In the Frame: Innovative Irish Animation
From the sea shanty tales of Song of the Sea to the beautifully drawn Celtic mythology of The Secret of Kells, Irish illustrators and cartoonists are at the forefront of a new wave of storytelling for children and adults.
Alongside the rollout of Lighthouse Studios, a new venture from Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon and Canadian animation powerhouse Mercury Filmworks, it seems a hot trend is on the rise - one that celebrates animation in Ireland as an industry that is not only promising, it’s prospering.
With just 70 full-time animation positions in Ireland a mere 10 years ago - a number that has since grown to more than 1500 - it seems the proof is in the production houses.
Cartoon Saloon are a two-time Academy Award and BAFTA nominated animation studio, founded in 1999 by filmmakers Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey.
Best known for their 2015 animated film Song of the Sea, which won widespread critical acclaim and a spot on the Academy Awards shortlist, it was actually their first feature film, the outstanding The Secret of Kells, that first put the group on the map, pulling in an Oscar nomination in 2010 and drawing the attention of the international animation industry.
From winning shorts to feature films and beloved children’s series like Skunk Fu and the worldwide-broadcast Puffin Rock, the group have spent the past 18 years telling stories on screen, and are presently finishing up work on a new movie with Angelina Jolie's Jolie Pas Productions entitled The Breadwinner.
Founded in 1994 by Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O’Connell, Brown Bag Films, one of the most original and successful animation studios in Ireland, have been in business for 22 years, during which time they’ve become known internationally as a cutting-edge, creative-led studio with a habit of racking up awards for their work.
One of the most technically advanced studios in the world, with full animation, picture and audio post-production facilities in-house, Brown Bag also boasts a rake of nominations, including Oscar nods for Give Up Yer Aul Sins (2002) and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty (2010), six Emmy awards for Peter Rabbit (2014), and a host of BAFTA, Emmy and Annie nominations for their hit shows Octonauts, Doc McStuffins, Bing and Henry Hugglemonster.
The success of these big kahunas of Irish animation has inspired a new generation of animation professionals to set up shop, and today there are more than 20 lending their creative skills to film, television and web projects around the world.
Boutique production houses such as Ink and Light and the up-and-coming Treehouse Republic, as well as prize-winners such as Pink Kong, Kavaleer, and Boulder Media (to name just a few) are also drawing global attention for their work. The Irish passion for storytelling through pictures and words has created a unique culture perfectly suited for world-class animation studios to thrive upon.