Kilkenny-based Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon is to partner with Canadian independent animation studio Mercury Filmworks to form a new venture called Lighthouse Studios and create over 140 jobs for Kilkenny in the process.

Cartoon Saloon is the twice Academy Award and BAFTA nominated animation studio formed by Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey. From award-winning shorts to feature films and TV series, Cartoon Saloon has carved a special place in the international Animation industry. In 2010, the studio’s first feature film, the Secret of Kells, was nominated for an Academy Award and in 2015, Tomm Moore’s follow up feature, Song of the Sea, garnered Moore and Paul Young a second Oscar Nomination.

Mercury Filmworks is similar to Cartoon Saloon in many ways, producing animated features and TV content for companies like Disney, Netflix, Warner Brothers, and Nickelodeon. In 2014 they established Mercury Filmworks Europe in Dublin.

The joint venture, supported by Ireland’s Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through IDA Ireland will create over 140 jobs in the next three years.  In the coming weeks, Lighthouse Studios plans to announce development and production projects, as well as a hiring initiative encompassing production management, designers, animators, effects artists, compositors, technical directors, 3D modellers, riggers, lighting and texture artists and IT administrators. Contact careers@lighthousestudios.ie for more information.

Gathering in Kilkenny to make today’s joint announcement were Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor; Mercury Filmworks CEO Clint Eland; Cartoon Saloon’s CEO Paul Young, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation John Halligan TD; and IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan. They were joined by a number of local dignitaries and executives and artists from both companies.

Making the announcement in Kilkenny today, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor said

This is terrific news and I warmly welcome the additional 140 jobs which will be created in Kilkenny. I am always keen to pursue as wide a range of Foreign Investment projects as possible and this launch today shows that we have the creative talent to attract companies like Mercury Filmworks to Ireland. Ireland has a strong record in film making, including animation, and I have no doubt that this partnership between Mercury Filmworks and Cartoon Saloon will go from strength to strength.

Lighthouse Studios will provide high-quality children’s and family animated content development and end-to-end production services–from script writing, design, storyboard, animation and compositing to post production services–to a global client base. Specialising in 2D animation with some CGI integration and utilising the latest technologies, the studio’s production pipeline will mirror Mercury Filmworks’ Canadian operation. However, Lighthouse Studios will operate autonomously with its own management team, reporting to a Board of Directors comprised of executives from both Mercury Filmworks and Cartoon Saloon.

Commenting on the news Mercury Filmworks’ CEO Clint Eland said:

We have enormous respect for Cartoon Saloon and could not be happier to announce this collaboration. They are one of today’s most creative and well-respected animation companies with goals, perspectives, and philosophies that complement our own. Conceived as a studio with its own unique identity,” he continued, “Lighthouse Studios is neither wholly Mercury Filmworks nor Cartoon Saloon, but rather the best parts of each, transplanted in the rich Irish soil and nurtured by its own talented team of artists into a studio with its own unique and distinct creative perspective.

Cartoon Saloon’s Paul Young added:

All of us at Cartoon Saloon are delighted to be in partnership with Mercury, as we have long admired their work. And now, together, we plan to make Lighthouse Studios and Kilkenny a centre of excellence for animation. Ireland enjoys a number of advantages when it comes to animation. The industry is supported by a growing number of educational programs and draws talent from all over Europe due to the quality of projects being produced here. The Irish talent pool has been spilling over into other parts of Europe and North America for years and we look forward to welcoming a lot of that talent home.

The Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD said

This is a really positive development for the South East region. The Government through the Action Plan for Jobs is very focused on ensuring all of Ireland benefit from job creation. This project today shows that we have the capability to attract big international projects, requiring a diverse range of talents, which bring well-paid jobs to this region. I know Kilkenny will be a great home for the new venture.

IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan concluded:

The impact of Mercury Filmworks creating this greenfield investment with Cartoon Saloon, one of Ireland’s most respected animation studios, is a game changer for the industry. It will greatly enhance the animation cluster in Ireland, broaden the animation skills base here and clearly positions Ireland as a compelling location for world-class content creators.

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