Film Board hails booming animation sector

The Irish animation sector has exploded over the past decade with hundreds of people employed in the multi-million euro industry, it was claimed today.

The Irish animation sector has exploded over the past decade with hundreds of people employed in the multi-million euro industry, it was claimed today.

Irish Film Board chief executive Simon Perry said Irish animation was highly regarded on the international circuit with major productions such as The Ugly Duckling And Me being selected for the prestigious International Toronto Film Festival.

The animated film will open in cinemas later this year but has already been sold in 23 countries in Europe and South America.

“Irish animation is now highly regarded on the international stage for producing award-winning films that are independently financed and made with great innovative skill. The Irish Film Board has been investing in Irish animators for the last 10 years and has developed a large number of animation series with them,” Mr Perry said.

The board confirmed the industry was now bigger than when the US animation studio Sullivan Bluth was operating from Ireland in the early 1990s. Irish animators are now raising their own finance from international broadcasters rather than working on projects created by a US studio.

There are now hundreds of full-time and freelance animators operating in the multi-million euro industry.

Cathal Gaffney of Brown Bag Films said live action movies filming in Ireland tend to attract all the hype but the animation industry probably employed more people.

“The industry has changed from no indigenous companies to a reasonably buoyant industry,” he said over the growth in the past decade.

He added: “Dun Laoghaire is an excellent college there is no doubt graduates coming out of there are world class. We are certainly punching above our weight when we go overseas.”

Several Irish production companies are making final preparations before pitching their projects at next month’s Cartoon Forum where over 250 major international financiers will be seeking the latest hit series.

Aidan Hickey, who sits on the board of Cartoon which runs the Cartoon Forum, said: “It’s been a constant concern for the Board of Cartoon that only producers from the ’big three’ – France, Germany and the UK – could secure funding for their projects at the Cartoon Forum. But, ever since Cartoon Saloon presented Skunk Fu at the Cartoon Forum in 2003, this has changed.”

Last year six major animated Irish television series were pitched at the forum with Wobblyland by the Oscar-nominated company Brown Bag Films receiving a standing ovation.

After its success at the forum, Nickelodeon and Hit Entertainment, behind Bob The Builder, have invested in the project with production due to start in the autumn.

The series was created by Cat Little as her graduate film from the Dun Laoghaire Film School.

Monster Animation’s Fluffy Gardens has already pre-sold to Australia, the UK and RTE following last years forum.

Brown Bag’s animated TV series, I’m an Animal, has been sold to 15 international broadcasters including Nickelodeon UK, Asia and Benelus, National Geographic in Latin America and other broadcasters in Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and the Middle East.

Cartoon Saloon, a Kilkenny based animation studio are currently employing 250 animators, working on projects including a major animated feature film, Brendan the Secret of Kells and their TV series Skunk Fu.

Some of the projects lined up for the forum in France starting on September 20 next including Garth, an adventure show featuring time travelling children who visit famous historical figures each week.

The series of 52 five-minute episodes from Kavaleer Productions features the music of Kila, and the voice of actors Ruth Negga and Morgan Jones.

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