College in 1995.[3]


After graduating from Ballyfermot College, Twomey began to work for Brown Bags Film animation studio in Dublin.[1] In 1999 she helped found Cartoon Saloon, along with Tomm Moore, Paul Young and Ross Murray. In 2002 she directed the award-winning short animated film From Darkness. The short film has no dialogue and is based on an Inuit folk tale where a man helps a woman with only a skeleton for a body to regenerate.[4] She also worked on the successful animated TV series Skunk Fu!.

Twomey went on to write and direct the animated short Cúilín Dualach (Backwards Boy), released in 2004. Based on a story by Jackie Mac Donacha, a boy with his head on backwards finds only love and acceptance in his mother and has to work to gain that from the rest of his community but most of all his father.[4]

She co-directed, with Tomm Moore, The Secret of Kells, an animated feature film as well as doing additional voice acting for the film. The film is set in 9th century Ireland, at the time when the Book of Kells was written. In it, a 12 year old orphan boy living at a monastery has the task of finishing a book with the art of illumination.[4] The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 2009. The Secret of Kells has been nominated in the category of Best Animated Feature Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.[5]

Twomey continued to work on feature films with Cartoon Saloon with 2014's Song of the Sea directed by Tomm Moore. She worked as the film's head of story and voice director.[6]

She next directed the animated film The Breadwinner, released in 2017. Based on the best-selling young adult novel by Deborah Ellis, an 11 year old girl named Parvana must dress as a boy and become the titular breadwinner for her family when her father is arrested by the Taliban. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017 with a wide release in November 2017.[7] It is the first feature-length film she has sole director credit on.[1] During the development of The Breadwinner, Twomey was named in Variety's "2017 10 Animators to Watch".[8]

Twomey is a member of the Motion Picture Academy.[1]

Themes and style[edit]

Twomey's films are often coming-of-age films with pre-teen protagonists dealing with mythic worlds, the importance of stories and finishing them, acceptance, family, and communities. Her films combine traditional and digital art but are often hand-drawn and in a visual style inspired by the worlds of her stories.[9]


Nora Twomey became the 7th graduate of Ballyfermot College to have been nominated for an Academy Award with her work on The Breadwinner when it was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards.[3]

The Breadwinner earned 10 nominations at the 45th Annie Awards, including Outstanding Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production for Twomey. It won the award for best animated feature for an independent film. This marked the first time a sole female director directed the film that won the award.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Twomey has two sons.[1]



Year Title Director Producer Animation
Voice actress Role Notes
2002 From Darkness Yes Yes Yes No Short film
Character designer
Art director
2003 The 3 Wise Men No No Yes No Animation supervisor
Effect animator
2004 Backwards Boy Yes No Yes No Short film
Also screenwriter and production manager
2009 The Secret of Kells Yes No No Yes Additional Voices Co-director
Old Fangs No No Yes No Short film
Creative director
2011 Escape of the Gingerbread Man!!! No No No Yes Ms. Fox Short film
2014 Song of the Sea No No Yes No Head of story
Voice director
Somewhere Down the Line No No No Yes Additional Voices Short film
2017 The Breadwinner Yes No No No
2020 Wolfwalkers No Yes No Yes Additional Voices
2021 My Father's Dragon Yes


Year Title Producer Notes
2015 Eddie of the Realms Eternal Yes TV movie
2015–present Puffin Rock Yes Creative producer


  1. ^ a b c d e "From school drop-out to Oscar-nominated animator with Cartoon Saloon - Nora Twomey". 11 June 2017.
  2. ^ Peter van der Lugt (7 October 2009). "An Interview With Director Tomm Moore". Twitchfilm. Archived from the original on 14 November 2009. Retrieved 28 May 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b Scott, Claire (27 January 2018). "Oscar nominee reveals how her time in Ballyfermot paved the road to success". dublinlive.
  4. ^ a b c Giannalberto, Bendazzi (6 November 2015). Animation : a world history. Volume 3, Contemporary times. Boca Raton, Florida. ISBN 1317519876. OCLC 930601898.
  5. ^ Kilkenny Advertiser, Fri, Feb 05, 2010 (5 February 2010). "Nights on the toon for Cartoon Saloon". Retrieved 28 May 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "'An incredible vote of confidence' - The Breadwinner director Nora Twomey on film's Oscar nomination". Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Animated tale The Breadwinner, produced by Angelina Jolie, shines light on Afghanistan | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  8. ^ Variety Staff (3 May 2017). "Variety's 2017 10 Animators to Watch". Variety. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  9. ^ "An Interview with Nora Twomey, Director of The Breadwinner — A New Film That Tells The Amazing…". Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. 2 December 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Best Animated Feature - Annie Awards: 'Coco' Tops Animation Celebration". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 March 2018.

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