The Vegtoons Kickstarter Project Looks Appetising!

The Vegtoons Kickstarter project is one that aims to create an animated show around the idea of vegetarianism, not necessarily to convert carnivores. Described thus:

The show explores a variety of issues, concerns and assumptions surrounding the vegetarian lifestyle — ranging from the foods that vegetarians eat, to health and ethics, to relationships with family and loved ones. Each episode has a specific theme and therefore can be enjoyed on its own; however, the larger trajectory of the story unfolds over the entire series.

It’s a project that certainly looks promising from a number of angles, not least of which is the fact that it’s not aimed at kids but rather people in general. This is one to keep an eye on. Check out the teaser below or head on over to the Kickstarter page to watch the full pitch video.



Brenda Chapman’s Irish Trip & What You Can Learn From It

So it’s the morning after St. Patrick’s Day. Seeing as I’m writing this on Friday night, I can only presume that I (and you) had a good time and did indeed uphold the fine traditions of my race on the day.

Anyway, Brenda Chapman recently spent some in Ireland to teach a few master classes, but she also did something else, namely take herself all the way up to the wilder parts where I’m from and spend some time in a cottage to herself.

Long story short, she found it a great help to simply focus on things. You should definitely read her post on it, but keep in mind that sometimes disconnecting from life for a while can be a good thing. There’s no doubt that the US is by far the fastest-lived nation on Earth and sometimes that can lead to a lot of unnecessary noise. No, not the traditional kind of noise, like from a road, but the other, psychological kind.

Brenda found taking a break a great help. Perhaps you should do the same 🙂

The State of Irish Animation in 2012

First of all, a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all. Remember, Guinness is Irish; corned beef and cabbage is not.

Irish animation has been on a roll the last few years as the combination of a strong talent pool. entrepreneurs willing to take a risk, continuous production demand, excellent products and a little help from the government in the form of tax incentives has made the country a very favourable one to do business in. In other words, the hard work continues to pay off.

Production now extends across the entire content landscape, from shorts through TV all the way to feature films. This growth has caused the industry to continue its expansions and growth at a time when the Irish economy as a whole has been struggling (to put it lightly).

No one studio seems to have eked out a significant lead as the larger ones have managed to succeed by going in different directions. Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon hit it right out of the park a few years ago with The Secret of Kells. As of 2012, development continues on their much-anticipated next feature, Song of the Sea.

Brown Bag Films has cemented their position as the studio to watch on the international stage. Besides announcing the sale of their first original series, Happy Hugglemonsters, they’ve also maintained their production series The Octonauts. Now employing over 100 people, Brown Bag have seem poised to continue their growth for the coming year.

Besides these two well-known outfits, other studios such as Jam Media, Kavaleer Productions (which recently celebrated 10 years in business), Boulder Media (currently winning accolades for their work on the Amazing World of Gumball), Telegael, Monster Animation and Caboom all continue to propel the industry to worldwide attention and admiration.

Noted newcomers this year include Giant Creative which has marked themselves out as a crowd to keep an eye on over the coming years.

Perhaps the largest sign that Ireland is making waves in the animated seas is the fact that this year’s Annecy festival will have a central focus on the country and what it can offer. Big things are expected to be announced come June.

Overall, the outlook for Irish animation is extremely positive for 2012 and beyond. Here’s hoping next year’s post will have even more good things to say.

Irish Week: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Responsibly, Watch The Secret of Kells

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.

Today’s the day and while I would have liked to have written this yesterday, I could not, so I am writing it this morning before the day begins (that sounded poetic…). It is hard to believe that two years after it was released in Ireland, we are still talking about this film, it is a testament to how much it has resonated with audiences around the world. So much so that I wrote a post about it a while back.

Anyways, what better way to celebrate Ireland and Irishness than a nice Irish film eh? And if you’ve already watched it, watch it again, you might discover something you may have missed the last time around.



Irish Week: At Least The Irish Government Recognises The Cultural Value of Animation

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.

Via: Brown Blog Films

What you see above is the real deal, sent to both Tomm Moore (Cartoon Saloon, The Secret of Kells) and Nicky Phelan (Brown Bag Films, Granny O’Grim). By the sounds of the respective blog posts, it was nothing short of a complete shock for both invitees.

Now St. Patrick’s Day is a huge deal for the Irish government because unlike any other country, March 17th is for the Irish and the Irish alone (everyone’s Irish for a day, etc, etc). As a result, the government and the country have long realised that they have been given this extraordinary opportunity: a whole day to market Ireland to the entire world without interference from other (non-catastrophic) events. In fact, the combination of St Patrick’s Day and the opening of NCAA March Madness is seen by some (including my boss) as a perfect storm of events.

You’d think that for the Irish Government and the embassies and so forth that this would be a great day of relaxation and celebration. Not so, I was talking to a guy from the Irish Embassy in Washington DC last year and he told me in no uncertain terms that St. Patrick’s Day is by far the busiest day of the year, when everyone is frantically organising things, meeting people doing interviews, etc. So it would seem that the only civil servants getting a rest are the ones at home!

In line with the various ‘promoting’ activities that the Irish government does is the now-traditional White House meeting, where the President of the United States (POTUS) presents the Taoiseach (prime minister) with a bowl of shamrocks (interesting note: it was George W. Bush who began this custom, before, it was just a plain ol’ handshake).

Afterwards there is the reception and dinner for the festivities where I’m sure there are many fine congressmen and senators who attend to whoop up their Irish heritage. Sadly many Irish-Americans are ignorant to the simple fact that corned beef and cabbage just isn’t an Irish dish. For some, their entire world falls apart when I inform them of this.

As the entire day is one to promote Ireland and Irish culture, it is delightful to see that two animators are included. The government could easily have chosen a few poets, singers, artists and so forth to attend (and probably have in the past) but they didn’t. Surely both invitations are a sign that the Irish government has recognised the ability of animation to transcend borders and cultures and to promote Ireland in a positive light to the world. Both animator’s Academy Award nominations last year have no doubt helped lead to tomorrows event.

Hopefully this is not the last time we see Irish animators being invited to the White House although I think we’re off to a great start.

Irish Week: Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?

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.

Via: Wikipedia

I’m afraid my time has been squeezed for today’s post so instead, I am suggesting you all go out and watch All Dogs Go To Heaven, a film that was (for the most part) produced in Dublin. My memory of it is fairly hazy but feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts on the film. Hopefully we can get a nice wee discussion going. 🙂

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.

Irish Week: Why Everyone Ought to Read An tEachtaire

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 those of you who aren’t Irish, the title of this comic won’t mean a thing. For those who are and who had Irish hammered into passionately taught to them, they know that a tEachtaire means messenger in Irish.

So who would happen to be the messenger in an Irish comic? Why St. Patrick himself of course!

The comic in question is written by Colmán Ó Raghallaigh and illustrated by…….Tomm Moore! It centres around the life of St. Patrick as he is kidnapped from Wales as a young lad and forced to mind sheep on a mountain. After he flees, he has a series of dreams where the Irish call him back to teach them the Gospel. Patrick does so and spends the rest of his life converting the heathens pagans into Christians.

That particular version of the story is a bit boring for a comic, so Ó Raghallaigh has spiced it up a wee bit with a focus on the drama and some marvelous illustrations by Moore. There are plenty of displays of agony, torment, confrontations and Celtic imagery, as can be seen below.

It’s not overly long, although as you get into the story, length become rather irrelevant as your mind begins to wander as the illustrations come to life inside your head. Both authors have managed to create a very cohesive comic that simply could not be anything but Irish in origin.

I found my Irish had become rather rusty after a few years away from home although there is an English translation available so you’re not left completely in the dark.

I must say it was a very pleasant surprise to find this under the Christmas tree (kudos to my girlfriend for knowing me better than I know myself) and I found it re-awakened an awareness that Ireland has a rich and varied history that is more than capable of being translated for modern audiences.

The Very First Piece of Animation I Watched

In Ireland (way back in the day), the children’s programme was Bosco, which was basically a show featuring a puppet who lived in a box. The show was filled with various segments (some of which were animated but more on that another time) and is recalled with fondness by almost any Irish person under the age of 30.

I bring it up because I wanted to share the opening titles. Incredibly simple and bordering on the bizarre, they are most likely the very first piece of animation that I came into contact with as a child. Have a look below and see if you don’t come away just that wee bit confused. At 25, I still can’t figure out what it’s all supposed to mean.


Why I’m Currently Thinking About Fievel Mousekewitz

Via: Squidoo

It’s been a rough time to be an Irishman this past week. First we didn’t need the bailout then we might need a bailout and now we’re taking the bailout, which comes with an added dose of patriotic-busting shame in that most of it happens to come from the British. The French may have swallowed their national pride and took the Marshall Aid when it was given to them, although in fairness, they kind of really needed it.

So all this talk about the country being in the toilet has got me thinking about the last time it was in the toilet, which are more affectionately called the dark ages, a period of time known to the rest of the world as the 1980s. I should point out though, that the topic of today’s post happens to have been made in the 90s, although we were poor then too!

Today’s film is notable for being one of the first I remember seeing at the cinema. Beauty and the Beast was perhaps the first, which i saw right after they’d finished refurbishing the local picture house. All the same, Fievel Goes West has a place in my heart as the first film I can remember actually seeing. Sure I watched Beauty & the Beast, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you how I felt about it at the time.

I should point out that Fievel Goes West was not associated with Don Bluth, although there is an Irish connection in that he did set up an animation studio in Ireland in the late 80s, the short-lived Sullivan-Bluth studio. Arguably Bluth’s greatest contribution to Ireland was the founding of an animation course at Ballyfermot College, which paved the way for home-grown studios to emerge, creating the likes of The Secret of Kells and Granny O’Grimm.

Getting back to the point, the film is somewhat sadly forgotten at this point, standing in the shadow of the original American Tale film that is lauded as one of Don Bluth’s best after he left Disney. I haven’t watched it in literally years, but I can still recall some of my favourite parts, the funny jokes, Tiger the cat and of course, Cat R. Waul, played to perfection by Mr. John Cleese.

I suppose that kind of brings up another aspect of youth, looking back and realising that for years you either listened to, or watched all these famous and talented people without having a clue who they were. I will freely admit that i watched Thomas the Tank Engine all through my early years and knowing that they were narrated by some bloke called Ringo Starr who seemed to be pretty good at it.

Did Fievel Goes West deserve to succeeed? I think it did, and it probably would have if it hadn’t have been caught up in the maelstrom of succes that Disney had only just begun to create with Beauty and the Beast. It’s an entertaining film on a number of levels, perhaps slightly more juvenile than we’ve come to expect thanks to Pixar, but it deserves at least one viewing. As far as I know, it is on Netflix, so now you’ve no excuses!

In the meantime, prayers for the repose of the soul of the country formerly known as Ireland are being csaid, most likely at a Catholic church near you.

The Longevity of The Secret of Kells

It’s no secret among those who know me that I am a huge fan of The Secret of Kells, and not just because it’s Irish! I’ve already made my thoughts known in my review, which I wrote for Asifa-East’s Exposure Sheet way back in July 2009. What I’m posting about today is that the film is still making the rounds in US cinemas, in fact it is returning to New York’s IFC Center on August 14th, over a year after it premiered there.

What makes this incredible, year-long run even more extraordinary has been the unprecedented marketing campign, that is to say, the lack of one. The film was released in Europe in spring of 2009 and received the usual advertisement. However, such a campaign would have been prohibitively expensive in the US. The market is too big and crowded by the ususal suspects in California.

There was some talk about bringing the film to the States and things really got going when distributor GKids (the fine folks behind the New York international Children’s Film festival) entered the film for Academy Award consideration. The news that it was shortlisted for nomination gave the film a huge boost, suddenly people wanted to find out how a film they’d never heard of before was conisdered for an Oscar.

Thanks to its qualifying run in Burbank and of course, the Academy Awards themselves, the film was assured national showings of some sort. What has sepereated Kells from other independent films has been the potency of people’s word of moouth. OK, sure you have superfans like myself telling everyone to go see it, but in addition to that, I am pretty sure that every single animator/illustrator in the country has gone to see it and told all their friends to go see it to.

This type of promotion has been the key to the film success statewide. Well, that and the fact that it really is an amazing film. People listen to their friends and family more than anyone on TV or in the newspaper and The Secret of Kells is proof of that.

The film was released on DVD last year in Ireland (and sales received a very welcome boost with the Oscar nomination) and will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US later this year and will undoubtedly make its way into a high percentage of those who saw it at the cinema.

The Secret of Kells is proof that you do not need to spend massive amounts of money to have a successful film. Sure the money doesn’t flow through the box office as quickly as it does for a blockbuster, but it does flow for longer, far longer and the fact that The Secret of Kells is still being talked about 2 years after it was completed is proof that it is better to be a slow burner than a bright flash.