Behind The Scenes On The Secret Of Kells

Director Tomm Moore takes us behind the scenes of new Irish animation ‘The Secret Of Kells’

Tomm Moore, lead animator and director with Irish animation company Cartoon Saloon takes us behind the scenes of the mystical Irish animation ‘The Secret Of Kells’, which is at Irish cinemas everywhere from today.

Q: How did you get working in animation?
I actually wanted to be a comic book artist but was interested in animation as well, I went to Ballyfermot College where I started to get bits and pieces of animation work and set up the company. It started off in the college and in our bedrooms. It was the 1998-2000 period when there was a lot of Internet work, because no one really knew what the Internet was and there was people spending money on it. So we started doing all these e-cards and websites for people, that was our first work really. Then we got into illustrating schoolbooks, that was really our first go at it all. After that we got some space down with the Young Irish Filmmakers, here in Kilkenny and it wasn’t too expensive. We brought a gang from college down with us and we started developing films and TV-shows like Skunk-fu for TG4 and doing commercials. We did little bits of everything to get the place going.


Was Skunk-fu the first thing you worked on?
Originally there was an earlier version of ‘The Secret Of Kells’, called ‘Rebel’. That’s really the first thing we worked on. We re-wrote it a lot after 2003, and at that point we made it secret of kells. We first made ‘Skunk Fu’ for a small cartoon movie forum which features in countries all around Europe, and we brought it to them first and they let it feature there.

Can you tell us how a small animation house in Ireland can go about producing a movie of such a high standard?
What happened was that when we first set up in the Young Irish Filmmakers, we were doing Internet stuff and commercials. We also had some money from FAS to pay people and make a trailer. That was impressive enough that the guys who did the ‘Belleville Rendezvous’ were our co-producers. They were just finishing it, and it hadn’t hit big yet, when they saw our trailer at Cartoon Movie they said they’d co-produce. That was great, because Belleville Rendezvous was a big film success.

When did you start working exclusively on the Kells project?

That was always there, from the start of the company. We always wanted to make a feature film, an Irish animated film, which could offer something that wasn’t being done in America or anywhere else. There seemed to be stuff happening in Europe that was making that possible, that was one of our main focuses setting up the company.

Did you use any of the real Book Of Kells illustrations in the film?
The sequence at the end is animated as the Chi Rho page, which is meant to be the most complicated part of the entire book, we got a microfiche from Trinity College to use as a reference for that. And then there are other parts in the film, which are more just inspired by the Book Of Kells. It was a massive job to recreate the book; it was one of the most difficult sequences.

The vocal talent plays a very important part of the film, how did you go about the casting process?
Brendan Gleeson had a real interest in the film from day one, before we’d even finished the trailer. When we originally went up and showed him the artwork in 2002 he was very happy to do the voice over for the trailer. When it came around to finance years later, we went back to him and he was happy to come on board. We had a wish list; Mick Lally was on the top of that list. The kids parts were tougher, we had to go all over the country auditioning and stuff. And when you meet the right one, it’s the right one.

During the process you did a number of workshops with kids around the country, did it help seeing what held their attention or had you locked the movie down before you started touring?
I think one of the biggest things, is that we kept getting feedback from kids, even my son’s friends gave feedback. We watched what they were responding to, and what they weren’t. In the editing we were very careful how we structure the film, that we led the kids into it gently and it wasn’t too heavy. We originally had a more heavy opening sequence, but we moved that more towards the end after feedback.



If you were to give advice to someone wanting to work in animation, what would it be?

They should draw a lot, while doing as much as they can on their own, trying not to copy other things they see. The great thing now is that software is so easy to use and so cheap to get, if your work is good and you put it on You-Tube then you will be discovered.

‘The Secret Of Kells’ is at Irish cinemas from March 6th