Dublin ‘toons hit the right note

Dublin ‘toons hit the right note

When Sullivan Bluth studios opened in Dublin, back in 1985, it established the city as a hub of talent for animation.
In the years since, Dublin animators have gone from strength to strength with several graduates of Ballyfermot Senior College’s animation programmes picking up international awards in recognition of their work.

Today, Brown Bag Films are at the forefront of Irish animation. Founded in 1994 by Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O’Connell, the studio has been hugely successful and now produces series for Disney, Nickelodeon and the BBC. Located in Smithfield, the studio currently employs over 120 staff and in 2010 a second office in Los Angeles was established.

It was 2001’s ‘Give up Yer Aul Sins’ that really put Brown Bag on the map. The DVD was a huge seller both at home and amongst the Irish Diaspora worldwide, even receiving an Oscar nomination. In 2010 the studio received more Oscar recognition with a nomination for ‘Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty’.

Brown Bag’s biggest success story comes courtesy of an animated series they produced for Disney, ‘Doc McStuffins’. Aimed at pre-schoolers, the series tells the story of Doc, a six-year old African–American girl who dreams of becoming a doctor like her mother. With the aid of a magical stethoscope, she brings her toys to life and “cures” them. The series has been an enormous success in the U.S and U.K, becoming the most viewed children’s cable cartoon in both countries.

Doc is considered a wonderful role model for young girls and has been particularly latched onto by the African-American community. Myiesha Taylor, a doctor who discovered the show through her four year-old daughter, was inspired to get the message out that Doc’s dream can become a reality. She created the ‘We Are Doc McStuffins’ movement, creating a collage which is hung in the surgeries of female African-American doctors across the U.S. The collage features the image of Doc surrounded by photos of 131 female doctors of African-American ethnicity.

‘Doc McStuffins’ spin-off toys, including a child’s version of a doctor’s bag, were some of the biggest sellers over the Christmas season stateside. Disney stores were completely sold out of any merchandise relating to the show with parents keen to exploit its educational value.

Brown Bag Films have just been commissioned to produce a second series of the show for Disney in 2013. It would seem animation is one Dublin industry that’s definitely on the rise.

By: Eric Hillis