Get Animated!

Latimer: We went to an event in the Science Gallery on Friday night (the Science Gallery is located in Trinity college). It was held by the PEGBAR Irish animators network. I was late… and word to the wise, DO NOT try and run on wet cobblestones (of which there are many in Trinity) – it doesn’t end well!

Ridley: While she was slipping and sliding her way to the event, I was already there waiting for her, with a name badge on and surrounded by very friendly strangers. Picture, crowds milling around with glasses of wine at the reception, everyone grinning, laughing and waving towards people who they hadn’t seen in ages, it was like one big reunion. I think the animation world, in Ireland anyway, is a small one. And then there was me, not even a proper hobbyist animator never mind a professional, trying to look like I belonged. I was doing the ‘Im texting lots of people and looking up important things on my phone, not desperate for anyone to talk to me, nope nope‘…in the corner! I was going for busy but still approachable look! It worked in the end, I randomly made a new friend who was also waiting around near me. It turned out he was a freelance animator, so I got to pepper him with questions and see some of his cool artwork. It was really great to get an insight into the job by someone ‘in the biz’ and to hear what he thought of it.

Beware the cobblestones! Beware!

Latimer: I arrived for the talk, which started with a colourist from Marvel comics, Jordie Bellaire (she worked for DC and others, very lucky :)).

Marvelous Marvel 🙂

She was talking about the importance of colours and mood, and this can also be seen in movies. She was so enthusiastic and animated about her work; even when she wasn’t ‘working’, her mind was fixed on colours. She would watch movies and list out the colours in the scenes. It’s always really cool to see someone so inspired by what they do 🙂

Ridley: Really inspiring! She seemed like a really cool person too. Her talk opened my eyes to seeing films and images in a different way! Who knew the use of colour could have so much impact on a scene and on the feelings of the audience, really interesting!

Latimer: Then there was a talk from Nora Twomey, she is a director from the Irish animation studio, Cartoon Saloon. (Ridley: One of my favourite Irish studios! I love their work! I was dying to hear what she had to say!) She was showing some of the short films she had worked on and talking about getting them funded and the compromises you have to make with scenes and moments you have to leave out.

It made me think of when you’re writing and there are times you want to say more and show another scene, but in the end, the story is better off without it (no matter how in love with the moment you were!). It’s hard to cut them out, but it makes a tighter story in the end. (Ridley: Very true!)

There was this one film she showed; it really stuck with me, it was really atmospheric and drew me in. (Ridley: Creepy too…in a delightful way…is that possible, to be delightfully creepy? haha) 

The studio also did some work for TG4 (that’s TG Ceathair, an all-Irish-speaking TV channel we have here in Ireland). The cartoon studio were asked to do some short animations to Irish songs, the series called Anam an Amhráin (Soul of the Song).

This song is about a young 9 year old girl who is in love with a shoemaker, wants to marry him and runs away from home to be with him! In the actual animation, they felt this was a bit too much, so instead they made her dream of the shoe maker when she slips on the hill! (Ridley: It’s an absolutely gorgeous song. This is Irish at it’s best and most beautiful.)

I got caught up with these and wanted to know what other songs had been animated… this is what I found…

This one is about a woman to wants to be Paddy’s wife and wishes his actual wife ill… her struggles are desperate but pretty funny! (Ridley: Haha, this is good, she even wishes a broken foot and hand on the wife!!)

This next one is about the Irish pirate queen Gráinne Mhaol, or Grace O’Malley… ‘Óró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ is an interesting song, it started out originally about Bonnie Prince Charlie and was a Jacobite rebel song.. then later in the 1900s it became a rebel song about Grace O’Malley coming to Ireland with her warriors to free the land from English rule. In the video it seems mostly about Grace’s life.

All and all, pretty interesting, particularly because the event made me look for these videos :)! 

Ridley: It was a great night, I loved seeing all the Irish language work that’s being done! Not to mention, we went for yummy Korean food afterwards, it was so tasty *happy sigh*.

Dracula and Bram Stoker

What’s Bram Stoker got to do with Dublin?

Latimer: I admit that up until a few years ago, I didn’t know that Bram Stoker was Irish (maybe you do and you are gasping at my ignorance right now). It was actually a bit of a shock to me when I found out.

He is, for some unknown reason, not a writer we often talk about. He passes unnoticed.

While we wax lyrical about Joyce and Wilde, we never mention Stoker.

Another famous son 🙂

While vampire’s and vampirism literature were around long before Stoker’s time, he is now remembered as the creator of vampire lore. It just goes to show the power of his story-telling. He never even visited Romania.

Bran’s Castle, Vlad the Impaler’s castle

Bram Stoker started life as a very sickly child, spending his early years bed-ridden (up until the age of 7yrs). People say this is probably what led to the development of his fantastical imagination. Bram himself remarked later; “I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.”

When he grew up, he left the sick-bed behind. He attended Trinity College Dublin (TCD 🙂 ), played rugby and was a fantastic athlete like many other members of his family.

But, why am I talking about Stoker?

Recently I attended a talk about Bram Stoker’s medical family. And at this talk, I learned that this year is the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death and Dublin is readying itself to celebrate its, bizarrely overlooked son, with the first Festival of Bram Stoker, which will be held in October.

The Stoker’s shaped Dublin in many ways and were very influential at the time in Ireland.

They were a very well-to-do family. They lived in many grand houses dotted around Dublin. If you’ve ever been to the city, you’ll know there are lots of old Georgian style town houses around the streets. Bram Stoker’s family home is preserved on Kildare St (which is very near Trinity College). 

They were an intelligent family; there were 4 boys, including Bram, the 3 other brothers became doctors. And they had 9 cousins that also became doctors.

Sir William Thornley Stoker, President of RCSI

Bram Stoker’s brother, Sir William Thornley Stoker, was the former President of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI). Because his cousin William Stoker, was also a doctor, Sir William went by the name ‘Thornley’. I think that’s a cool name, Thornley Stoker… sounds, strangely enough, like a vampire hunter!  

Bram wasn’t interested in being a doctor. He studied mathematics in Trinity. He was also an active member of the University Philosophical Society. He petitioned for a young Oscar Wilde to join the society. He would eventually end up marrying Florence Balcombe, Wilde’s childhood sweetheart. When Wilde realised they were engaged, he left Ireland more or less for good, only returning twice more in his life. But, when Wilde was living in Europe (after his release from prison), Stoker would often visit him.

Lyceum Theatre, London

After a few years working in Dublin, Bram moved to England to become the manager of the Lyceum Theatre and of Henry Irving (the most famous and best actor of the day).

Bram also got to work on writing Dracula. He was a very methodical writer. He had a book that contained all of his notes, and timetables of events in the story. He would write down train timetables, to make sure that when trains appeared in his book, they ran according to the correct schedule. He also often wrote to his brother Sir William and would ask his medical opinion on any such events in the book. Sir William would write back and tell him, ‘yes, if he is hit here, this will happen’ and what pressure points should be detailed.

Brams notes

There was speculation that Bram got a lot of inspiration for the Dracula novel from stories his mother would tell him about the cholera epidemics in Sligo (where she was from). She would tell him stories about people being buried alive (which apparently they often were during the cholera epidemics).

Events and stories were noted in his notebook, along with newspaper clippings of strange events or interesting things that happened around him.

Dracula was published in 1897- and a first edition of the book, today is worth 250,000 euro!!

Original cover

The Bram Stoker society in Ireland is trying hard to get Stoker more recognised as an Irishman. They are collecting money to commission a statue of Bram Stoker to be put on display in Dublin.

The city is known for its statues… we have a lot!

Patrick Kavanagh, on the canal bench
Oscar Wilde in Merrion Park
Brendan Behan, Royal Canal just off Dorset Street
James Joyce, North Earl Street just off O’Connell Street
Children of Lir, Garden of Remembrance Parnell Square
Irish Famine statues, North Quays

Joyce and Wilde are happily on display… the poet Patrick Kavanagh sits (unhappily perhaps!) on a bench by the canal; but no Stoker!

Dublin is trying to reclaim Stoker- and why not? Hopefully it works; I think it would be nice to have a statue of Bram Stoker in Dublin. It was really interesting hearing about how his family shaped various parts of Dublin.

Myself and Ridley are primed and ready to go to the Stoker Festival! Stay tuned for that post 🙂

Bram Stoker Festival 2012 Post