Apple close to deal for Cartoon Saloon animated movie

Kilkenny-based studio has already received three Oscar nominations

A scene from ‘The Breadwinner’, by Cartoon Saloon

A scene from ‘The Breadwinner’, by Cartoon Saloon

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Apple is close to a deal with Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon for an animated movie, marking a deepening of the tech giant’s foray into Hollywood.

Sources say the movie has yet to be made and is more than a year from release, but Apple has been in talks to buy distribution rights for the US and some other countries. It is unclear how Apple plans to make the movie available, but a theatrical release, necessary to qualify for Academy Awards, is possible, one of the people said. Apple and Cartoon Saloon, which has been nominated for three Oscars, did not comment.

The deal has not closed and could still fall apart, but the talks mark a new level of ambition for Apple’s plan to take on Netflix, Google and Amazon. com in the booming online video market. Apple has struck several deals for original TV shows and documentaries, including one about singer Ed Sheeran. But the company hasn’t announced any movies so far.

The iPhone maker has been one of the biggest sellers of other companies’ shows and movies through its iTunes store, so it has existing ties to the entertainment business, mostly through executive Eddy Cue. Its online video push has expanded into funding original content as the Cupertino, California-based company tries to double services revenue.

The company began by funding new shows, like Carpool Karaoke, for its Apple Music streaming service. Last year, Apple hired TV industry veterans Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg to build an in-house studio. The two executives got a budget of at least $1 billion (€862 million) to spend in a year, Bloomberg previously reported.

Stiff competition

Apple faces stiff competition from Hollywood studios and digital streamers that spend billions of dollars annually on new material. But its large reservoir of cash and the popularity of its devices have ensured the company can get a meeting with anyone in the entertainment business.

The Cartoon Saloon movie deal is part of a more ambitious video production effort. Apple hasn’t said how the new material will be distributed, however it launched a TV app in 2016 that features prominently on iPhones, iPads and the Apple TV streaming box. The company hopes to release its first slate of original programming in 2019, Bloomberg reported in October. It’s aiming for broad appeal, and an animated movie would fit that mold.

Cartoon Saloon’s three Academy Award-nominated animations are for Secret of Kells, The Breadwinner and Song of the Sea, a 2014 film based on folklore. Its work is widely seen around the world. The studio makes short movies as well as feature films and TV shows. The Emmy-nominated preschool series, Puffin Rock, streamed globally on Netflix in more than 25 languages. On Tencent’s streaming service, it is close to 100 million views in China, according to its website.

Cartoon Saloon co-founder Tomm Moore, the director of two of the three academy nominated animations, is due to start production later this year on his third feature, Wolfwalkers, the company said on its website. – Bloomberg

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