The fast-growing digital entertainment, animation and creative industry in Ireland has long been a cornerstone of a vibrant business sector.

It’s often said that Ireland is a nation of storytellers. As digital technology has advanced in recent years, Irish animators have become adept at creating unique IP for TV, film, games, mobile and VR/AR applications. A highly professional and coordinated industry collaborates at home and abroad to produce content that is highly marketable to international audiences while losing none of its unique magic.

Irish history in animation

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 the world’s biggest networks. With a strong focus on R&D, innovation, upskilling 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.

Just ten years ago, there were only 70 Irish people working in animation and related fields. In a mere decade, that number has grown to over 2,000 in full-time employment in the same industries. Many of these creatives need no introduction, thanks to the plethora of Academy Awards, BAFTAs, and international recognition their work has received.

“The creativity of Irish companies sets them apart, and storytelling is in everything they do,” said Hannah Dobson, VP, Entertainment and Media, Enterprise Ireland. “They’ve come to the North American market with a proven track record, they’re steeped in the arts, and they have the dynamism and ambition to succeed.”

A few Irish production and animation studios of note include:

Giant Animation is an independent animation studio focused on the development and production of exciting new ideas for television, feature film, games and everything in-between. The company prides itself on strong visual storytelling, using a diverse range of styles to bring their ideas to life.

Piranha Bar boasts a diverse family of in-house talent including directors, animators, VFX, motion designers, artists, and award-winning editors. The unique hybrid production company creates highly visual short and long-form content. Piranha Bar is actively developing original content with production partners around the world.

Gorilla Post is an Emmy-nominated post-production facility in Dublin, Ireland that manages clients’ entire post-production requirements, including edit, grade, VF, audio post and finishing. Founded in 2009, the company has grown rapidly. Managing Director, Barry Reid, was nominated for an Emmy Award for his “Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for an Animated Preschool Program” on Amazon Prime’s Pete The Cat series.

Moetion Films is an award-winning animation company based in Galway, Ireland. The company develops and produces high-end animation for cinema and TV. Owner/Producer Moe Honan has an excellent record co-producing feature films such as the award-winning Niko And the Way to The Stars (Flight Before Christmas), Niko 2 Little Brother Big Trouble (The Magic Reindeer), Thor – Legends of Valhalla and The Ugly Duckling and Me.

“The animation industry in Ireland has been a long cornerstone of our vibrant entertainment industry,” added Dobson. “It has seen significant growth in the last decade, and it’s now an integral part of our digital creative economy.”

The internationally successful animation company Jam Media began life in its founder’s spare room. Today it employs 115 people in high-tech studios in two locations in Ireland, Dublin and Belfast.

What hasn’t changed during that journey is Jam Media’s focus on creativity.

“We’re an IP (intellectual property) company at heart, creating our own material, securing the finance to get it made, distributing it and bringing in ancillary rights for consumer products such as toys and apps,” says CEO and co-founder, John Rice.

Work created by Jam Media airs around the world, with a series due to run on Amazon Prime across 120 territories, a second due to air Nickelodeon, and a drama series on the way with the BBC in the UK.

Much-loved characters created by Jam Media have travelled the globe, including the BAFTA Award winner Roy, plus international success stories Jessy & Nessy, Little Roy and Becca’s Bunch.

Jam Media - Little Roy Irish animation

“Not all work we develop is animated, some is live action. We hit a variety of children’s demographics, from pre-schoolers to older kids, across different styles and genres,” explains Rice.

Standing out in a competitive international market

“In all cases, we distinguish ourselves by being non-derivative. Children’s animation is a very competitive market, even more so than prime time drama. All broadcasters are looking for strong, original content. With the support of such bodies as the Irish Film Board, Northern Ireland Screen and Creative Europe we are in position to spend a lot of time in R&D, ensuring each series has its own unique voice.”

Jam Media approaches its high production values in the same way, blending 2D and 3D, puppetry, animation and live action, to ensure each series has its own unique style.

“We have an in house R&D team whose role is not to follow trends but to create them,” Rice explains.

Successful Irish animation company Jam Media began life in its founder’s spare room.

 

To create an internationally successful kids TV series, Jam Media uses a particular set of ingredients: “The story is key. You need a fantastic character. Once we have one we spend a lot of time establishing their universe. The content has to dictate the style, so that you are creating something that is surprising, immersive and distinct.”

The show must also be able to migrate across various platforms. Jam Media’s augmented reality department is responsible for ensuring its series extend across a range of formats, including toys. “It’s very important to include play patterns outside of the platform, whether that is through toys, live shows, apps, AR and VR (virtual reality),” says Rice.

Though most of its work is aimed at TV audiences, digital platforms have extended the shows’ lifespan immeasurably.  Its award-winning Baby Jake is currently airing on Cbeebies and around the world, for example, “it has taken on a whole other life on YouTube, with one episode recently getting 160 million hits,” says Rice.

Jam Media invests in talent and technology

As well as investing in the latest animation technology, Jam Media invests heavily in talent. “We’ve got some of the best people in the world working for us, and what’s more we’ve managed to retain them,” he says.

This matters when you’re in a business where every production requires you to create something entirely unique. “Every production is different and nothing is off the shelf. Part of the reason we opened an office in Belfast in the North of Ireland was because of the additional access to talent it gives us,” he says.

That talent helps to differentiate Jam Media in a highly-competitive environment. “The advent of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu has shaken up the whole sector, for traditional broadcasters and digital players alike, and everybody is upping their game as a result.”

As well as building its creative resource, Jam Media has put in place the systems and processes to ensure it can scale up with ease. When it comes to meeting with broadcasters, “thanks to our track record we can get in to pretty much any door we wish to,” he says.

Though each of its shows is unique, all have the same core values: “Humour and heart were our brand values starting out and they still are. If it doesn’t make you giggle, and if the audience can’t connect with it emotionally, we are not going to do it.”

Fifteen years spent producing innovative TV commercials provided creative content studio Piranha Bar with the foundation for its success in long-form episodic content.

The Dublin studio was born of a management buyout in 2002 that left its senior team with what director Gavin Kelly calls “the bones of an old post-production company.” A significant investment in talent and technology followed, which saw Piranha Bar develop into a producer of high-end commercials for international brands, such as Guinness, 3 Mobile and Kelloggs.

Over the years, Piranha Bar continually pushed video effects boundaries through its use of animation, live action and gaming technology, as well as bespoke hybrids that create unique styles.

The company’s skills and experience in delivering high-quality content, on time and on budget, in the commercials sector helped it to migrate into its current role as an effective provider of original content. Its first foray into hybrid animation, Last Hijack – an internationally co-produced documentary about Somali Pirates – won an Emmy Award.

Today, Piranha Bar has a range of original IP series in production, including 104 five and a half minute episodes of a pre-schooler series in coproduction with a Spanish animation company.

Piranha Bar animation vfx Irish company

Challenges in a soaring animation sector

“Demand for children’s animation is soaring, as streaming providers recognise that children’s content is the key to maintaining subscribers,” says Kelly.

For producers of animated content, the challenge is to provide higher production values on lower budgets. It’s a challenge Piranha Bar is well placed to meet, Kelly explains.

“We are an elegant mix of technology and artistry. Irish people are born story tellers. It’s why Ireland’s animation industry punches so much above its weight internationally. At Piranha Bar, we have that story telling capability but we are also complete technology geeks. It’s unusual for both traits to coexist in one culture. If anything, they can often be mutually exclusive. At Piranha Bar they go hand in hand.”

That unusual mix of capabilities informs the studio’s mission to deliver animation of ever higher quality and creativity, but quicker, cheaper and more effectively. One of the ways in which it does so is by building its capability in performance capture, the use of human actions to drive character in animation.

“That enables you to create bizarre characters with a sense of soul. The great ability of performance capture technology is that it results in something we instantly recognise and relate to on a human level, from something as cold as digital pixels. We are very interested in taking this technology and using it to create high end long form episodic content.”

Innovating in the fast moving visual effects sector

Innovating in the fast moving visual effects sector

As visual effects is a fast moving sector, Piranha Bar has an internal team dedicated to researching and developing new techniques. Its role is to identify new technologies and bolt on additions to old ones, to create unique and highly innovative solutions. It is currently working with Epic Games, exploring the use of game technology to create real time rendering in long form content.

“It has the potential to be a game changer when you consider that it can take half an hour or more to make just one frame via traditional animation techniques. By co-opting the technology used in gaming we can speed this up enormously, with frames created in a 60th of a second. That’s going to have a massive impact on budgets and schedules.”

Piranha Bar is uniquely well placed to capitalise on such developments. “Not only do we have all of the animation goodies but we have honed our technical skills in 15 years in the very demanding commercials industry. That gives us a pretty unique selling proposition – a long form animation company driven by the latest technology.”

Ireland’s Digital Entertainment Industry

Rich Heritage

of storytelling

Co-production Treaty

with Canada

Over 1,700 People

employed in animation

Unique IP

in mobile and AR/VR

Ireland’s rich heritage in animation spans decades. Today, it has a reputation for combining storytelling, artistry and innovation to produce award-winning entertainment for the world’s biggest networks.

As technology has leapt forward, Irish animators and VFX specialists have become adept at creating unique IP for TV, film, games, mobile and VR/AR applications. A highly coordinated industry collaborates at home and abroad to produce content that is highly marketable to international audiences while losing none of its distinctive magic.

With a strong focus on R&D, innovation, upskilling and new talent development – much of which is supported by Enterprise Ireland – Irish visual entertainment is set to enchant audiences for decades to come.

Ireland’s Digital Entertainment Industry

Rich Heritage

of storytelling

Co-production Treaty

with Canada

Over 1,700 People

employed in animation

Unique IP

in mobile and AR/VR

Rich Heritage

of storytelling

Co-production Treaty

with Canada

Over 1,700 People

employed in animation

Unique IP

in mobile and AR/VR

Ireland’s rich heritage in animation spans decades. Today, it has a reputation for combining storytelling, artistry and innovation to produce award-winning entertainment for the world’s biggest networks.

As technology has leapt forward, Irish animators and VFX specialists have become adept at creating unique IP for TV, film, games, mobile and VR/AR applications. A highly coordinated industry collaborates at home and abroad to produce content that is highly marketable to international audiences while losing none of its distinctive magic.

With a strong focus on R&D, innovation, upskilling and new talent development – much of which is supported by Enterprise Ireland – Irish visual entertainment is set to enchant audiences for decades to come.

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Why partner with Irish businesses?

Europe’s fastest growing economy

Irish businesses are globalised, forward-looking and ambitious – their partners benefit from this dynamic approach.

One of the world’s most innovative ecosystems

Irish small and medium businesses are the most innovative in Europe and are supported by a world-class R&D ecosystem.

A global technology centre

Irish companies grow up alongside the biggest names in tech, life sciences and financial services and meet the standards of global leaders.

A culture of entrepreneurship

Irish people are renowned for developing business opportunities worldwide and their ambition means a sharp focus on success.

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