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How they did it: Cartoon Saloon

Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon is a double Academy Award-nominated animation studio founded by Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey in 1999. From award-winning short films to TV series like Puffin Rock and Oscar nominated Features such as Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, Cartoon Saloon has carved a special place in the international animation industry.

Over 30 people are employed at the Cartoon Saloon studio in Kilkenny working on the Puffin Rock TV series. This number grew to over 75 during the summer with the commencement of a new feature film, a co-production with Executive Producer Angelina Jolie Pitt, Aircraft Pictures (Canada) and Melusine Productions (Luxembourg), to adapt the best-selling novel The Breadwinner, written by Deborah Ellis. Cartoon Saloon also uses the services of a wide range of writers, directors, acting talent, editors etc. from time to time on these projects and well as the services of post-production facilities.

Carving out a niche

CS_cartoonsaloonsongofthesea_ARTCartoon Saloon has carved out a niche for itself with its three co-founders creating original content that they describe as "unashamedly Irish with roots and inspirations in folklore and heritage". Such is the case with The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea and the TV series Puffin Rock. It is from this original style and work that the studio has derived it’s now worldwide reputation and exports this around the world.

"Achieving international success with Irish film and TV is very challenging and the creative talent and entrepreneurial drive of Cartoon Saloon has combined to achieve this and then to turn it into commercial success," says its managing Director Gerry Shirren.

Asked about the challenges for a company like Cartoon Saloon, Gerry says, "As with any creative industry, funding is a major problem and consistent support from Government funding agencies is vital."

Development timelines are often likely to run between three and five years before a project is lucky enough to get funded, with production then taking 18-24 months and only when the project is well into production can commercial exploitation begin.

Faced with these long-term timelines and the challenge of commercialising an idea, the Irish Film Board has been a "vital funder" of work at Cartoon Saloon, who Gerry says have also "been heavily involved in the development of the animation sector in Ireland as a whole." In addition to funding, Cartoon Saloon attends international film markets under the Irish Film Board banner and has made use of the IFB's international market contacts, services and supports.

Gaining access to international markets is key for Cartoon Saloon who have started to exploit all its content internationally, either directly by the company itself or through international agents that are closely controlled by it. What this means for the company going forward is that it will control its intellectual property and be in a position to maximise the international sales value. "This is encouraging the company to bring its content to more new international markets and to create ancillary product opportunities," says Gerry.

Accessing international markets

To get help with reaching international markets, Cartoon Saloon sought the help of Enterprise Ireland, who Gerry says "has been critical to the international market development". Last November Enterprise Ireland assisted the company with a successful three week exploratory trip to China.
Gerry says that the EU’s Creative Europe is also a key funder of creative industries and its specialised ‘Cartoon’ organisation hosts industry events including the Movie and Forum pitch markets where Song of the Sea, The Secret of Kells and Puffin Rock were all successfully launched as development projects.

Looking to the future

What does the future hold for Cartoon Saloon? Gerry says that as consumption of film and TV products changes and migrates to other platforms than traditional cinema and TV, there are more opportunities and challenges for those creative industries but to exploit these opportunities, the company has to be control of its own IP.
"Ireland now has a great international reputation not only for its creative skills with the development of original content but also a reputation for its production and production management skills. Irish animation studios including Cartoon Saloon have customers that are the top drawer of the media industry worldwide with household names like as BBC, Disney, Nickelodeon, Netflix etc. in Europe, the US and Asia."

About the Irish Film Board (IFB)

The Government provides direct financial support for the Irish film and animation sectors through Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board (IFB), which is funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The IFB is the national development agency for Irish filmmaking and the Irish film, television and animation industry, investing in talent, creativity and enterprise.

The agency supports writers, directors and production companies across these sectors by providing investment loans for the development, production and distribution of film, documentary, television and animation projects. The IFB also supports and promotes the Irish screen industries at major international markets and festivals, promotes inward investment, the use of Ireland as a location for international production and provides support for companies filming location in Ireland. The agency provides a strategic vision for industry training through Screen Training Ireland.

For more information

Check out Cartoon Saloon's work on their website.

Find out more about Irish Film Board's supports.