Anim18: Celebrating the art of animation in Northern Ireland

People across Belfast, Derry, Armagh and Strabane will have opportunities to watch award-winning works and learn from masters of the craft throughout November

Still from Joel Simon's Macropolis

Anim18 is a year long celebration of creative talent in animation that is taking place across the UK. Bringing together a newly developed network of industry expertise, exhibition partners, and community-focused organisations, the initiative is generating renewed interest in animation produced in the British Isles and bringing back into the spotlight animated classics that have not been seen on the big screen for many years.

Throughout November, Anim18 is supporting a series of screenings, workshops and special events across the region exploring the art of animation in Northern Ireland and introducing audiences to the often unsung local pioneers of the artform. November also sees the start of the new Northern Ireland Screen Foundation Academy for Animation, a unique collaboration between Northern Ireland’s three Creative Learning Centres and the local animation industry, that will provide training opportunities for over 50 young people (aged 16-19) who are keen to develop a career in animation.

Northern Irish Animation Retrospective

The centre-piece of the Anim18 programme is a unique two hour retrospective of animated films and television episodes created by artists from Northern Ireland. The retrospective begins with the work of Alastair McIlwain, the Godfather of our local animation industry, who started his career in the mid-1970s as animation director on the classic children’s series Roobarb. Alastair went on to work on other animated favourites such as Skylark (1976), Teenage Ninja Turtles (1989), Budgie the Helicopter (1993) and Tales of Beatrix Potter (1993).

Well into his fifth decade as a top flight animation director, Alastair has contributed animation, design and direction on over 40 television series, 17 feature films (including the iconic Pink Floyd: The Wall and When the Wind Blows) and hundreds of animated commercials and music videos.

Some of the local children watching Alastair’s work in the 1970s grew up to become animators themselves. John McCloskey and Corrina Askin began creating very personal works of stunning 2D animation in the 1990s with the support of the Irish Film Board’s Frameworks scheme. In the next decade, Stop Motion animation found two local champions in Joel Simon and Stephen McCollum, while the new technologies of 3D animation inspired Glen Marshall to experiment with futuristic imagery and soundscapes.

The key date in the emergence of a vibrant animation industry in Northern Ireland is 2008. That year Colin Williams founded Sixteen South in Belfast and began creating a string of award-winning animated television series that demonstrated that there is a worldwide audience for our local stories, images and accents.

Over the past decade, the global success of Sixteen South (including a BAFTA and two Emmy nominations) has paved the way for a host of local companies to enter the international marketplace, including Jam Media, Dog Ears, Paper Owl, RedRay, Flickerpix, ALT, and Enter Yes.  

Fuelled by artistic talent and imagination and an innate gift for storytelling, the growth of the industry has been meteoric. Animation production in Northern Ireland currently has a 15% share of the UK animation market. It is a realistic career path that many young people can now aspire to.

The Anim18 retrospective will feature two hours of groundbreaking animation, including work from Sixteen South, Jam Media, Dog Ears, Paper Owl, RedRay and Flickerpix and personal works such as Alastair McIlwaine’s Roobarb and short film Lucas; Joel Simon’s Macropolis (winner of 16 international awards); Corrina Askin’s The Big Picture; Glen Marshall’s film for Peter Gabriel, The Nest That Sailed the Sky, winner of the Prix Ars Electronica; Stephen McCollum’s Pulling the Devil by the Tail, winner of the best short film at the Cork film festival; and John McCloskey’s The Crumblegiant, nominated for a BAFTA in 2008.

The retrospective can be seen at Armagh Market Place Theatre at 2pm on November 14, the Nerve Centre, Derry at 5pm on November 24, the Alley Theatre, Strabane on November 28 at 7.30pm and Odyssey Cinemas, Belfast at 7.30pm on November 29.

Anim18 at the Foyle Film Festival

Foyle Film Festival will host an Anim18 weekend on November 24-25 inviting young people participating in the Northern Ireland Screen Foundation Academy for Animation and the general public to a series of lectures, workshops and screenings over the two days.

Dublin animator Steve Woods will give an illustrated lecture tracing the history of animation in Ireland from small scale production to the triple Oscar recognition of the stunning animated feature films of Cartoon Salon. The venue for the lecture which starts at 11.30am is the workplace of Dog Ears on Bishop Street, Derry. Dog Ears are one of Northern Ireland’s leading producers of animation for a global market currently enjoying enormous success on Nickelodeon with their animated series, Puffin Rock. At 2pm, Fionnuala Deane, Managing Director, will present an industry case study on Dog Ears while Donal Mangan, the company’s Animation Director on Puffin Rock, will explore the development process in animation production focussing on Story, Screenwriting and Character Design.

Anim18 at the Foyle Film Festival will continue on Sunday, November 25 with a screening of animated shorts on the theme of War and Conflict: Ireland - The King’s WakeFlipsides and Guns, Bees and Tadpoles. The venue will be Nerve Centre Cinema 1 at 10am.

Animation workshops

On Sunday, November 25 Northern Ireland Screen Foundation Academy for Animation will provide the opportunity for 35 young people to learn creative skills in animation from some of Northern Ireland’s leading animators. There will be two hands-on workshops to choose from.

11.30am – 4pm. The principles of 2D animation with John McCloskey and Deirdre Gribbin.

11.30am – 4pm. The techniques of Stop Motion Animation with Joel Simon.

The venue for both workshops will be Magazine Studios at the Nerve Centre, Derry.

Anim18 at the Foyle Film Festival will conclude with a special 50th anniversary screening of the animated classic Yellow Submarine at 4.30 pm in Nerve Centre Cinema 2.  

Other Anim 18 special events will include:

A screening of the Irish language short film which won the Animation Award at the 2018 Celtic Media Festival. An Beal Bocht, an adaptation of the comic novel by Irish writer Flann O’Brien, was created in Derry by Raw Nerve Productions and De Facto Films. The screenng will take place at 7pm on Friday, November 23 at An Culturlann, Derry. The event will begin with a lecture on Flann O’Brien and The Poor Mouth by Seamas Mac Annaidh.

Careers presentations on the animation industry will feature at the annual Moving Image Arts showcase events in Derry (Brunswick Moviebowl on November 21) and Belfast (Odyssey Cinemas on November 22). The presentations will be given by representatives of some of the leading animation companies in Northern Ireland.      

Outreach workshops in Stop Motion Animation will be delivered by Joel Simon in three Belfast primary schools in November.

For more information on Anim18 please visit To see everything that's coming up during this year's Foyle Film Festival go to