Séamas McSwiney was at this year’s Cartoon Forum, which put the spotlight on Ireland paying tribute to the Irish animation industry
“Money well spent!” is how Paul Young, President of Animation Ireland, puts it. He’s talking about the multiplier effect of a collective push that ensured a very successful Irish presence at last week’s Toulouse Cartoon Forum. Ireland was selected to be the first Spotlight country in a renewed bid for the EU-funded Cartoon Forum to ensure diversity.
Founded in 1990, the annual Forum was, at first, in a different city every year, before settling in Toulouse. It could thus concentrate on perfecting its very efficient model, rather than having to reinvent itself each year to fit a new location. Given the strength of French industry and the location, there is, however, the danger of it losing its diversity. So, the new Spotlight idea was introduced this year and Ireland, with its strong animation sector, was a perfect match. In fact, Irish animation is probably more successful than the French industry if the economic performance and audience statistics were converted to a per capita basis.
Paul Young’s company, Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon, is no stranger to success either, having been on the Oscar trail with both Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells. In Toulouse, he and Animation Ireland —an association of 22 Irish animation studios— were in the shepherd role, paving the way for the Irish Spotlight presence. Upstream, they’d co-ordinated funding from RTE, the Irish Film Board, Animation Skillnet, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland and, essentially, they formed a team of companies —new kids on the block and old hands— to step up to the pitching mound.
There was also a significant student presence with four students from Dun Laoghaire IADT and four from Ballyfermot Irish School of Animation, a wonderful opportunity for emerging talents to observe at close hand the cosmopolitan co-production crossroads of the very lucrative European animation sector.
They also got a chance to meet the Irish Ambassador, Geraldine Byrne Nason, down from Paris with her team for the opening of the Forum. A dab hand at representing the creative industries abroad, in French and in English, she underlined Ireland’s reputation for storytelling.
And the teams of producers and creators justified Ambassador Byrne Nason’s boast; from a field of eighty projects selected overall (28 French, 9 UK, 8 Irish,…), Irish pitches figured prominently among the most appreciated presentations, notably top player Jam Media’s Snoozeville, exploring the dream world of an eight year old and Giant Animation’s Creepers, whose trio of contrasting heroes, Gwen, Harry and Coop mirror in a cutely autobiographical way the adventures of Giant Animation trio, Alex Sherwood, Ben Harper and Jonathan Clarke.
At the Cartoon Forum, like any animation production, everything is efficiently scheduled and synchronised. At breakfast (aka Croissant Show), in the vast luxury canteen downstairs, intros are made and trailers played for the pitches you can see that morning, three of which will play at any given moment, in the Pink, Purple or Blue rooms upstairs. So, for breakfast, in fact you get a morning ‘toon pitching menu and likewise for lunch, along with company and broadcaster presentations, you get the afternoon pitching sessions trailered.
Other Irish companies’ pitches included Kavaleer’s Alva & the Trolls, Igloo Films Peek Zoo, Keg Kartoonz Zombabies, Salty Dog Pictures’ The Mooneys and Treehouse Republic’s I’ve Got a Time Travelling Monkey on My Back, whose title doubles as a short pitch in itself. Newbies Pink Kong’s Niamh Herrity, Aoife Doyle and Leo Crowley rounded off the proceedings and earned whoops and cheers for their pitch of Urban Tails. It’s a 52 x 2’ series urban wildlife, each in a different city. The pilot is a music video rap song by two inner city foxes, rhyming, moonwalking and oozing attitude, as they scavenge their way round Dublin. You could watch it over and over. Toons with tunes. Others planned include boars in Berlin, swans in Paris and rats in New Yawk City, all smartly educational and sublimely entertaining, aimed at 6-8 year olds of all ages.
Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris
Cartoon Forum 2016 took place 13 – 16 Sep 2016 in Toulouse