Self-taught animator gets half a million hits

A self-taught Irish animator who doesn’t watch much TV has created a YouTube sensation after his quirky cartoons racked up more than 500,000 views.

James Sullivan said he’s been blown away by the reaction to his hilarious and irreverent Sminky Shorts cartoon series over the last two months, and hopes it will spark the interest of leading animation companies.

“It is satisfying alright to see how popular they’ve become,” the 27-year-old college student from Kanturk, Co Cork, said.

“I didn’t think that many people would be in to it, especially because it’s complete nonsense. There’s no deep thought involved but I guess people like them.”

James, who worked as a freelance graphic designer for several years, signed up to do a three-year degree in multimedia in the Cork Institute of Technology to get a formal qualification.

“I’ve been writing for years and had all these ideas about doing a show, and maybe getting a pilottogether,” James said.

“Then during the college course, we had to produce an animation so I decided to do some practice on the software and I came up with Awful Sad.”

Featuring two mice lamenting the death of a friend in a mouse-trap, the 58-second short was an instant hit.

“I showed it to my younger brother, Gordon, for a laugh and he posted it on Facebook, and then friends began sharing it, and the feedback was great,” James said.

It was screened at the Castlepalooza Music and Arts Festival this weekend after winning an award.

Two more shorts followed in quick successions — Dopey Spider, and Red Arse, featuring a lion and a baboon — and people said he should do more.

Things really took off when he produced I Can’t Do It, featuring a horse with a voice remarkably like Roy Keane who has a crisis of confidence about jumping over a tiny puddle. It’s been watched 90,000 times in just a few weeks.

“My brother was in a pub the other night and people were at the bar about to do shots, and he heard one of the girls saying: ‘I can’t do it, I just can’t do it,’ ” he said.

Friends tell him that the Handsome Donkey short — where a donkey dotes over a hideous-looking newborn — reminds them of stuff their grandmothers said.

James has created a cartoon about an aggressive ram with a Dublin accent, a daredevil turtle with a Kerry accent, and a fat house-hunting rabbit who’s sparked an online debate about whether he’s from North Tipperary or Kilkenny.

“It’s all observational stuff. A lot of the animals remind me of people I’ve known, and what I’m surrounded by. I used to know a guy who spoke like that rabbit,” James said.

He is responsible for everything in the cartoon, from the animation which is drawn using Adobe Flash on a Wacom graphics tablet, to the voices which he records in the Audacity program using a normal USB microphone.

“I would encourage anyone who’s interested in doing this to just do it,” he said.

“People are already sending me stuff asking me if I can animate it for them.

“But I’ve enough to be doing myself now, and it’s more fulfilling if you do it yourself.”

James has five more Sminky Shorts in the can, and between 20 and 30 written and ready to animate.

* facebook.com/sminkyanimation, or go to the Sminky Animation channel on YouTube.


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