Irish Week: How The Tenacity of Irish Studios Is Doing Them Wonders

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone pretends to be Irish and the real Irish milk it from the American tourists for all it’s worth. St. Patrick’s Day is on Thursday so until then, this post is part of a series on Ireland and Irish-related animation. You can browse the full series here.

For a long time, there were not studios in Ireland, production studios I mean. Then one day, Don Bluth and Morris Sullivan decided to set up shop in Dublin, but more on that later this week.

Since that first, initial explosion of animation in Ireland, there has been an almost continuous expansion of the industry and although the original Sullivan-Bluth Studios are defunct, the educational course that studio started is still very much alive.

The advancement of the industry over the years is nothing sort of amazing when you think about it. Here was a country with no real prior animation experience getting thrown head-first into the topsy-turvy world of cartoons. Since then, numerous studios have popped up as Irish-trained animators began to venture out into the industry on their own, and despite the harsh business environment, have succeeded!

In terms of gaining business, Irish outfits have very much followed the lead set by the various Japanese and Korean companies in years past. That it, to become an offshore production studio for major studios and gradually use that experience to create you own content. It is a well-worn yet tried and tested method that has indeed helped Irish studios gain familiarity and knowledge of the world-wide industry and of course allow them to attain a reputation and personal relationships along the way. Of course the old irish charm helps a lot too. 😉

The success of the likes of The Secret of Kells is proof that Irish culture and stories can have an international appeal and since that films success, other Irish studios have slowly but surely been heading in that direction hoping to emulate the unparalleled success of Kells.

Animation Ireland has a comprehensive list of Irish studios and what they do and it’s a list well worth checking out. There were even a few I didn’t know about!

The sometimes cutthroat nature of working in animation can be notoriously difficult to achieve success in and I think that all the hard work that people have put into making Ireland a hub for animation has certainly been worth the effort. It’s been proven that it can be done and I firmly believe that right now, we are on the cusp of a protracted age of Irish animation success.

4 Comments on “Irish Week: How The Tenacity of Irish Studios Is Doing Them Wonders

  1. A good deal of the animation industry’s success in Ireland can be attributed to their extraordinary financial incentives from the government.

    It’s my understanding that these credit programs have lapsed, but at one time an investor was guaranteed a near dollar for dollar return on money spent in Ireland.

    Of course, that wouldn’t matter if the product was junk or if there wasn’t a labor/talent infrastructure to support an industry.

    It’s a great example of tax policy can invigorate an industry and fairly quickly become a revenue/tax generator.

    • There’s no pulling the wool over your eyes, Richard 😉

      Absolutely, tax incentives can be an extremely useful tool when attempting to establish an industry. In Ireland’s case they clearly could not compete on raw talent or experience, so they competed on price (the bean counters favourite).

      As can be seen, it has worked wonders. Irish studios and animators have garnered overseas skills and expertise and have gotten to the point where they can strike out with their own content.

      On the whole it took about 20 years. A pretty goof timeframe to go from nothing to internationally recognized.

  2. Industries seem to start one of a couple ways. The US is one of the few markets, maybe the only one which successfully formed within the country to begin with. There are the countries that I’d say are sort of off and on depending on whether there’s a brilliant auteur there at the moment. You could say that about Australia, perhaps Canada if you exclude the NFB. Japan, Korea, and Ireland like you said developed off of the market due to outside presences. Then there’s China and Russia who both developed on their own, responding to the prominent influences of the time but developing into more unique industries over time. In Hungary, Pannoniafilm developed slowly, with outside financial support from George Pal and developed largely from the inside without much outside corporate influence.

    Soyuzmultfilm(Russia’s biggest studio), Pannoniafilm, and the Chinese major studio, Shanghai Animation Film Studio, are all pretty much out of the game. The first two collapsed, most likely under the transition from communism to capitalism. China’s industry just seemed to peter out slowly and it had never really grown all that large.

    That’s what I’ve got to say a few days too late.

    • Thanks for comment GW.

      You’re right, many countries developed animation industries all on their own. However the difference between those and Ireland is that the ones you name are/were large enough to sustain an animation industry with domestic demand. Ireland (being only 4 million people) could never do that, so it was inevitable that outside help would be needed.

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