The Irish Times 5th March 2013

Drawing inspiration from the Celtic Tigger

Boulder Media's The Amazing World of Gumball, a co-production with Cartoon Network, which took the top prize st the first International Emmy Kids Awards

KEVIN COURTNEY

If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the downturn, why not make the move to cartoonland? Okay, it’s a little two-dimensional in places, but you’re bound to meet some colourful characters, and it’s the one place in the world of entertainment that doesn’t seem to have been
hit by recession.

It may be curtains for the music industry, and it could be a closing chapter for publishing, but for anyone in Ireland embarking on a career in animation, it seems you really can live happily ever after.

Earlier this month, Boulder Media scooped the top prize at the first International Emmy
Kids Awards for The Amazing World of Gumball, a co-production with Cartoon Network. It’s not the first time the series, about a small blue cat and his friends, has scooped an international award.

Last November, Gumball won a Best Writer and Best Animation award at the Bafta Children’s Awards for the second year in a row, and has picked up gongs at the 2011 British Animation Awards, the 2011 Annecy International Film Festival, the 39th Annie Awards, and the 2012
Kidscreen Awards, among others.

It’s the latest episode in the ongoing success story of animation in Ireland. Boulder isn’t the only Irish studio scooping awards and accolades. In January, Jam Media added another trophy to its mantelpiece – a UK Broadcast Award for its co-production Baby Jake. Jam also makes the
acclaimed children’s series Roy, featuring a cartoon boy trying to get along in the real world. Jam’s newest series, currently airing on CBeebies, is Tilly Friends.

Meanwhile, Brown Bag Films, which won an Oscar nomination in 2002 for Give Up Yer Aul Sins, continues to go from strength to strength. In 2010, the studio was nominated for another Oscar, this time for Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty, and in 2011 was nominated for a Bafta for its
aquatic adventure series Octonauts. Brown Bag currently makes the most popular preschool animation in the US, Disney’s Doc McStuffins, and Disney Jr has just begun broadcasting the company’s latest series, The Happy Hugglemonsters, created by Irish children’s writer Niamh Sharkey. And it is also creating a new series featuring one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature, Peter Rabbit.

It seems you can’t turn on a children’s TV channel without coming across an Irish animated production or co-production. It’s small wonder that it’s been dubbed the Celtic Tigger.

Over the past six years – since the beginning of the credit crunch – Irish animation has bucked the trend and seen an increase in revenue, employment and international profile. It helps that the industry is being supported by Section 481 tax breaks, plus funding from the Irish Film Board and support from Enterprise Ireland.

The animation boom has also brought an increase in applications to third-level animation courses run by Ballyfermot College of Further Education and the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

Back from the dead

It’s a second act for an industry that faced extinction in the mid-1990s following the closure of Sullivan Bluth studios, which made Irish-animated feature The Land Before Time, co-produced by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Set up in 1985 by Don Bluth, who had jumped ship from Disney in 1979, and Morris Sullivan, the studio was attracted to Ireland by the generous tax breaks and funding offered at the time by the IDA.

But things didn’t evolve as planned, and the studio’s subsequent features failed to replicate the success of The Land Before Time.

What happened with Sullivan Bluth was it closed down, as companies do, and a lot of people were left unemployed, around 300 were let go,” recalls Prof Gareth Lee, who runs the Irish School of Animation in Ballyfermot.
“But a lot of people who were let go, or were graduates at the time, they became the seeds for what’s currently in existence. So graduates from that period set up studios that are still going now. They’re all small studios – the biggest would be Brown Bag with 100 to 130 staff, Jam Media with around 67, and Boulder would be quite big too, but a lot of the other ones have between 10 and 15
staff members. So a lot of studios, a lot smaller, which makes [the industry] more robust. You don’t have the whole industry reliant on one big studio or one big project.

They’re also very export-focused, doing stuff for Disney and others, and for the US and Europe, which means they’re not relying on the domestic market, which is depressed right now.”

Lee runs the annual Irish School of Animation Conference (ISA Con), which had its fourth outing earlier this month at the Printworks in the Morrison Hotel in Dublin. Of the four guest speakers, three had studied in Ireland before moving into high-profile jobs in the international industry.

Simon Kay graduated from Ballyfermot Senior College in 1999, and now works as a motion-capture supervisor, using his specialist skills to create realistic animated characters for films such as Paul and John Carter.
It’s the same technology that was used to create Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and it’s increasingly used to allow animated characters to rub shoulders with real-life actors.

I started off in traditional animation, and there was a massive boom around that time. The Lion King was coming out, and Beauty and the Beast, and we were going, great, when we come out of here, we’re going to go straight into jobs. But then everything started closing up. Then it all started coming up again with Pixar.”

When people thought computer-generated animation was going to make traditional animation obsolete, the focus shifted back to hand-drawn features. “It all mixes and matches. The principles that you learn in animation still apply – once you have the basics you can move it on to anywhere you like.”

Brendan McCarthy (23) is a first-year animation student in Ballyfermot. He got the animation bug after doing work experience in Cartoon Saloon in Kilkenny, makers of the Oscar-nominated feature The Secret of Kells.

My lecturer says you can make a good living out there. He jokes that animators have loads of money because they have no time to spend it.”

Most of the students I speak to at ISA Con agree that you need patience, skill and attention to detail to be an animator – but you also need to specialise. With studios becoming bigger, there’s an increasing need for animators in particular niche roles, whether it’s motion-capture, 3-D modelling or knowing all about anatomy and biology so you can create believable flora and fauna.

For students setting out on a two- or four-year course in animation, the big question must be: will the ink run dry for animators in Ireland? “It has the potential for that, but I think it’s a more robust industry than it was back in the days of Sullivan Bluth,” says Prof Lee. “It is a fantastic time for animators. There are a lot of opportunities out there. The studios are good, and they’re doing good work.

My bugbear would be that not enough is being invested in education and training, which
is a big part of bringing people into employment. What bothered me about the recent Budget was, yes, they extended the section 481 tax incentive, which was brilliant, but at the same time they’re
cutting education. So the feeder for that industry that they want to keep going is being cut. They’re not thinking widely enough about the industry. The industry has the potential to grow and create even more jobs. And the talent is definitely there.”

An Emmy for Gumball

It’s been a real rollercoaster couple of years since Gumball Season 1 hit the screens and even though everyone here knew there was definitely something special about the show it’s been flattering in the extreme to find that so many other people share our view.

Gumball has been recognised time and again by both the industry and the public alike for it’s totally unique look and offbeat comedy and this has been a real testament to the quality of the characters, the writing and of course the first rate animation that has seen an embarrassment of nominations and awards come Gumballs way but to now add an Emmy for Best Animation to this list is completely amazing!

So we thank everyone who worked on, watched, nominated, voted for or just loved Gumball for making it so special, yay!

The International Emmys 2013

Boulder are basking in the brilliant news that we have just been nominated for an Emmy!

Yes, The Amazing World of Gumball has scooped up its latest nomination in the International Emmy Kids Animation Category which is one of 6 new categories in Childrens Programming.

The new categories have been established in recognition of what Emmy officials describe as “the explosion in high quality kids programming around the world” and we’re beyond happy that Gumball is a part of that.

The ceremony takes part in New York on February 8th 2013 and with fellow Paddys Brown Bag also nominated in the Kids Pre-School category we’re hoping its going to be a lucky night for the Irish!

Gumball Down Under

We had another cool piece of fan art in and this time all the way from Melbourne Australia.

A huuuge thanks to 5 year old Ryan Comerford for making and sending his colourful chalk homage to The Amazing World of Gumball!

Thanks Ryan!

The Amazing World of Billy!

Boulders most prolific fan and honourary staff member Billy Crinion has struck again.

This time with a cool version of The Amazing World of Gumball with Billy as the title character! We like your style Billy, Gumball had better watch out!

Thanks again and keep them coming!

Popular!

One of most prolific Gumball fans Billy Crinion has been in touch with his imagining of himself as a character from the show.

We totally love Billys designs and there is no doubt the kids got talent but I think we’re going to have to see a birth cert, we dont believe you’re only 12!!

"Could TAWOG be the new TOWIE??"

 

“this is what my The Amazing World of Gumball character would look like if you ever wanted to know…He’s half vampire!
 I really love e-mailing you guys!It’s Really fun in case I ever want to post Gumball stuff!!

Have a great Summer!
Hopefully I will still be e-mailing you!

Yours Faithfully,
Billy Crinion”

Keep them coming Billy, you’re brilliant!!

 

 

We’re actually feelin super popular because in addition to our email from Billy we’ve had another email all the way from the USA from another fan of the show.

Sean Walker is 15 and and a massive Gumball fan and sent us in this cool drawing.

Thank you Sean for your awesome artwork and for taking the time to get in touch with us, we really appreciate it and we’re delighted other people find Gumball just as funny as we do.

Keep up the hard work and keep them coming!

“Hello! My name is Sean Walker. I am 15 years old and I would like to state some things! Well first of all I live in the U.S. and I just want to say to you guys at Boulder Media, thank you! Why? Thank you to all of the hard work and effort you have put into making my all time favorite show, The Amazing World of Gumball.
I find it unique and hilarious, and without an animation team, this incredible show would not be on TV and I would not watch Cartoon Network near as much as I do now. Even though I’m 15, just starting high school, I still think to myself that you are never too old to watch cartoons, or anything for that matter. I absolutely love this show!
I do tons of drawings, 95% of the time Gumball related. (5% = Regular Show, Adventure Time, etc.) I’ve pretty much mastered drawing Gumball and other characters. I do up to 3 drawings per day. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I put effort into what I draw. In fact, just the other day, I was watching the Gumball episode titled “The Kiss” and Gumball suddenly wakes up from a horrible nightmare. That’s where I got the inspiration for the drawing I have attached on a file. It took about…erm…20 min tops to complete.
But anyways, I have plans to become an animator and work at the Cartoon Network US office located in Los Angeles and probably pitch my own show idea! That is, once I become not-so-obsessed-with-Gumball instead of COMPLETELY obsessed and actually take the time to create my own characters.
Haha….well I do say that I have greatly enjoyed Season 1, and am anxiously awaiting (as I’m sure many are as well as I) the release of Season 2 of Gumball for America. That will be the day that the earth stood still to see the holy events emerge from television screens across the nation….*sigh*…but that’s supposed to be in December or next year for the US…which sucks. Really bad.
In the meantime while I anxiously wait, I suppose I shall ponder on the idea of making a Dodge or Dare board game in real life. And with that I say thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did making it.
PS…..DODGE OR DARE!!!!! “

The Amazing World of Billy!

Gumbilly!!

 

Imagine my delight when I was trawling through a sea of spam emails only to find another gem from Gumball fan and future animation superstar Billy Crinion!!

If Billy and Gumball got mixed up, this is how they’d look …….

Only 12 and already so talented, Billy we salute you, thanks a million and keep them coming.

 

 

The British Animation Awards Winners Announced

Amazing news about the Amazing World of Gumball which has picked up yet more awards!!

Gumball triumphed in both nominated categories in last weeks British Animation Awards beating off all of the competition to scoop up awards for Best Childrens Series and the coveted Childrens Choice Award voted for by the childrens jury.

Happy days!

The RTS Awards 2012

It seems like a case of another day, another award nomination for The Amazing World of Gumball!!

But dont worry, instead of getting blase and complacent we are still genuinely excited and delighted at yet another nod of the industry head to our brilliant little blue cat and friends.

The Royal Television Society Awards will take place on Tuesday the 20th March at Londons Grosvenor House Hotel and sees Gumball pitted against Horrible Histories and the Newsround special – My Autism and Me in the Best Childrens Programme category.

As always best of luck to all involved but my fingers are firmly crossed for Gumball!!