Is Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon about to make a movie for Apple?

15 Jun 2018

A still from the hit animation ‘Puffin Rock’, which has been viewed 100m times in China and is available in 25 languages on Netflix. Image: Cartoon Saloon

Ireland’s prowess at animation and capturing Hollywood’s hearts is an art in itself.

Kilkenny’s Cartoon Saloon is understood to be close to a deal with tech giant Apple to produce a movie that will indicate where the tech giant is going next in terms of digital content.

Apple has been rumoured to be working on developing its own TV and movie content to bolster its Apple Music service with original movies. In the past year, it has been mulling over scripts and pitches from Hollywood producers and TV executives.

The company is understood to have put together a war chest of $1bn to develop its own content in order to compete with platforms such as Netflix, which is spending $8bn alone this year.

It is still baby steps for Apple, which has already made a foray into its own content with two TV shows, Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke. Further projects in the pipeline include drama series, entertainment shows, a biopic on the early life of Emily Dickinson, a documentary about Ed Sheeran, a sci-fi series based on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and a new animated music comedy called Central Park, to name a few.

Apple has also hired TV industry veterans Jamie Erlicht and Zach Van Amburg to build an in-house studio.

How to draw success

Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon is a celebrated animation studio formed by Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey in 1999.

In 2010, the studio’s first feature film, The Secret of Kells, was nominated for an Academy Award; in 2015, follow-up feature Song of the Sea garnered a second nomination while The Breadwinner was nominated earlier this year.

The company’s Emmy-nominated pre-school series, Puffin Rock, is streamed in 25 languages on Netflix and has been viewed nearly 100m times in China on Tencent Holdings’ streaming platform.

Last year, it emerged that Cartoon Saloon would generate 140 new jobs as part of a collaboration called Lighthouse Studios with Canada’s Mercury Filmworks. The project hinges on the development of an all-new 2D and 3D-focused animation studio as part of the joint venture.

According to reports, no deal between Cartoon Saloon and Apple has been finalised and talks are ongoing, but it is understood that Apple has its heart set on a movie that would also have a theatrical release in order to qualify for the Academy Awards, cementing its ambitions in the digital content and streaming space.

A whole new digital canvas

The digital media landscape is swirling and traditional telecoms and Hollywood giants are merging in order to win back the initiative from interloping streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon. For example, the deal by AT&T to acquire Time Warner in an $85.4bn merger has just been concluded.

Apple pretty much established the legitimate digital content business when it created iTunes and released the iPod in 2001.

It is no doubt very keen to ensure that it takes its rightful place in the lexicon of digital platforms, considering that its devices – from the iPhone and iPad to the Apple TV – are the fulcrum for much of the content consumed by users.

As Netflix and Amazon have shown, original content and programming is the key and, having the credentials and pedigree of Cartoon Saloon, Apple could be about to make a major impact.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years