Kilkenny’s cartoon Saloon gets Oscar nomination

Academy Award nomination for Wolfwalkers by Kilkenny’s Cartoon Saloon is a welcome boost for Ireland’s thriving animation sector.

Wolfwalkers, a film made by Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, has been nominated for an Oscar for best animated feature in the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards.

Cartoon Saloon’s hand-drawn cartoon Wolfwalkers is an adventure set in 17th century Ireland and streams on Apple+.

“The animation sector is an integral and important component of Ireland’s digital and creative economy, employing 1,600 full-time staff”

This is the Kilkenny studio’s fourth nomination in the category.

Cartoon Saloon’s Louise Bagnall was nominated for an Oscar for her cartoon Late Afternoon in 2019. Bagnall is also is one of the few Irish members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood.

A rich palette of colour

Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon is a celebrated animation studio formed by Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey in 1999.

In 2010, the studio’s first feature film, The Secret of Kells, was nominated for an Academy Award; in 2015, follow-up feature Song of the Sea garnered a second nomination while The Breadwinner was nominated earlier this year.

The company’s Emmy-nominated pre-school series, Puffin Rock, is streamed in 25 languages on Netflix and has been viewed nearly 100m times in China on Tencent Holdings’ streaming platform.

In 2017 it emerged that Cartoon Saloon would generate 140 new jobs as part of a collaboration called Lighthouse Studios with Canada’s Mercury Filmworks. The project hinges on the development of an all-new 2D and 3D-focused animation studio as part of the joint venture.

It is understood that Irish animation body Screen Ireland intends to build on Cartoon’s Oscar nomination success by staging a virtual trade mission with Hollywood studios and streaming services.

The mission will be led by Minister for Tourism, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin alongside Screen Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland, IDA Ireland and the LA Consulate General of Ireland.

Including a virtual meeting with Disney, the delegation will update key industry players on the expansion of existing studio infrastructure and planned construction of new facilities as well as reiterating Government support through such incentives as the Section 481 tax credit.

Ireland has a rich heritage in animation and much of the global-orientation of the sector here owes a debt to the legendary Sullivan Bluth Studios, established in Dublin in 1979 by Don Bluth and several Disney animators to work on films such as An American Tail and the Secret of Nimh.

Key industry bodies include Screen Ireland and Animation Ireland.

According to Screen Ireland the Irish animation industry has long been a creative cornerstone of Ireland’s vibrant film industry, and has witnessed substantial growth in the last decade. It is an integral and important component of Ireland’s digital and creative economy, employing 1,600 full-time staff.

Irish animation studios are working with some of the biggest names in global broadcasting—including Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the BBC—making animated series that are shown to millions of children all over the world every week. Award-winning features and shorts, animated programming for adults, apps and games are being made here by our dynamic, technically advanced—and entirely indigenous—2D and 3D studios.

Animation Ireland says that Ireland is one of the best places in Europe and the World to produce animation. Ireland has one of the best tax credits in Europe, with up to 32pc tax credit available on eligible Irish expenditure.

LEARN MORE: Check out 33 players defining the future of the Irish animation industry 


By John Kennedy (

Published: 16 March 2021