Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

How these cute puffins landed a group of pals a £2.3m television deal

A Londonderry children's media company has struck a massive deal with Penguin to develop a £2.3m children's TV series as well as books and apps.

Dog Ears Ltd has been commissioned by the children’s publisher to create 39 seven-minute TV episodes of Puffins’ Rock.

The first in a series of books to be published by Penguin’s Puffin label has been completed and an app featuring the voice of nine-year-old Derry boy Eoin McBrearty is being developed.

The firm was founded as a children's publisher by friends Laura Campbell, Fionnuala Deane and Jackie McColgan in July 2010.

They pooled their publishing and media experience and the firm soon become a full-blown children’s media company.

During a course funded by the council at Yes! Publications the trio met talented local artist and author Trisha Deery.

Last May designer John McDaid, who has built the app for Puffins’ Rock, joined the group.

The TV series will be developed by Dog Ears and Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon, which was behind the Oscar nominated The Secret Of Kells.

The firm has also announced a new recruitment drive to employ 14 animators from 2013.

The deal with Penguin was struck after a meeting between Dog Ears editorial director Laura and a senior Penguin official at a children’s media conference in Sheffield.

Ms Campbell said: “We are delighted. This is huge, we never dreamed of something like this happening.

“We were doing our own thing and it is great to get this kind of support from such a major company that sees the value in what you are trying to do.

“We already had a partnership with Cartoon Saloon. We worked together a few years ago on Rosie Red which has been created by Tricia Deery, and they came up with the idea for Puffins’ Rock.

“We were close to publishing the picture book for Puffins’ Rock and then I went to Sheffield for the conference. I met Eric Huang from Penguin and pitched him the idea and within five minutes he said he had been looking for something to represent the Puffin brand. It was one of those great things.”

The new project comes as Dog Ears ploughs ahead with the animation plan for Rosie Red. “At the moment we are recruiting 14 animators,” Ms Campbell said. “We are setting up a studio in Derry and there will be a training course from January.

“We are still working out what the work split will be for the new project. We had planned to release our Puffins’ Rock picture book in July but Penguin will now publish this, and they are talking about several books and an app in order to sell it worldwide.”

It is now hoped Puffins’ Rock, which is aimed at the two to four age group, could become as big as Pingu or Peppa Pig.

Mr Huang, Penguin children’s director of new business, said: “Puffins’ Rock has captured our imaginations with its playful storytelling and loveable characters.”

Anyone interested in applying to be an animator with the team can find details on www.cheersdogears.com

Background

Puffins’ Rock follows the adventures of puffin Oona and her younger brother Baba, who live in a colony on an island. The animated series and books will focus on the natural world they inhabit in a gentle, documentary style.

The characters will not speak but will make Puffin sounds, while a narrator talks.

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