Dublin animation studio turns to ‘game changer’ tech for new series

17 Nov 2022

A still from Fia's Fairies by Little Moon Animation. Image: Little Moon Animation

Little Moon Animation leveraged gaming technology for its new show Fia’s Fairies, and is now also developing a language learning game.

Little Moon Animation, a small Irish CGI studio, says it has become one of the first studios in Europe to achieve the broadcast of a series produced through Unreal Engine 5.

Unreal Engine is a gaming development tool that enables creators to create 3D content. The fifth version was released earlier this year to boost the development of games and other content.

Dublin-headquartered Little Moon decided to use the tool for its children’s TV show, Fia’s Fairies, based on what the tech has done for the world of games development.

Fia’s Fairies made its broadcast debut on RTEjr last month. The show follows Fia and her best friend Ameer as they journey to Fairy Island, where they learn Irish through adventures with a pair of fairies named Bláithín and Cuán.

Little Moon Animation is currently developing a language learning game that will allow young children to interact with the world and characters from Fia’s Fairies to learn the Irish language.

According to Vanessa Robinson, creative producer of Fia’s Fairies, making the show with Unreal Engine was a “game changer” and vastly sped up the process.

“Traditionally, we would have been able to render a full five-minute episode in two weeks through the use of a render farm. On Fia’s Fairies, we’ve been able to render an entire five-minute episode of full HD broadcast quality in under one hour,” Robinson explained.

“This is transformative not just for our budgets but also for our schedules and resources,” said Robinson.

Little Moon Animation will be going into production on its second real-time series called The Scavengers in early 2023.

Fia’s Fairies is distributed by Monster Entertainment. It is produced with the support of Screen Ireland, RTEjr, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the incentives for the Irish film industry provided by the Government of Ireland.

“As a small indie studio, the ability to harness real-time technology has not only benefited our remote workflows, but it has also brought back the joy of creating collaborative projects in real time,” said Eoghan Garvey, director of Fia’s Fairies.

“We’ve had a lot of fun building our own pipeline around Unreal Engine in a way that maximises creative control.”

Little Moon Animation is far from alone in its use of Unreal Engine in creating shows. The tech has been used by Hollywood on shows such as Westworld and The Mandalorian.

As the film, animation, gaming and tech industries continue to overlap, it has become increasingly important for creatives to familiarise themselves with new tech.

A recent a report by TechIreland and Skillnet argued that if Ireland wants to be a global leader in the screen tech space, the country should develop a specialist centre for the development of tech skills for sectors such as animation, film and gaming.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic