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28/10/2021

"I came to Kilkenny for work, but I stayed for the people and the amazing projects"

Cartoon Saloon's Bonnie Mier on life in the Marble City, WolfWalkers - and pints in Cleere's!

Day In The Life Kilkenny

Cartoon Saloon's Bonnie Mier

The Kilkenny Catwalk is a fantastic arts trail of 21 wonderful Kilkenny Cat sculptures which have been decorated by some of Ireland’s most talented artists, mainly local, for public display in and around Kilkenny City. The trail goes live for Kilkenny Day on Sunday and remains in place until Easter 2022.
The model of the cat is a five foot tall fibreglass resin sculpture based on The Secret of Kells character, Pangur Bán, created by Kilkenny’s five-time Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Emmy nominated animation studio, Cartoon Saloon.
This week I met up with Bonnie Mier, a talented artist, who was responsible for painting the Cartoon Saloon Cat.
Bonnie was born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands and is currently based in Kilkenny where she has worked for Cartoon Saloon since 2018.
In her spare time, she creates small comics, reads a lot of books and tries to make the best coffee! She’s also part of a new skating group in Kilkenny formed during the lockdown. They skate on inline skates, rollerblades and skateboards which she says is a great way to meet people and to explore the city.
Here is a glimpse into Bonnie’s world...
Why move to Kilkenny?
Mostly for Cartoon Saloon. I came here for the job, but I stayed for the people and the amazing projects that I work on. I moved here in 2018 and it’s been great!
What projects have you worked on?
I have been lucky to work on WolfWalkers as the Ink and Paint Lead. I also worked on the TV series Pete the Cat, and I’m currently working on Cartoon Saloon’s latest movie My Father’s Dragon.
Were you always into animation?
I was always into film and I studied to become a camera operator for three years before I realised I could combine my passion for film with my love for drawing, and thus major in animation!
I’ve done jobs in both the Netherlands and Denmark where I’ve initially started as an asset designer and later moved into animation and tech work.
I have a broad interest in different aspects within an animation production, and try to make myself as versatile as possible! In the end, animation is an enormous collaborative project and communicating with people is what I love most.
How many hours does it take to make just one scene in animation?
Many, many hours! There can be up to 24 drawings in a second. A few seconds of a scene goes through so many people’s hands.
What has been your favourite Cartoon Saloon movie to work on?
Probably WolfWalkers. It’s directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart and also written by them and Will Collins. As I already mentioned, I was the Digital Ink and Paint Lead on it and together with my supervisor Helga we led a team of eight paint artists, so we coloured the entire film.
It was a massive job; we had to match the look with the lush backgrounds. Some scenes needed to be hand painted to suit the style, which is very stretchy and loose.
It is therapeutic or frustrating?
Both! It can be very Zen, but it can get quite repetitive at some points. However, there is a lot of human interaction which I like. It has to go through so many departments to get to the final product.
What was it like to work on a major movie during a lockdown?
There’s a crew of 260 in Cartoon Saloon, all working on different projects on a normal day.
For WolfWalkers, the main production took two and a half years but not every department would be working on it at the same time. However my department still had to finish the movie when the world shut down with the pandemic.
All of a sudden, we were all working remotely and individually from our living room tables to finish it. Everyone had to work from home for quite a while.
The studio facilitated it but I won’t lie, it was difficult being an artist working from home without your creative team around you. You need to be in a creative environment and its important to be surrounded by fellow artists to just simply ask questions, show your work and be inspired about what other people are doing. It just makes the product so much better. However we got there in the end released an incredible film.
There was no grand opening for your movie launch. What did you do instead?
We had no wrap party, instead it was just a can of beer over Zoom! We were supposed to go to TIFF - The Toronto International Film Festival in Canada - but that was cancelled with Covid. Normally a film goes through many festivals, but we were not able to attend them.
It was very different to premiere a film during lockdown and very anti-climatic for the team because we worked so long at it and were so ready to release it to the world. Plus it couldn’t receive the numbers that it deserved.
We were able to have a small scale hometown premiere during Kilkenny Animated 2020. We had several screenings spread over two days to make sure we could all enjoy it, while still socially distancing ourselves from each other!
Everyone from Cartoon Saloon and our sister studio Lighthouse studios where able to see it. During the awards seasons in 2021 we celebrated all our nominations with the team over Google Meet with treat boxes provided by the studio. It was very different but still great fun!
The movie is showing on Apple TV. Nobody really got to celebrate the film, so it’s wonderful that it will be screened on Kilkenny Day at Kilkenny Castle.
What can people expect to see, can you give us a sneak preview ahead of Kilkenny Day?
It’s a family-friendly magical adventure film with beautiful artwork. It puts Kilkenny on the map and it has wolves - it’s a must-see!
I think the tickets are sold for the Castle viewing but people can still watch it on Apple TV. It will also be premiering in French cinema this October.
What are your plans for your first Kilkenny Day?
I’ll be giving a small workshop in the Butler House garden; children will be able to decorate colouring pages of Pangur in their own design, like we did for the Catwalk trail.
Other then that I’ll be attending the opening and will watch WolfWalkers on the Castle...but just as a guest.
I was also one of the artists that painted the cat statues for the Kilkenny Catwalk. They will be revealed around the city on Kilkenny Day.
The Kilkenny Catwalk Series sounds incredible.

Yes, it’s going to be great to see around the city. I was lucky to be part of it and to paint the Cartoon Saloon cat. It was really fun as loads of artists were given the opportunity to put their spin on The Secret of Kells character, Pangur Bán created by Cartoon Saloon.
I was representing the Studio, so I put the original design from the Secret of Kells on our cat.
What’s your favourite thing about moving to Kilkenny, besides your wonderful job?
My favourite place in Kilkenny is Cleere’s Pub! It has such a nice mixture of local people, colleagues and friends. Their food is really good, as is their Guinness!
Kilkenny Day invites people to come and see the Cats and talk to the artists or to attend the official launch of the Kilkenny Catwalk Trail. The trail will be officially launched at Butler House, Patrick Street at 1pm on Sunday. For more see www.kilkennycatwalk.ie

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