Filmmaker, animator and comic artist Tomm Moore was born in 1977 in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. His passion for film and animation grew when he joined the Young Irish Film Makers in Kilkenny, and he continued to study film at Ballyfermot College of Further Education where he met filmmakers and animators who he would collaborate with in the future.
He co-founded the Cartoon Saloon animation studio with fellow animators Nora Twomey, Paul Young and Ross Stewart in 1998 during his final year at Ballyfermot.
The studio’s first major creation was the Irish/British children’s television series Skunk Fu! (2007) about a group of anthropomorphic forest animals who protect their home in the valley using martial arts. It aired internationally in the U.K. (BBC), Ireland (TG4), Canada (YTV) and the United States (The CW). It lasted only one season but was nominated for some awards in the U.K.
However, it was Cartoon Saloon’s first animated feature film that would bring them a whole new level of respect from critics and animation fans. The Secret of Kells (2009) directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey was an Irish fantasy film co-produced in France and Belgium and based on Irish mythology. This film put the studio on the map when it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2010 Academy Awards.
The Secret of Kells was the first animated film to put film distributor GKIDS on my radar and it is an important film in my life. It helped open my mind to “alternative” animation that I normally wouldn’t have sought out. Ever since 2010 when Secret of Kells was released in America I have been following GKIDS and all their releases, and broadening my taste and love for foreign animation as a result.
Tomm Moore’s second feature film Song of the Sea (2014) was another critical success that brought Cartoon Saloon another Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature (they deserved to win that one, in my opinion), and Moore announced the following year that his next feature film would be Wolfwalkers, which he will co-direct with Ross Stewart.
The studio is currently at work on another animated series for children that debuted in 2015 called Puffin Rock that was created by Tomm Moore, Lily Bernard and Paul Young and narrated by Irish comedian Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, This Is 40).
The latest feature film from the studio is Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner, which is getting rave reviews and will almost certainly score Cartoon Saloon another Oscar nomination.
This studio is responsible for some of the best animated films in the world right now. I actually find myself getting more excited for The Breadwinner than I am for Pixar’s two films from 2017. Unthinkable a few years ago but that speaks to the quality of the studio’s output. These animators are definitely ones to watch and I can’t wait to see what else they do.