When it comes to entertainment, Los Angeles is undoubtedly the global epicentre of the industry.
This past week, the cream of the global animation sector gathered at The Garland Hotel in the city for the annual World Animation Summit. Among those present was an Irish delegation, which attended the event as part of a joint visit organised by Enterprise Ireland and Screen Ireland.
Our animation sector is dynamic and growing, with over 40 firms now members of the Animation Ireland industry body, up from seven in 2005.
Irish animation is also intensely export-focused and highly internationalised, with overseas sales accounting for 85pc of turnover.
The client base of some of these Irish companies boasts an impressive roster, and includes Apple TV, Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Nickelodeon, the BBC, Super RTL, Cartoon Network, Scholastic, YouTube, and China TV. That means that animation produced in Ireland is watched by millions of people in over 130 territories.
With this impressive growth, it is no surprise that Irish animators were front and centre at this World Animation Summit as the unique storytelling that has emerged from Ireland has certainly put this Irish industry on the map in recent years.
Nora Twomey, Co-Founder and Creative Director of the highly acclaimed and Academy Award nominated Kilkenny based animation studio Cartoon Saloon, spoke on stage on Monday at the event, as part of a session showcasing Award Season Feature Contenders. Cartoon Saloon’s latest film My Father’s Dragon continues to create buzz within the industry and around the world.
Also on Monday, Andrew Kavanagh, CEO of Kavaleer Productions, which makes series such as Pablo and Boy Girl Dog Cat Mouse Cheese, addressed the event as part of a panel on international partnerships.
There is no doubt that Irish animation is held in high esteem by industry giants.
Cartoon Saloon alone has five Academy Award nominations. While Brown Bag Films, which developed global animated hits such as Doc McStuffins and Vampirina, has two Academy Award nominations. And other Irish animation houses have also been internationally recognised at the Baftas and the Golden Globes, along with the Annies (which recognise animation specifically) and the Kidscreen Awards.
This creative magic also translates into jobs in Ireland. The large cluster of animation companies here provides valuable specialist employment, particularly to younger, graduate workers.
In fact, the sector is now the largest provider of full-time and permanent employment in the independent film and television sector here. As a sector, it is highly focused on business integrity and also committed to diversity, equality and inclusion.
Ireland also leads in related research, development and innovation. Companies such as Jam Media, Piranha Bar, Pink Kong, Little Moon, Giant and Algorithm are developing extensive new technologies and unique IP for TV, film, games, mobile and VR/AR applications and operating technically sophisticated 2D and 3D production facilities.
Enterprise Ireland supports this innovation with funding and advice and aids the further development of our local animation industry in every way possible. This includes supporting startups, investing in leadership development and enabling our animators to attend key in-market events. As well as support from the Enterprise Ireland team in Ireland and in our network of 40 offices around the globe, an important element of this work and supporting this growth is industry collaboration with stakeholders, such as Screen Ireland, Animation Ireland, RTÉ and others.
Ultimately, the Enterprise Ireland team aims to enable these companies to scale globally and make the most of opportunities in games, licensing and merchandising.
We also support start-ups with high growth potential, including Turnip & Duck, Daily Madness and Studio Meala. Animation is a particularly vibrant market and even small startups can benefit as consumers are hungry for new, creative and entertaining content as broadcaster, SVOD (subscription video on demand) and games giants seek to add to their libraries
Furthermore, Enterprise Ireland also supports the annual Animation Dingle festival which is now importantly an Academy Award-approved festival. Next March will see the 11th Animation Dingle happening in Kerry, and this event celebrates Irish animation’s creativity, storytelling and innovation. Key decision makers from the likes of Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, Aardman Studios, Apple TV, Disney, BBC and Cartoon Network connect directly with attendees, comprised of students and companies, sharing insights to the magnitude of opportunities that exist for the growing Irish animation sector.
The future is bright – there’s an incredible spotlight on Ireland – what a brilliant time for Irish animators and young creatives to pursue their dreams. Long may Ireland be where animation happens!
Eileen Bell is senior business development advisor at Enterprise Ireland