By Maura Kelly — Exciting things continue to happen for Ireland’s animation companies. After establishing themselves firmly in the U.S. and Canada the next big push is onto the international stage.

This June, the world renowned Annecy International Animation Film Festival in France  partnered with the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland to pay special tribute to the Irish animation sector. Referring to Ireland as “a creative hotspot” for animation, the organizers of Annecy said they decided to spotlight the country because of its distinctive cultural identity, its highly original productions, great artistic successes and its special relationship with other major European countries in animation.”

Of the Irish focus at Annecy, Birch Hamilton of the Screen Directors Guild of Ireland said, “We’ve had huge recognition from the U.S. in previous years and now to be focused on at Annecy, in front of 7,000 people from across the animated world, is fantastic. There is huge talent in animation in Ireland and that is what has really made us standout.”

The festival took place over June 4 to 9, 2012 and put the spotlight on 48 Irish projects screened under the banner Forty Frames of Green. The works screened included, Tom Moore’s Oscar-nominated film The Secret of Kells, Kavaleer Productions short The Depository, along-side episodes of the loveable Skunk Fu! co-produced by Ireland’s Telegael and Cartoon Saloon.

Animation in Ireland is a multimillion-dollar industry, with thousands of people employed in the sector and there is plenty of room for growth. Dublin-based Brown Bag Films is currently in production with Disney Junior U.S. on a new pre-school series called The Happy Hugglemonsters, based on the book series by Niamh Sharkey. Boulder Media has produced for Cartoon Network (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends), and Nickelodeon (El Tigre). On any given day, some young child you know in the U.S. is probably tuning in to Irish animated programming. It could be on Disney, PBS, or Nickelodeon to watch classics like NODDY, Olivia, or The Amazing World of Gumball (to name a few). 

Irish tax incentives are a major factor to the sector’s success, such as Section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The scheme offers generous tax relief to producers investing in Irish-made films and television.Another factor making a big impact on the animation industry is emerging technologies. Today, animators can use digital tools to create both 2D and 3D animation. The new tools allow designer to create richly textured images similar to labor intensive hand-drawn animation in much less time. Animators can create quirky characters using programs like Flash, composite in After Effects and use Photoshop and Illustrator for colorful backgrounds. Overall, new technology allows producers to create shows faster and at a lower cost than in previous decades. In addition, social media platforms like YouTube and allows Irish animators to promote their work to a wider audience potentially gaining global visibility and a work contract. Ongoing support from the Irish Film Board and Enterprise Ireland continue to propel the industry to new heights.

Founded in 1960, the Annecy International Animation Film Festival is the world’s largest event entirely focused on animation. The International Animation Film Market (Mifa) is held side by side with the Festival. The festival’s International Animation Film Market was held June 6-8, 2012.

This article appeared earlier in the Huffington Post

Follow Maura on Twitter @maurakellymedia

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