Lecturer: Dermot Corrigan
Contemporary animation is interesting primarily because it deals with literary subjects, folklore and traditional taboos. The context, motives and style specifics across the history of Irish animation, as well as a deeper background of Irish filmmaking, will be discussed by Irish publicist and theoretician Dermot Corrigan.
Irish animation can boast neither a long line of descent, nor a tradition formed systematically since the dawn of its cinematography. Partial attempts at realization in this field appeared in the 1930s but they were followed by a long decline. Which is quite a paradox, considering the ideal features of animation for the spreading of hegemonic ideology or propaganda as well as the tough censorship measures which have controlled Irish cinematography for the major part of the 20th century. Yet those in charge of the image of Ireland and the mass media, i.e. the nationalist government and the catholic church, preferred to take advantage of the means of feature film, unlike the US or USSR.
It was only at the turn of the 1970s and the 1980s that independent authors of the animation mode of expression started to gain ground but these were soon overtaken by American investors who established their studios in Ireland and produced films conforming to the Disney poetics and style and targeted at mass family consumption. An emblematic figure of this era is Don Bluth, a former Disney animator. At the end of the 1980s he produced the animated epics Land before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven, and Rock-a-Doodle. As suggested by the titles, sentiment, nostalgia, sweet big-eyed animals and adventurous stories with a happy ending were the main commodities of the films. Nothing which could be called authentic national animation. Nevertheless, there were positive aspects; the impact of establishing two schools of animation and the enabling of a large number of people to learn and improve the craft through Bluth's large scale productions.
By the 1990s, Ireland had an extensive professional base and well-equipped studios. Finally original Irish animation could develop, thanks to the great number of talented filmmakers and skilled craftsmen who were helped by the government system of support programs and the foundation of grant institutions such the Irish Film Board or Short Short Short. Animation was booming and still is, primarily in the short-length format; longer animations are realized in international co-productions, such as Carnivale (a French co-production) from 2000 or the recently completed Brendan and the Secret of Kells (Belgium and France).