Bridges: Animation has become big business. How did you get into the industry?
McCabe: In 2010 when I was the Managing Director of Double Z Enterprises we partnered with Flickerpix Animation in Belfast to pitch a Zig & Zag animation to CBBC/RTE. Zig & Zag are puppet characters who have been on television for over thirty five years. They have been on shows on CBBC; Channel 4; MTV; RTE & ITV. The show was pitched at Cartoon Forum and commissioned by CBBC and RTE. It was a great introduction into the financing and commissioning of animation projects.
What is the role of Animation Ireland?
Animation Ireland is the representative body for the animation industry on the island of Ireland, with forty two member studios employing over 2,500 people full time. The sector is well spread geographically with members operating in all parts of the island. There are established creative hubs in Dublin, Belfast, Galway and Kilkenny and other members located in Clare, Cork, Derry, Offaly, Louth and Roscommon. Members are producing 2D and 3D animation for television and feature films and Immersive content for the domestic and international market, viewed in over 180 territories worldwide.
Animation Ireland members are creative entrepreneurs who produce award winning, globally celebrated animation, building companies of scale, creating high-value, all-island and regionally spread employment, embracing new technologies and nurturing Ireland’s culture on screen. AI comprises a range of companies, from one or two person operations running “ideas factories” to large scale studios employing hundreds of animators, working in both the Irish and English language.
Animation Ireland operates at the center of a very sophisticated ecosystem and has regular engagement with broadcasters, RTE & TG4; state funding agencies, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Screen Ireland; Revenue; European funding through Creative Europe and state investment agencies, Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Northern Ireland Screen and Intertrade Ireland and state training agencies; Screen Ireland Skills and Animation Skillnet.
What advantages are available to companies working in the industry in Ireland?
The animation industry in Ireland operates at the center of a very sophisticated ecosystem. There is funding available for development and production through Screen Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen and the WRAP Fund. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland also provides production funding. Our broadcasters are very supportive and are quite creative in how they invest in projects. This can be done as a license, an investment, a pre-sale, an enhanced acquisition or a combination of these.
There is great training support through Animation Skillnet and Screen Ireland Skills and we have regular engagement with the third level colleges. This has been enhanced by the establishment of the National Talent Academy for Animation, an Animation Ireland led; Screen Ireland financed initiative to help industry to provide solutions to some of the skills shortages.
As animation is very export driven the sector receives support from the government agencies tasked with enhancing Ireland’s export capabilities, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA whose remit covers Foreign Direct Investment.
The S481 tax credit of 32-35% of eligible expenditure is very competitive and 90% is paid upfront and can cash flow a project. The uplift of 3%is based on production taking place in the regions. Ireland is a member of the EU so staff can be recruited easily from other member countries and Creative Europe also provides a range of funding to animation studios.
With animation being a prominent industry in Japan, what opportunities do you see for collaborations between Irish and Japanese companies?
Japan has a long and illustrious tradition in animation and Ireland’s reputation is expanding globally year on year based on the success of our content internationally. It would be worth investigating the possibility of putting Irish and Japanese studios together either through market visits to each country or a formal meeting at one of the international events. Enterprise Ireland and Screen Ireland could be approached to assist with this.
What does the future hold for Animation Ireland?
The sector has doubled in size in the last five years so the challenge is to consolidate this and to grow the industry further. Embracing new technologies in the XR space, bringing new and diverse talent into the industry and increasing the funding available to animation studios will be important in the future. Monitoring and influencing legislation or policies that affect our industry will also play a role.
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