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We profile Irish animation company The Cartoon Saloon, who are currently developing thier first animation feature Rebel.

When was The Cartoon Saloon formed?

Tomm Moore and I (Paul Young) began as sole traders under the Cartoon Saloon in 1999 and then set up The Cartoon Saloon Ltd in January 2000.

How many people do you employ full time?

There is a staff of 10 full time employees and 2 regular part- time.

What areas of animation do you specialise in?

We've worked in every area of animation. To survive nowadays I think you need to be prepared to work in any area of animation.

In our first year most of the service work we did was for the internet. Over 200 minutes worth of flash animation, making about six flash e-cards a week.

Over the last year we finally got into doing commercials and music videos which pay a lot better. We have a good reputation with other more established animation studios such as Cosgrove Hall (Danger Mouse, Wind in the Willows) and have been hired as animators and character designers on developing projects with them. We are also developing our own shows for television and hope to have one up and running next year.

Rebel is our feature film in development. Its quite difficult to get a feature off the ground, especially as a new studio, but things are looking better at the moment. We took our trailer and presented the work we had done at Cartoon Movie in Berlin last March, which was nerve-racking but well worth it as the work was well received and people could see we knew how to make it look good. We were open about our inexperience and asked for help and since have a strong co-producer in France and broadcaster there. We also have found work as a service studio for other production companies involved in features. Contributing to Terraglyph's "Duck Ugly" as animators for about five minutes of the film and making the Cartoon Movie trailer for Mythic Media's pitch.

Do you do any 3D work?

We have combined 2d with 3d elements. With the software we use it is straight forward to combine them both. We have used a 3D package called Blender, which is legally free to download of the internet and use!

This year we are going to invest in a 3D package of some kind as it will help us to push what we get out of our time. We're all looking forward to learning more about it and have planed a training course in the evenings.

Do you do use Flash? what do you think of the program?

We use Flash a lot, especially in our first year. On New Years day RTE celebrated their 40th birthday and we did the animation intro for the show in flash. Its good for individual animators to work on, they can see results immediately. It can look very limited on the web but can look impressive when you don't need to worry about file size.

What recent projects have you been involved in?

A Christmas commercial for Cadbury's and a Digiphone spot. We are working on a short film called Revenant directed by Nora Twomey who works here.

Does computer technology play an important role in your work?

Very important. We can produce all our animation digitally. We use Animo which is a digital ink and paint system.

How has technology changed the animation process ?

We've never had to shoot a frame on film and cel painting has become redundant with the advent of digital ink and paint systems which speed up the whole compositing process and the animation can be played around with more after its animated.

Do you also produce personal animation projects?

Rebel and Revenant are personal films of people who work in the studio. Revenant will be completed in April next year.

How important a role does character design play in animation?

The character design informs how the animation is done. You have to know how it will be animated to be a good character designer. I think there is a lot of poorly designed animation on T.V. at the moment, and its down to filmmakers not understanding how the design informs the animation and vice- versa. The studio does a lot of illustration work as well, so a lot of effort is put into design, if you've got bad design from the start it will effect the quality of the animation. As well as that, you work with the same character design for a long time, its better if you like the way it looks. So good design is very important to us and after sending our reel around we've had people come back asking for our design services.

Are there advantages in using animation in advertising over other media?

Well its graphic design in motion, and can span a wide audience these days. It can get the message across clearly and everything can be done in house with the same group of creative people. Animation is all about pairing things down, economy of design and clarity. The lines between live action and animation are always getting harder to see with technology these days, but as far as Cartoon animation, I think it appeals to a wider audience now than ever before. It also can be shown in many different territories without much adjustment. It translates very well in different countries.

Is animation in Ireland recognised internationally? Are Irish animators competing with international companies?

We've won a commercial pitch from a lot of studios internationally recently with a job from an advertising agency in the US. We have got work from other studios abroad but it takes a long time to build a reputation. We always push ourselves and I think it shows in the work and are only beginning to see the benefits of it now that we've introduced ourselves to more people.

The industry in Ireland has declined over the last 10 years, do you feel the days of large studios will ever return?

No. Any large amount of work such as series and movies in Europe are made with co-productions with pan European studios. Also the Far East in used by most producers making long format animation.

What are your plans for the future?

Keep ourselves going with more commercial service work while we develop a slate of our own productions.

Contact Details:

Paul Young
The Cartoon Saloon,
St. Joseph's studios,
Waterford rd,
Kilkenny

Phone: +353 (0) 56 64481
Fax: +353 (0) 56 20089.
Email: paul@cartoonsaloon.ie
Web: www.cartoonsaloon.ie

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