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Cartoon Saloon creates JV studio with Canuck firm

Kids-logo-460_2Lighthouse StudiosIreland’s Cartoon Saloon and Canada’s Mercury Filmworks have launched a full service joint venture studio in Europe.

The creation of Lighthouse Studios will generate 140 jobs in Kilkenny, Ireland in the next three years, and establishes a production hub in the region.

The studio will develop 2D-animated children’s and family television programming for distribution on multiple platforms.

Cartoon Saloon is known for series including Skunk Fu and Netflix’s Puffin Rock, and is currently developing toons such as Wolf Walkers, Dorg Van Dango and Viking Skool. Irish producers Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey launched the business in 1999.

For the firm’s Canadian JV partner, Lighthouse’s launch comes nearly three years after it hired former Teletoon chief Alan Gregg to lead Mercury Filmworks Europe as president, European production.

That plan included the establishment of a Dublin-based animation studio that could take advantage of local tax breaks that have made Ireland into one of the most-desirable copro partners for North American companies.

Gregg later left, and is now VP, development at Boat Rocker Animation-backed Industrial Brothers, but Mercury has remained focused on the territory.

“Ireland enjoys a number of advantages when it comes to animation,” said Cartoon Saloon CEO Young. “The industry is supported by a growing number of educational programmes 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.”

Nineteen-year-old Mercury Filmworks has worked on numerous toons, including Mickey Mouse Shorts, Wander Over Yonder, Jake & the Never Land Pirates, Fish Hooks, Gerald McBoing Boing, Atomic Puppet and upcoming Netflix original Hilda.

“Conceived as a studio with its own unique identity, 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,” said Mercury Filmworks CEO Clint Eland.

Ireland’s Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is supporting the Lighthouse initiative through its IDA Ireland arm, with the studio primed to announce his first development projects and hires of production management, designers, animators and other technical staff.

Mercury Filmworks’ investment in Ireland’s toon sector was described as “a game changer for the industry” by Martin Shanahan from government body IDA Ireland. “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,” he added.