Manimation 2014 – Cathal Gaffney

Posted on: Saturday 22 November 2014 11:28am

Manimation Fusion – 20 November 2014 – The Morecambe and Wise Room, BBC Bridge House, Media City Salford. 

IMG_2285A day of exploration of every aspect of the current animation scene with a special emphasis on Manchester and the North West.

Cathal Gaffney – Keynote

In the packed pinkness of the BBC’s kindly donated Morecambe and Wise Room, Cathal Gaffney, CEO and founding partner of Brown Bag Films (Dublin) took 20 minutes to cover 20 years of success…

IMG_2292Cathal began by taking the packed audience through the years of developing the company, its techniques, changing its focus to 3D production and away from advertising into long form animated series, revealing a couple of Oscar nominations along the way.   Brown Bag are now one of the busiest animation companies in Europe with 5 series currently in production.

He described some of the creative conversation which go on when pitching for projects, in particular recalling the process of persuading Disney that ‘Doc McStuffins’ would work better in 3D – and the resulting $500m merchandising property is now part of TV history.

Then came the drum roll!

Cathal revealed that for some time Brown Bag has aspired to set up a 2D division.  They looked at Dublin, and Berlin, but eventually decided on Manchester.  Work is already under way on building studio facilities at the Sharp Project and the plan is to employ around 40 people.

Top Takeaways from Cathal’s talk.

On personal lessons learned…

  • Being the talent facilitator not ‘the Talent’ leads to real growth in the company.
  • Managing sales problems is tricky and important but managing growth and scale in a company is equally difficult and vital.
  • Have everyone pointing towards the same North Star.
  • On deal – spend more than you can afford on the best legal advice.
  • Invest more than you can afford in training.
  • Make sure the people you take in “fit” the company.  (If you don’t like dogs – don’t join Brown Bag as the office is full of them…)

And the strategic message  – be responsive to change

  • Worrying about routes to market is not as important as having good content.  Kids want good characters and great stories. The route to market will follow excellence.
  • However the internet (and by default mobile) has become a video-driven platform so SEO and web developers become as important as animators to your company.
  • Although TV remains the dominant player in the medium term, be prepared to be a screen agnostic content producer, rather than a TV animation company.
  • If you want customers, act like a customer. Spend money on buying content (and talent) so you have something worthwhile to sell.
  • Partner and consolidate; animation companies are competing with broadcasters, toycos, games companies and book publishers for audiences. New groupings will inevitably result – be at the forefront of seeking them out.
  • Make content for audiences, not commissioners or funders – especially now that everyone is closer to their audience in the ways in which things can be delivered.


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