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We Love Animation #25Years

This year is a pretty big year for Brown Bag Films as it marks 25 years in business for us. You read that right - TWENTY-FIVE whole years!

Can you believe it? We're all grown up! And, we certainly started the year off with a bang, being honoured as number one production company on Kidscreen's Hot50 list for the second year in a row.

You bet we are excited to celebrate our 25th anniversary today but it's more than just a party to us and more than just a milestone for our business—it's a celebration of what we love. We Love Animation™. In fact, we love it so much we trademarked it back in 2006. We're celebrating 25 years of that love and we wanted to reflect on how far we've come as a studio, how much we've grown our family of artists—4 locations and counting!—and the amazing productions we've had the pleasure of working on!

The processes we use today are very different from when we first opened our doors back in 1994 when we painstakingly hand-painted individual cel animations and shot on 35mm film!


Our first series at that time was a satire on Ireland’s notorious author Peig Sayers for RTÉ.

The industry has changed a lot over time, some might say thankfully, and though the way we express our stories has developed over the years, our love of animation has never wavered.

Animation’s evolution can’t be distilled solely to creative advancements in the craft. Everything from painting to using digital brushes, transferring 2D drawings to 3D generating softwares and how production teams operate on budget and timelines, all contribute to modern animation and our development over the past 25 years.

Computers were integrated into animation studios globally in the 1990s. Computer animation started off pretty basic. The most you could do was touch up backgrounds and add texture. Everyone was sceptical about dropping the age-old method of hand drawing and painting. What we didn’t realize was computers would become an integral part of our business.

Derek Horan started with us at Brown Bag as a 2D painter over 12 years ago. He notes the first momentous shift in animation for him was in the early 1990s when claymation, stop-motion and still-animation were at its peak. Suddenly, Photoshop was introduced and revolutionized the role of a classical animator.

Derek Horan, 2D Designer

“We were amazed by the program. When we were working on Give Up Yer Aul Sins, we could literally get it to paint cells and scan them, and one person could now do the job of five people at that time.”

- Derek Horan, 2D Designer

Back then, we were a small studio and it was a big investment, but it set us apart from local competitors.

1995 - Gardiner Place - Digital Line Tester
1995 - Gardiner Place - Digital Line Tester
1997 Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O'Connell
1997 Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O'Connell

Everyone at our studio remembers when Pixar's Toy Story, the first fully computer-generated film, was released in 1995. Changing gears from 2D to 3D was a wakeup call for us and the entire industry, and by the early 2000s, 3D animation was taking over. Switching from 2D to 3D animation software was a big shift for our staff to adopt new concepts. It was a tough slog, but it was worth it in the end for the whole studio as the digital animation boom was right around the corner.

In the beginning of his career, our Head of Art Department David McCamley, now a 13 year Brown Bag veteran, remembers the shift from classical animation to digital painting.

“Things were changing but I didn’t realize how fast. Within five years things had really switched over to digital.”

- David McCamley, Head of Art Department

2008 David McCamley

The swift shift from 2D to 3D was definitely worth it, as we saw how 3D began taking over the industry. Companies who didn’t adapt to 3D weren’t able to keep up. Milestone features like Jurassic Park and Shrek won animation awards for notable efforts to digitally animate characters like prehistoric and mythical creatures, which pushed our team to work harder, learn more, and keep developing to position ourselves among the top players in the animation industry.

Over the years there are benchmarks that led to the success of our studio. In 2002, we were nominated for our first Oscar for our animated short Give Up Yer Aul Sins. It was the feature that really put us on the map as an animation studio.

Needless to say, it was one of the most memorable and proud moments in our company’s history.

As we moved into the mid-2000s, we began working on some of our most challenging yet rewarding projects, including our first 3D series Olivia, Noddy-in-Toyland, Doc McStuffins, Octonauts, and Henry Hugglemonster.

Bronagh O'Hanlon is a 17 year Brown Bag rockstar and Episodic Director. She’s been with us since nearly the studio's inception and she’s a fearless leader among our staff.  When we asked her what project was the most noteworthy in the beginning of her career, she without hesitation said, “Olivia!”

2019 Bronagh O'Hanlon

In a predominantly 2D animation world focused on more male lead characters than female, Brown Bag went against the grain with Olivia!

Our animators went with their gut knowing 3D would be a better final result, and one animator even took it upon herself to render what the show could look like, paired with an Aretha Franklin song. Of course, the creators loved it, and this kind of drive and commitment is ultimately what led to the success of Olivia! and one of our strongest female leads.

Taking risks and not taking “no” for an answer is what drives us at Brown Bag and it’s how we keep ahead of the industry and push out shows that evolve more from the last. Like Olivia!, Doc McStuffins was also supposed to be a 2D production, Brown Bag pushed to make it 3D and as a result, we are rounding into our fifth and final season.

Doc McStuffins is a studio-wide favourite and one of our proudest projects, winning the esteemed Peabody Award in 2015.

“I sorta… grew up on that show. I think it's nice within all five seasons you can really identify characters a bit more. Some of the things that need to be discovered in season one, you can build on in [successive] seasons. Which you don’t get to do with a show that isn't as long-running as Doc McStuffins.”

- Bronagh O'Hanlon, Director

From season to season, series to series, we’re always wondering how we can make things bigger and better, how can we make ourselves grow even more!

Siobhan Doyle is our Head of Character Assets and remembers fondly the projects that taught her a lot technically, such as The Stinky and Dirty Show.

2014 Siobhan Doyle

“I got to develop the 3D look for the Stinky characters straight from the original Stinky and Dirty books. I had to research different types of axles and really think through how the characters would move.”

- Siobhan Doyle, Head of Character Assets

Even current projects, such as Vampirina, continue to push the boundaries and elevate Brown Bag’s standard.

“Vampirina was a higher standard than I'd ever seen at Brown Bag.”

- Siobhan Doyle, Head of Character Assets

The past 25 years have presented both gratifying and arduous times, both in the industry and in our studios. Facing the ongoing demand for constant streaming will only broaden, which demands instant content and faster production. But our team of animators, creators and producers at Brown Bag are best in class and have always been the driving force behind our successes.

“The key thing is the talent. The willingness of artists here wanting to push the quality and the standards weigh in beyond the client would be expecting. That’s what keeps us moving forward. The challenge from our projects especially in this changing climate. The key is that we keep our edge and we look at properties that come in and how can we reimagine them in the marketplace and make them different from everyone else in the market.”

- David McCamley, Head of Art Department

Dublin studio
Manchester studio
Toronto studio
Bali studio

Twenty-five years showed us more than the animation itself, it showed us how the world is changing. Bronagh O'Hanlon remembers when there was a time in the early 2000s when there was a battle of the sexes for character development. Shows wanted fewer female characters because, “...boys wouldn’t watch female leads, but girls will watch any animation with or without a female lead.”

Since then, Brown Bag has produced a great deal of female-inspired shows like Doc McStuffins, Olivia! and more recently, Sadie Sparks. We aim to continue creating dynamic characters in all forms and sizes.

Sadie Sparks

25 years ahead we forecast higher demand for content, increased quality, and refined technologies to improve our workflow. We hope animation will diversify, storylines will become more important and viewer’s imaginations will be stimulated with even stronger arcs and character development than what we're used to.

As we move into our next quarter century, we look forward to growing and developing with the new tech, but storytelling will always be at the core of Brown Bag Films.

“The really key thing is, we never let the tech drive us. We’ve always remembered to keep the whole thing around the story. That’s the big thing for Brown Bag, whatever show we are thinking of, or concept we are looking at, we kinda look and say, ‘What is the driving force itself’ and we stayed true to that philosophy from the start.”

- Derek Horan, 2D Designer

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our AMAZING teams, across what's grown from one small studio in Dublin back in 1994 to four fantastic locations with over 1,000 employees around the world! It's no small feat to do what they do with passion, drive and a standard of excellence.

A HUGE thank you also to our audiences, our clients, our partners, who have supported us over the past 25 years! You have all contributed to our story in an incredible way, making it possible for us to do what we love best. We hope to continue doing so for many more years to come.

Anahita Tabarsi

Anahita is Brown Bag Films' Marketing Director, Digital & Social and drinks more than five coffees a day...

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