Northern Ireland Animation Nominated In Cannes

Joe and Jack receives plaudits at the prestigious MIPJunior screening event

‘The charm of life, the joy of friendship’ is the endearing quote describing a new Northern Irish produced preschool animation series enitled Joe and Jack.

Produced by Maeve McAdam and Villi Ragnarsson of Dancing Girl Productions, and written by Corrina Askin, Joe and Jack tells the charming story of a small boy named Joe and his best friend Jack, who happens to be a cat.

The series centres on themes of friendship and imagination, and was recently selected as a finalist for the prestigious Kid’s Jury prize at MIPJunior in Cannes, France. MIPJunior is the world's largest screening event and international forum for leading buyers, sellers and producers of children’s’ programming.

The Kid’s Jury outlines the latest, never-aired programmes and broadcasts them to the target demographic: kids. It is an exclusive opportunity to market test programmes with their soon-to-be audience. Producer McAdam was surprised by the nomination.

‘Our distributor, CCI Entertainment, submitted Joe and Jack for the award, and 'forgot' to mention it to us! So we were really surprised and delighted to be told about our nomination. On their first time out, Joe and Jack have done us proud, and it is a great boost to our entire team.’

20 children from the International School of Nice selected this year’s winner. Joe and Jack narrowly lost out to Patch Pillow from Cyber Group Studios based in France. However, to be selected amongst giants such as Sony Creative and Millimages demonstrates just how far Irish animation has come in recent years.

This is something McAdam attributes to ‘great talent and storytelling'. And she is quick to thank the various state agencies that were instrumental in getting Joe and Jack off the starting blocks, despite many obstacles over a long five-year period.

‘We were extremely fortunate to receive funding from the Broadcast Authority of Ireland, RTE, Northern Ireland Screen, the Irish Language Broadcast Fund, the Irish Film Board, Section 481 and MEDIA. Had any of these funds not got behind us, we would not now be in production and 40+ people both north and south would not be working on the show.’

The original idea for Joe and Jack came from the talented creator, Corrina Askin, who presented Dancing Girl Productions with a range of possible series ideas. A single black and white still of the two characters stood out, and from that image the company developed what has become a 39 part series.

McAdam and her team are now looking ahead to a much sought after second series, but realise the challenges ahead. Along with other similar kids’ programmes, Joe and Jack faces the harsh reality that the pre-school market is currently hugely over-subscribed.

'Having managed to finance the first series, our particular challenge right now is to secure sufficient acquisitions to make a second series possible,' McAdam explains. 'Funding and slots are a huge problem for preschool, but having seen the reaction to the series from international buyers, we are confident that we have created an evergreen.’

Joe and Jack will be shown on RTÉ in both Irish and English in Summer 2012, and is being distributed by CCI Entertainment, Canada.