2D and Transcendent!
Ireland’s Lighthouse Studios celebrates five years of animation excellence.
It has been five years since Lighthouse Studios opened its doors in the beautiful town of Kilkenny in Ireland. The joint venture between Academy Award-nominated Cartoon Saloon and the Ottawa-based Mercury Filmworks was founded to further bolster the thriving 2D animation industry in Ireland. “Our overarching mission is to create the best possible quality of animated content for global audiences, across all genres and for all ages,” says the studio’s managing director Claire Finn. “The first two series we produced were the animated children’s series The Bug Diaries, and Season 2 of the Emmy Award-nominated If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, which we worked on with our parent, Mercury Filmworks. Both of these series were for the globally-recognized content giant Amazon Prime, so we were off to a great start!” Finn points out that while Lighthouse operates as an independent studio, the expertise of its “parent” companies, has ensured that they’re able to offer world-class animation from the very beginning. “Having such famous parent studios to collaborate and strategize with has been invaluable,” she notes. “We also really believe in fostering career development and have a Learning and Development specialist in the studio to set up various training programs from ToonBoom to life drawing, English language classes to professional skills development. With a crew comprising over 25 nationalities, we also have a strong EDI program and are proud of this being a part of the culture that we have been developing over the past five years.” She also notes that the physical aspects of the studio are equally special. “Being based in a neo-Gothic-style building, formally an old seminary, means that we can offer an incredibly unique and creative studio setting for our talent,” Finn says. “We have accommodation for crew on site and the building is set in beautiful grounds — complete with an operating school where crew can see the students play hurling (Ireland’s national sport) as they enter the studio. The town of Kilkenny itself is known for its vibrant culture and design heritage, and the local community from pubs to estate agents and hotels, etc., all get behind welcoming the crew to the city.” The past year has represented a huge step in the growth of the studio’s work-for-hire business, with the delivery of three animated children’s series, including the critically-acclaimed El Deafo for Apple TV+, based on the award-winning graphic memoir by Cece Bell; The Cuphead Show for Netflix adapted from the massively successful videogame; and Little Ellen for Warner Bros. Animation which is available on HBOMax. Finn adds, “We’re also really excited for the May 27th theatrical release of The Bob’s Burgers Movie from Disney’s 20th Century Studios, for which we produced the animation in collaboration with Mercury Filmworks and Bento Box”. In addition to the work for hire business, Lighthouse is also gearing up to expand into original series and movies with its first project going into development— a short film called Póg Mo Pigeon based on a concept developed from a in-house film competition. As Finn explains, “One of our ambitions is to tap into our vast creative talent to source new and original ideas to develop and produce, and this is our first step! Alongside that, we’ve optioned the rights to a gritty adult graphic novel.” Depending on the different phases of all productions, the studio typically has anywhere between 130 to 270 crew members from various diverse backgrounds and cultures. Finn says, “Our studio culture embodies inclusivity and the bringing together of talent with unique points of view – all of which adds depth and diversity to our creative process. I love hearing all the different languages whenever I pop into the kitchen for a cuppa!”
The Road Ahead
Finn believes that animation has come of age and it is no longer seen as just a kids’ venture. “It is so broad in potential of style and genre,” she offers. “Access via streamers has opened up the potential for audiences that weren’t there before. That’s exciting for creators and for those wanting to tell untold stories. I feel optimistic that this trend will continue and allow lots of untold stories be made. And, even though we had challenges operating remotely during the pandemic, it is great to know that it’s possible to continue production with a little modification, compared to the live-action production business.” We ask Finn to give us a fun piece of trivia that not many know about Lighthouse. “Our studio looks like Hogwarts,” she says. “And Ralph Fiennes, who played ‘he who shall not be named’ actually went to high school here for a time. So, we feel close to magic every day. It truly is a spectacular historical space that we get to work in and really adds fuel to our creativity!” For more info, visit www.lighthousestudios.ie