A Creative Force

With Animation Dingle, returning on the 22-23 March for its highly anticipated 2024 edition, imagine our excitement sitting down for a chat with Maurice Galway, the man behind one of Europe's most renowned animation festivals. With over two decades of festival experience under his belt, Maurice is a seasoned pro in the world of arts and culture. From his early days at Samhlaiocht Chiarrai to the founding of Animation Dingle, his journey has been one of passion, determination, and dedication.

As Maurice shares his story, it becomes clear that Animation Dingle isn't just another festival—it's a labour of love, born out of a desire to showcase the best of animation from Ireland and beyond. From its humble beginnings as part of the Dingle International Film Festival to its evolution into a standalone event and Academy Awards® qualifying festival, Animation Dingle has grown into a must-visit destination for animation enthusiasts worldwide. 

Enjoy this fascinating conversation with Maurice Galway, as we discover everything about Animation Dingle.


The Beginning

Maurice, what sparked the creation of Animation Dingle?

Animation Dingle made its first appearance in 2012 as part of the then Dingle International Film Festival which I had set up. I invited JAM Media to take part in the Festival to discuss their studio and their new work in the Irish industry at that time. Surprisingly no one showed up, but that did not deter us. We planned for JAM to come back the following year and have an Animation Day in St. James Church. We got a full house and again in 2014 it grew. After that we recognised it needed its own space to grow and in 2015 we had our first full conference in The Skellig Hotel. It has since gone from strength to strength - so much so that I could no longer oversee both Festivals and in 2019 I left the Film Festival to concentrate my efforts on Animation Dingle, which is now in its 12th edition!


Standing Out From the Crowd

What sets Animation Dingle apart in the world of animation festivals?

Animation Dingle is singular. Like other Animation Festivals it offers screenings, workshops, conference, awards but unlike other Festivals, it is in Dingle! And that makes all the difference. Dingle is small and compact, so subsequently our Festival is limited in its numbers. Although the Festival is much in demand, we cannot increase capacity. Alongside this is our commitment to losing the red tape of the Festival circuit; everyone gets to mix, everyone gets to chat, students have free access to CEOs of high end broadcasters and vice versa. This melting pot, if you like, builds an overriding sense of camaraderie and support which we work hard to nurture. And it is this that makes us unique. You can’t get that anywhere else that I know of and I have been working in the world of festivals for 30 years now!


Supporting Talent and Promoting Irish Animation

Your core focus is on supporting emerging talent, how do you stay true to this? 

In partnership with Screen Ireland and with the support of Enterprise Ireland, Animation Dingle is promoting Irish animation both here and internationally. At our core is to support and encourage upcoming young animators. We keep that front and centre so that everything we do, program and introduce all have the same focus - will this support young animators? Is this useful to young animators? Is this fresh and exciting for animation students? We then match this with similar questions for the industry itself  - what is helpful to our guests flying in from the US, Canada or Japan? Why should they come to us?


We want to make sure that these high calibre guests who we're hosting have an exceptional experience. Our success is borne out with guests almost becoming friends of the Festival and coming back time and again. You have to remember that these companies - Disney, Netflix, Pixar, BBC, Apple, Nickelodeon, CBC, the list goes on - all work grist to the mill producing content, mixing with their counterparts all over the globe. What they don’t do much of, is connect with young animators and upcoming animators. So Animation Dingle is terrific and inspiring for them as they love to see and chat to those coming up the ranks! It is a 2-way synergy and everyone is inspired by each other's energy and enthusiasm. . And that's our main objective and why we like to maintain a 50/50 ratio of students and professionals.

Always Soaring

How has Animation Dingle grown and adapted to the changing landscape of the animation industry?

As I mentioned, we are prohibited from growing too big for our boots by our capacity restrictions. But our reputation has soared. At other Festivals around the world, apparently the question on many lips is ‘how do I get an invite to Dingle?’ Guests want to come. I like to think we have an impact too. I like to think that the Festival is impactful on students and on attending professionals too. I know many hands are shaken and deals struck at our Festival - we build in very unique networking opportunities for our guests where again, there is no red carpet, red tape of divide. We keep it all very ‘Dingle’. Last year’s closing party was an enormous success with bags of fish & chips, Dingle Gin or a pint of Guinness and great music being blasted out in one of Dingle’s many unique pubs! We are great ambassadors for Ireland - our guests love to visit Ireland and many extend their stay.

Memorable Moments

Looking back, can you share some standout moments from past festivals?

On a personal note, there were some guests that really resonated with me - Dean DeBlois was one. My wife is a Stitch fan - I think it's because she used to sit with our boys when they were young, watching this naughty character melt hearts. We did a world trip with the boys back then and Hawaii was a ‘must see’ because of Hawaii 5 O and Stitch. When Dean was with us, it was Mothers’ Day and he drew  Stitch for my wife - it hangs proudly in our dining room! It was so incredibly generous and kind and, for me, so many of our guests are like that. Bonnie Arnold inspired me with her generosity of spirit. It really does affirm my belief in the intrinsic good that is within us all. Anytime I got to spend with the late Jimmy T. Murakami (The Snowman, When The Wind Blows) was wonderful.


Also, looking back, surviving through 3 virtual Festivals during COVID is another standout memory - we worked so hard to ensure a vibrant online experience and that was borne out in the feedback and the numbers attending. But then, what a wonderful feeling to be back live! We had an incredible opening keynote from Mark Simon Hewis of Aardmann last year and everyone was talking about it. It is so wonderful when inspirational people inspire!


Dingle’s Charm

How does Dingle’s unique setting contribute to the festival's success?

As I've said, Dingle is like our secret weapon - it's the backdrop to everything. Dingle is a key player, and so too are those who support us in Dingle. You may not know this, but Animation Dingle introduced one or two new events last year and has built on that offering this year - we all know the importance of wellbeing. So like last year, we are once again offering a 7am dip in the Atlantic Ocean event for guests - we like to call it our cold water immersion experience! We also have 7am yoga this year on Saturday morning. And we have our new 'Plug Out and Plug In' space for students to take a break and switch off the phone for a spell. All of these things contribute to the overall experience of being in Dingle.

Behind the Scenes

Any unforgettable personal experiences or anecdotes from your time running the festival?

It is exhausting, there is no doubt about it!! It’s a lot of sitting at a computer and pounding the keys, its calls and zooms and meetings….but then, for me, you see the joy on the faces of students, or hear an inspirational guest speaker, or get to have a wonderful unexpected chat with someone and all those months of hard slog pay off. I have had plenty of great experiences.


Festivals have been good to me and I have been to some wonderful places on our planet because of my involvement. For example, last week I was at the Irish US Alliance Oscar Wilde Awards, which celebrate the achievements of Irish actors and filmmakers. Over the years, I have gotten to meet and spend time with truly inspirational and creative people. One of our most prestigious Awards is our Murakami Award named after the wonderful Jimmy T. Murakami. Jimmy was the first recipient of that award and Richie Baneham was the next. Richie was recently honoured at the Oscar Wilde Awards so it was wonderful catching up with him there last week.


County Kerry’s Image

As a proud Kerry Ambassador, how do you think outsiders view our county?

We have a wonderful county. It is steeped in culture, custom, myth and legend. It has breathtaking landscapes and seascapes; great food and great pubs; it's easy to navigate and compact in size; has authenticity and genuine hospitality… and it has all of this in an abundance. I love our mountains and walk them every weekend. I have a new business in promoting our film heritage and our environment with my Dingle Film Walks.

All we need to do is get people here - once they are here Kerry will take care of the rest. We have to see that all for ourselves and understand that the preservation of all of those things is vital. Fáilte Ireland do wonderful work and have all kinds of opportunities businesses can avail of to promote County Kerry. Fundamental to the promotion of Kerry is the welcome (Fàilte) guests receive - if they leave wanting more, that is the key.


Conclusion: A Takeaway of Creativity and Community

So as our conversation draws to a close, it's very clear that Animation Dingle isn't just about showcasing animation - it's about nurturing talent, fostering connections, celebrating storytelling and all sprinkled with some Dingle magic. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a global phenomenon, Animation Dingle continues to be a symbol of creativity and inspiration.  And as Maurice continues to champion the animation industry, and promote County Kerry through his role as a Founding Kerry Ambassador, one thing remains clear: the heart and soul of Animation Dingle lie in its commitment to supporting emerging talent and creating unforgettable experiences for animation enthusiasts around the world.

And while Maurice is extremely grateful to all the sponsors, funders, supporters and everybody who has ever bought a ticket, it is clear that sustaining the festival is never far from his thoughts. However, with the vibrant community of artists and storytellers who make Animation Dingle truly special, we are confident that there are many more years of creativity, collaboration, and warm welcomes ahead!

For more information and to stay updated on Animation Dingle 2024, including program announcements and ticket sales, please visit the Animation Dingle Website.