Why Ireland's Animation Industry Is Booming

Courtesy of GKids
Cartoon Saloon’s 'The Breadwinner.'

The country's toon sector is thriving with kids' shows in China, multiple Oscar nominees and a collaboration with Angelina Jolie.

If there's any sector of Ireland's film and TV industry that exemplifies its growth and rising international profile, it's animation. Inside of two decades, a fledging assortment of studios has built a thriving industry from scratch — one that generates more than $100 million a year for the local economy and steadily churns out content for the global market.

The Motion Picture Academy has taken notice, with Tomm Moore's sumptuous, folklore-tinged features The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014) each receiving an Oscar nomination. There also have been some sizable acquisitions, with Brown Bag Films, which produces kids shows for Disney and Nickelodeon, bought by Canada's 9 Story Media Group in 2015. Dublin-based Boulder Media has been a subsidiary of Hasbro since 2016.

"There are more than 2,500 people now employed in animation directly in Ireland," says Paul Young, the CEO of the Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon, co-founded by Moore.

The company — whose preschool show Puffin Rock airs on Netflix and recently was picked up by Tencent in China, passing 40 million views ("every day it goes up by 2 million," says Young) — looks likely to be heading back to the Oscars. The Breadwinner, directed by newcomer Nora Twomey and boasting an A-list exec producer in Angelina Jolie, was a hit in Toronto and is widely predicted to score a nomination. And then there's Moore's next feature, the action-adventure Wolfwalkers, set to enter production next year. Says Young, "I don't think we've ever been so busy."

This story first appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.