Animation Dingle draws an exciting digital future for Ireland

Podcast Ep 196: Ireland’s prowess at animation is globally-recognised and will be celebrated at a unique event on 21 March at Europe’s most westerly edge.

On Thursday 21 March and Friday 22 March, some of the most important names in the global animation space will be in the Kerry town of Dingle for Animation Dingle, an Academy Awards-approved festival.

When you consider the global reach of Irish animation houses from Brown Bag Films to JAM Media, Cartoon Saloon and many others, it is fitting that a town on Ireland’s most south-westerly corner that is no stranger artistic creation is where it all takes place.

“At the heart of Animation Dingle is its commitment to supporting the industry and that includes those who are currently flourishing, but also those who are coming up the ranks”

Dingle is home to the celebrated Other Voices series of incredible and unique musical performances. It is also a destination for an incredible array of artists and artisans who have come to fuel their creativity along the rugged and wild Atlantic coast.

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The festival was founded in 2012 by Maurice Galway who previously established the Dingle International Film Festival in 2007 and JAM Media. It is pulled together every year ever since by a unique Kerry-Dublin team.

Sponsored this year by Bank of Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Disney and RTÉjr, the event includes a conference, awards, workshops and screenings all within the town of Dingle. As the organisers describe it, it is “a vibrant and symbiotic melting pot of ideas and exchanges” where industry professionals rub shoulders with up-and-coming new entrants to the craft of animation.

Key decision makers share insights into the many opportunities that exist in the growing and vibrant animation sector and students are offered a programme of educational and vocational training directly from the assembled industry professionals.

Speaking on the ThinkBusiness Podcast ahead of the festival, Bank of Ireland’s head of Technology, Media and Telecoms Paul Swift said that the animation sector in Ireland is projected to be worth more than €6bn by 2026.

“Ten or 15 years ago there were only around 90 people working in the sector in Ireland, but now there’s between 16,000 and 17,000 people working in the sector and that is growing every year.”

Galway said that Ireland’s prowess at storytelling, music creation, art and more are all drawing a picture of a vibrant industry that can only grow further in a time of streaming and broadband across a plethora of devices.

Homegrown in Ireland: Q&A with Animation Dingle co-founder Maurice Galway

Young animators win an award.

Award winners at the 2023 Animation Dingle Festival

Who are the key speakers and the kind of attendees that will be at the event in Dingle on 22nd March?

Animation Dingle strives for a 50/50 representation of animation students and industry professionals.  This is key to what lies at the heart of the Festival and that is to create and foster a sense of community, of camaraderie and support.  Our key speakers come in from all over the world, flying in from the US and Canada as well as Japan.  These high caliber guests are in Dingle and animation students are moving in the very same circles – it’s an incredible opportunity for those students.  Our guests are executives of the biggest animation companies in the world – Disney, Pixar, Netflix, Polygon, Paramount, BBC, Nickelodeon, Milkshake, Lego… the list is endless, and all of that as well as all of the homegrown Irish studios like JAM Media and Brown Bag Films which are flourishing in Ireland.

We are in the bridge building business – we enable students to cross into, what to them, is almost a world of myth and legend where these giants within the sector reside. They  can cross over that bridge with the support we provide at the Festival.  Our Studio Fair generates an atmosphere of an exotic bazaar, it is buzzing with students wandering from zones occupied by the likes of Boulder Media, Cartoon Saloon and Animation Ireland to zone chatting to studios with a cup of coffee in one hand and phone or laptop with work on it in another.  It is remarkable really.

Woman speaking at event.

Toy Story producer Bonnie Arnold speaking at Animation Dingle

What are your projections on the growth of the sector in Ireland?

One of our most prestigious Awards is the Murakami Award which we created in the name of Jimmy T. Murakami ( 村上輝明 ).  Jimmy set up Murakami-Wolf Productions in 1965, permanently settling in Ireland in 1971.  His influence cannot be underestimated. Since then, animation in Ireland has gone from strength to strength – and has become especially robust in the last 10 years.  

The Irish media and entertainment sector is set to be worth a staggering €6.14bn by 2026. 

What do we have?  Why is this the case?  Ireland produces world-class storytellers, we have world-class artistry and technology here in Ireland, and a huge growth in the number of studios established nationwide – and we have a huge diversity of communities now, telling new stories.   It is exciting.  

Can you give us a brief history of the event and its connection with the Oscars?

We have always had open submissions and screenings at the Festival and we have always had Awards for winners.  We are coming into our 12th year now and in 2021 Animation Dingle became an Academy Awards approved Festival – that doesn’t come easily. 

As a Festival we had to prove ourselves, meet very particular criteria and have letters of recommendation from highly regarded industry experts. Our reference letters came from award winners who had been to the Festival – Richie Baneham (Avatar, Lord of the Rings), Bob Peterson from Pixar (Up, Finding Nemo) and Peter Lord from Aardman Animations (Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: Cruise of Were-Rabbit).  They had some wonderful things to say and really had a strong understanding of the ethos behind Animation Dingle.  I think Peter Lord really captured it when he said, ‘As well as presenting the best of recent World animation, Animation Dingle’s strongest suit is surely its engagement with a young, informed and passionate audience. Students and recent graduates are not just welcomed, but actively encouraged to make this festival their own…As a festival venue,  the town of Dingle on the south-west coast of Ireland, is just about perfect. It’s compact, picturesque and extremely friendly. Within this intimate small town, the organizers have built  a camaraderie and energy which is hard to accomplish, but which seems to come naturally to this Festival.’ 

Man speaking at event.

Peter Lord from Aardman Animations

It’s great for all those animators who submit and who now have a chance to be in consideration. 

Last year, RTÉjr came on board – they have always been wonderful champions of the Festival, but our Awards for students are now the RTÉjr Animation Dingle Awards, and we cannot have a better fit in our opinion.  All those students can now benefit from our Academy Awards approval.

Disney has been a great supporter too – we have our Young Animator of the Year Award (YAOTY) sponsored by our friends at Disney since the very beginning.  This is a call to secondary school students from TY up to send in submissions.  The winner this year will be presented with their award at the opening of the Festival, on stage with Orion Ross from Disney and then their work will be screened there and then to all of those guests – industry experts and students – what an opportunity that is for a young upcoming animator!

What role does the event play in bringing key industry luminaries together and introducing them to Irish talent?

At the heart of Animation Dingle is its commitment to supporting the industry and that includes those who are currently flourishing, but also those who are coming up the ranks.  In the spirit of collaboration, support and genuine camaraderie, those at the forefront are encouraged to reach back and give a helping hand.  We have many events where students can more formally pitch ideas, but the big player in all of this is Dingle.  It is compact and, unlike with other Festivals, attendees can walk about with ease – there is no red carpet and no red rope divides.

Man speaking from podium.

Bob Peterson from Pixar speaking at Animation Dingle

But for the industry professionals, we have great networking events which are also very much ‘Dingle’.  Our Opening Sunset Reception in the Great Blasket Centre kicks it off and from then on in, guests are thrown together in all the best kinds of ways – our VIP Guest tour of the Peninsula will have them holding baby lambs and sampling beer at the West Kerry Brewery. These events allow for a great atmosphere and deals to be made over a pint later.

We could not do what we do without the unwavering and enormous support we receive from Screen Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Coimisiún na Meán and the IDA.  They really roll in behind us and allow all of this magic to happen.

Main image at top: Animation Dingle co-founder Maurice Galway

  • The Sectors Team is a differentiator for Bank of Ireland, in that the sector heads are recruited directly from industry and bring perspective that only first-hand experience can provide. To learn more about Bank of Ireland’s sectoral expertise, click here

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John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.


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