Media Mentor is proud to work with #Futurum, an Emmy Award winning Cartoon Animation business. Special thanks to Elaine O’Regan, Business journalist with Ireland’s Business Post @businessposthq for her indepth interview with Niall Watters, Futurum CCO, and sharing Futurum’s plans for a proposed Digital Animation Hub in Dundalk, Co.Louth, Ireland with Dundalk Institute of Technology.
The Irish creators of Jakers, the Emmy-winning CGI children’s series, are back in business with a new animation house that has already picked up a distribution deal in South Korea.
Futurum, run by Denise and Francis Fitzpatrick, also plans to establish an animation hub employing 50 people in Dundalk in Co Louth.
The Meath couple rose to prominence in the early 2000s with Jakers, The Adventures of Piggley Winks, a 40-episode series produced in Los Angeles and aired on PBS Kids in the US.
Featuring voiceovers from Hollywood stars including Joan Rivers and Mel Brooks, the series was subsequently acquired in other territories by the BBC, TFI in France, ABC in Australia and SVT-Sweden, among others.
The Fitzpatricks raised $30 million to finance Jakers and have now assembled an international team for Futurum, their latest venture. Its first animated series, Paddles, has been created by the couple’s children Klaragh, 25, and Daniel, 21.
London-based animators Tim Harper and Somu Mohapatra will take on the roles of creative director and head of production.
Niall Watters, Futurum’s chief commercial officer, said: “Tim has created over 450 episodes for animated series like Lily’s Driftwood Bay, Little Robots and Cloudbabies. Somu has worked on animation for really big projects like 10,000 Years BC and the Chronicles of Narnia.
“We also have Paul Cook on board as an adviser. He is the former chief financial officer at Hit Entertainment in Britain, and he was instrumental in bringing Bob the Builder to the US.
“His commercial expertise is really key for us, because we are enormously ambitious. We have already had an independent valuation of £25 million and that’s way below where we want to be within the next 12 to 18 months.
“The talent and experience we’ve brought together in the founding team will be a big part of making that happen.”
Aimed at four to seven-year-olds, Paddles tells the story of a polar bear cub accidentally delivered by the stork to a frozen river Shannon and brought up by a pack of Irish wolfhounds.
Currently in production at studios in three countries, the series of 52 eleven-minute episodes will debut in April on Cartoonito, a preschool children’s TV channel owned by WarnerMedia in Britain.
The series will air in Ireland later this year on RTÉ Jr and has also been picked up by Hop, a children’s TV channel in Israel.
Monster Entertainment, the Irish distributor, has secured the sales rights to Paddles in all international markets apart from South Korea.
Monster is currently taking part remotely in this year’s Kidscreen Summit in Miami, ahead of plans to close further distribution deals in the US, Australia, Germany, Italy and other markets.
In South Korea, Paddles will be distributed exclusively by Neon Creation, an entertainment company headquartered in Seoul. Watters said the Neon deal had special significance for Futurum.
“Korea has a population of over 51 million people and it’s a really big children’s entertainment and licensing market. Its home-grown animated production industry is also very highly regarded globally,” he said.
“Neon has worked with a number of top global broadcasters like KBS, Cartoon Network and MBC. This deal is really big for us.”
Futurum currently has a team of 80 people in London and Las Palmas in Gran Canaria finalising the Paddles series ahead of its launch on Cartoonito. A further 20 people in Turkey are also working on the project at Melon, Futurum’s Istanbul-based production partner.
According to Watters, however, Futurum has plans to centralise production in Ireland in the near future.
The company is close to finalising a deal to set up an animation facility in partnership with Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT).
Once up-and-running, the facility on the college campus could create up to 50 jobs for animators in Ireland over the next one to two years.
“We’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with DkIT and we’re ready to move forward with it as soon as possible,” Watters said.