Ireland has one of the richest storytelling traditions in the world. Vivid tales of warriors and battles, along with folk tales detailing the lives of ordinary people, were shared orally for centuries. Generation after generation, information was passed on through song, poetry and captivating narratives. This oral tradition was used to share knowledge, bring histories to life, and to entertain communities throughout the ancient Irish and Celtic worlds. Ireland is indeed a nation of storytellers, and today’s digital storytellers are advancing that tradition on a global basis.
With a deep heritage for combining magical storytelling, artistry and innovation in entertainment, Ireland has become a respected force within the animation industry. Irish animators create unique content for TV, film, games, mobile and VR/AR applications. Supported by a government with a strong focus on R&D, innovation and new talent development, Irish visual entertainment today is enchanting audiences all around the world.
The Animation Dingle Festival
Presented by Irish animation studio Jam Media (jammedia.com), the 9th annual Animation Dingle Festival (https:2021.animationdingle.com) was held March 24 and 25, bringing together some of the best in Irish animation and filmmaking, with continued support from Enterprise Ireland — the Irish state agency that works with Irish enterprises to help them grow, innovate and win export sales in global markets. Throughout the festival’s two-day event, industry leaders shared insights into the many opportunities that exist in this vibrant, growing sector.
Even in its virtual form this year, this animation-focused festival offered students a global perspective on the art of developing, financing and producing animated content for screens both big and small. The festival offered a range of educational and vocational training programs for students and connected them directly with industry professionals in a thought-provoking, inspiring and fun environment.
With the backdrop of the scenic coastal town of Dingle and the breathtaking Corca Dhuibhne Peninsula (a location itself featured in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and other major motion pictures), the Animation Dingle Festival offered a welcoming and relaxed environment where participants could unwind and enjoy creative, open conversations.
“Our location and its tranquil, energizing environment gives upcoming animators a chance to learn from industry experts without the usual anxiety and stress of a business conference,” notes Maurice Galway, director/co-founder of the Animation Dingle Festival. “Through our workshops, seminars and screenings, we offer spaces for interaction that motivate and inspire all participants.”
The festival provided animation-specific training for students and offered opportunities for those already engaged in the industry to broaden their skillsets and explore new and upcoming industry trends. For example, immersion in VR technology provided those already working in the industry an opportunity to sample this new technology before investing in equipment and platforms.
The festival’s primary events included an Animation Conference, where industry leaders offered insights into the animation industry; Workshop Programs that provide vocational-specific training in the animation industry; and multiple idea pitching opportunities, where students could pitch ideas to key broadcast industry decision-makers for feedback and guidance. The festival’s Film Screenings of carefully curated shorts and feature-length animated films, with Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, have become a highlight of the event.
In just over a decade, Irish animation has experienced exponential growth. Many of the creatives working in the industry have been honored with Academy Awards, BAFTAs and international recognition.
"Irish digital entertainment and animation studios have seen significant growth and industry advancement over the last decade," notes Eileen Bell, senior business development advisor for Enterprise Ireland. "Animation and creative visual technologies have become a cornerstone of our vibrant film industry, as well as an integral part of our overall digital economy."
As digital technology has leaped forward in recent years, Irish animators and VFX specialists have become adept at creating content for TV, film, games, mobile and VR/AR applications. A highly professional and coordinated industry cooperates at home and abroad to produce marketable works while losing none of its distinctive magic.
A Culture of Support
"Ireland has built a strong reputation internationally as a center of excellence for animation and I'm proud to continue to honor the work of the growing legion of award-winning Irish animators," says Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. "Over the years, Animation Dingle has succeeded in fostering Irish and international industry relationships. The caliber of attendees this year alone speaks to the strong collaborative working relationship the US and Ireland in particular, have established. I look forward to seeing the industry continue to flourish and grow as a result of events such as these.”
Through the work of Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government partners with entrepreneurs, businesses and research and investment communities to develop Ireland’s international trade and global competitiveness. Some of the Irish studios that are driving the animation sector forward include Cartoon Saloon, Jam Media and Giant Animation.
Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon (www.cartoonsaloon.ie) has achieved critical acclaim for its stories The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea and The Breadwinner, which all explore rich, traditional Irish folklore and storytelling. The critical acclaim continues with Wolfwalkers, produced by Cartoon Saloon for AppleTV+. Wolfwalkers received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture and is nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Movie at the Academy Awards. This follows their winning sweep at the ANNIES, with five wins, including Independent Feature.
Jam Media (www.jammedia.com) is one of the leading creators and producers of animated and live-action content for the children’s and pre-school audience. Their content has been sold to over 80 territories, translated into 23 languages and viewed by over 130 million people. Jam’s award-winning titles include Little Roy, Becca’s Bunch and Jessy & Nessy. The company also founded and runs the Animation Dingle Festival each year, further strengthening Ireland’s position as a worldwide center of excellence in animation.
Dublin-based Giant Animation (giantanimation.ie) is an independent CG animation studio dedicated to creating and producing world-class content for TV and film. Launched in 2012, their work has been selected for the prestigious Annecy Animation Festival, nominated for an IFTA and has won two consecutive Digital Media Awards for Best TV & Animation. Today, they are one of the only independent, native English speaking, CG animation companies in the EU.
Ireland's rich heritage in animation has developed a global reputation for combining storytelling, visual artistry and digital innovation to produce award-winning entertainment for some of the world's biggest networks. With a strong focus on R&D, innovation, up-skilling and new talent development – much of which is supported by Enterprise Ireland – Irish visual entertainment is set to continue enchanting international audiences for decades to come.
“Over the past nine years, the Animation Dingle Festival has become an important, highly-anticipated annual event for Irish digital creatives,” adds Bell. “And while this year’s virtual festival was very rewarding and well attended — the digital content fit the virtual format very effectively — we certainly look forward to seeing everyone in person back at the magical Dingle coast in 2022.”