Friday 22 June 2018

Conceived in Ballyfermot, Brown Bag has global audience

A still from Brown Bag’s short film 'Give Up Yer Aul Sins'
A still from Brown Bag’s short film 'Give Up Yer Aul Sins'
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

Brown Bag Films has been at the forefront of the Irish animation industry for more than two decades at this stage, and has grown to be one of the most influential players in the sector worldwide.

The company was set up in 1994 by Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O'Connell. Both men had just finished studying, having learned their trade at Ballyfermot Senior College - now Ballyfermot College of Further Education.

The duo recognised very quickly that the company could not survive, never mind grow, if it concentrated on just the tiny Irish market. Instead it chased after an international audience from almost day one.

Like many companies in the animation sector, Brown Bag has historically tended to have a relatively small full-time staff, but has taken on contractors to work on major projects. That gives the company the flexibility to grow and contract as required, without taking on additional staff costs. Indeed, many of the staff have studied at Ballyfermot as well.

The company's first major production was 'Peig' for RTÉ. Unlike future productions, the studio produced 'Peig' on a shoestring budget, using handpainted acetate cells - a far cry from the hi-tech computer graphics used by the industry today.

Advertisements and short features paid the bills for much of the mid-1990s but the firm was already working on international projects.

Even with fewer than 10 employees, the company still collaborated with Warner Brothers on the feature film 'The King & I' and in 1998 Brown Bag produced the series 'Why?' for RTÉ.

That series was arguably the studio's first big international hit, selling to broadcasters in more than 100 countries around the globe.

In 2001, Brown Bag was still tiny, with only 22 full- time employees - but it was catapulted onto the top tier of the animation world with 'Give Up Yer Aul Sins'.

The tale, which is focused on a TV crew visiting a school and asking for the story of John the Baptist, was well received by critics and went on to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Short.

The short film received international attention and has been screened at the Cannes Film Festival and Aspen Film Festival, among many others.

That film put Brown Bag on the path to where it is today.

Brown Bag now employs more than 110 staff and has had even bigger hits with 'Doc McStuffins' on Disney, as well as 'Peter Rabbit', 'Octonauts' and 'Henry Hugglemonster'. Its shows are routinely among the most-watched on children's TV globally.

Irish Independent

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