EY Entrepreneur of the Year industry finalist: Paul Young, Cartoon Saloon

‘If we have a fan in Donegal or Kansas they can find our film on Netflix’

Paul Young is a co-founder and the chief executive of Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon, a twice Academy Award and Bafta-nominated animation film studio.

Young produced the Oscar- nominated animated feature films Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells.

He is producer of the animated TV series Puffin Rock, which is airing on RTÉjr and Nick Jr UK and many other broadcasters internationally.

He was executive producer and a Bafta nominee for Skunk Fu! which has sold globally to over 140 countries worldwide including the BBC and Cartoon Network.


Young is also an award winning illustrator and cartoonist.

Cartoon Saloon was formed by Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey in 1999.

From award-winning shorts to feature films and TV series such as Skunk Fu!, Cartoon Saloon has carved a special place in the international animation industry.

The studio currently employees 43 crew, with that number increasing to more than 70 by the end of June 2015.

The studio has partners all over the globe for production and distribution of its output from North America to China. Clients have included Disney and Amazon for content creation.

What was your back-to-the- wall moment and how did you overcome it? After we finished our first feature film and TV series, even with an Oscar and Bafta nomination behind us, we found ourselves in a black hole of having no more cash. We had to take personal loans for the company and aggressively look for service work.

We had a difficult couple of years but I think we stuck with it as we had good projects we wanted to develop and had faith we would raise the money eventually. We also took part in a strategic planning course run by Screen Training Ireland. It forced us to get together as company directors and really think about the kind of company we wanted to be and not simply limp from one job or project to the next.

To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans? Our business is almost all international. We get great support from the Irish Film Board but to raise budgets between €5 million and €8 million we need to find pre-sales from broadcasters and advances from distribution partners all over the globe.

This will always involve key territories such as France, Germany, UK and the US and pitching your ideas to buyers there and at international markets in Cannes, New York and Asia.

Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry? We've had more benefit from the weakening euro than any upturn in the Irish economy. Saying that, we have our new film, Song of the Sea, coming to cinemas in Ireland on July 10th.

That’s a really important release we have been building up to for years now and hope Irish people will go see it.

How will your market look in three years? Traditional broadcasters will only get the big advertising revenue from airing live events such as sports and talent competitions, news and current affairs.

For a small, independent studio like ours releasing a feature film the whole world has opened up with online viewing and on-demand services.

As a relatively niche independent producer, our audience is very wide and not restricted to any particular city or country.

If we have a fan in Donegal or Kansas they can find our film on Netflix or other similar platforms.