Irish animator inks Disney deal to toon of €6m
ANIMATION may be child's play, but it is also increasingly big business.
A Dublin-based firm is to team up with global studio giant Disney for a new animation series in a deal worth €6m.
Brown Bag Films will double its staff numbers, to 100, to make 52 episodes of a new animation series called 'The Happy Hugglemonsters', which will be seen in 150 countries.
It will premiere on the Disney Junior channel in autumn of next year.
"We've always been very proud of our work but here's the proof that we're a world-class TV animation company," the firm's CEO Cathal Gaffney told the Irish Independent yesterday.
Based on the 2006 children's book, 'I'm a Happy Hugglewug', by Skerries author Niamh Sharkey, the series follows the adventures of fun-loving, five-year-old Henry Hugglemonster, the middle child in a happy, wacky, close-knit monster family -- The Hugglemonsters.
"This all goes back several years to when I first became aware of Niamh Sharkey as a talented children's illustrator," Mr Gaffney said.
"We took an option on her book 'I'm a Happy Hugglewug' and with the help of the Irish Film Board, developed it into a series with storylines."
Brown Bag Films brought in US director Norton Virgien to make an animated short, and then presented a pilot to Beth Gardiner, vice-president at Disney's London-based production hub.
She commissioned the series and it will be made at the Dublin studio in Smithfield, to take advantage of some tax breaks.
"I was brought in to bring Hollywood sensibility to the production," Mr Virgien, who previously worked on the popular cartoon 'Rugrats', said.
"We wanted to make something energetic and challenging to a pre-school audience, and raise the bar to appeal to kids and older children."
US TV writer Sascha Paladino is writing the episodes.
He moved his family from Los Angeles to Dublin to be part of the Brown Bag team making the series.
Ms Sharkey, the author of the original book and associated producer on the series, spoke of her amazement at yesterday's news.
"About 150 countries worldwide are going to see something based on my book," she said.
"I'm bowled over by that, and thrilled to be working with Brown Bag. The creativity, enthusiasm and care they bring to the project is mind blowing.
"Making this show for Disney Channel is a dream come true, and to be able to create this show in Ireland together is the icing on the cake. I know my monster family is in safe hands."
Established in 1994 by Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O'Connell, Brown Bag Films first came to prominence through short film 'Give Up Yer Aul Sins', featuring the voices of children recorded in Rutland Street school during the early '60s.
It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2002.
The company received another nomination in the same category in 2010 for 'Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty', about a cantankerous pensioner.
And earlier this year, Brown Bag was back in the spotlight with a Bafta Nomination for children's series 'The Octonauts', an underwater pre-school adventure show which airs on BBC's CBeebies channel.
Other Brown Bag productions on air include 'Olivia', about a talking pig on Nickelodeon, and a new animation of Enid Blyton children's character Noddy on Channel 5 in the UK.
A second Brown Bag production, 'Doc McStuffins' -- a children's show about a six-year-old who communicates with and heals stuffed animals in a backyard clinic -- is set to premiere on Disney Junior worldwide in 2012.