FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
IFTA AWARDS 2024
Puffin Rock & The New Friends
When the last Little Egg of the season disappears under mysterious circumstances, Oona and her new friends race against time to bring the Little Egg home before a big storm hits Puffin Rock and puts the entire island in danger.
Director: Jeremy Purcell Writer: Sara Daddy
Q: What was the genesis of this film, and how did it evolve over the course of development to production and completion?
- Jeremy Purcell (Director): "The film is based on the TV series, Puffin Rock, which has 78 episodes over 2 seasons. There has always been an appetite to make a feature length version of Puffin Rock - to see the characters on the big screen, to tell a bigger story for a younger audience and to give that audience their first trip to the cinema. At the end of the TV production in 2016, Cartoon Saloon & Dog Ears, the Puffin Rock producers, decided to take on this challenge. With our brilliant Head Writer, Sara Daddy they started working on the story. Above all else we wanted to tell a story set in the world of Puffin Rock, that would connect with older as well as younger audience members, and make it a family cinema experience that everyone could enjoy. It is a very real experience for many people and especially children in the world today, and if we can help someone deal with the kind of upheaval that she experienced it would be very worthwhile. Isabelle, the young tufted puffin, who arrives on the island would be the lynch pin to hold our story together. She is our 12 year old child who has to move schools, the 12 year old Syrian child relocating to Europe, the 12 year old Ukrainian child arriving in a new country, the child who has to leave everything and start afresh. “What makes a home?” became our central theme. Is it a building? A place? Or is it the people (in our case the puffins), you have around you? This question is one that is personal to me. As growing up, my parents fostered many children and even adopted 4 new members into our family. This has given me a unique perspective to understand what Isabelle might be going through, seeing a child move to a new house and family, and it helped us bring an authenticity to the character’s struggles and emotions."
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
- Jeremy: "We hope our audience leaves the cinema with a feeling of compassion and understanding for others. There are many themes and threads for our young audience to enjoy and understand. There is a mystery, new friends to make, fun adventures and more of the island to explore mixed with sprinklings of more serious topics such as climate change, housing and immigration. Our new character, Isabelle makes decisions and acts in ways that other characters might not understand or agree with. She is driven by the fear of being judged by this one action by her new friends. But our island inhabitants can see past this one mistake and understand how she felt and what she was going through. We can all make mistakes and the understanding and compassion we receive is when we truly feel at home in a new place. I hope our audience, young and grown up, can take this message to heart in their day to day life. We’re not as lucky to live in a place as lovely as Puffin Rock but we can all try to make our communities a little brighter."
Q: What’s the most interesting/inspiring piece of feedback you’ve received from people who have seen the film?
- Jeremy: "One piece of advice Tomm Moore gave me when we were in the midst of trying to find the story we wanted to tell was, what is personal to you in this film? This was a lightbulb moment for me, growing up my family had fostered many children over a 15 year span. I suddenly realised I had met Isabelle, a child who had to move home, move away from everything they knew and had no idea of when they might, if ever be able to return home. This experience became my gateway into understanding her and her motivations and actions. However, what I did not foresee when we were crafting the story was just how universal Isabelle’s story is and sadly how relevant it would be to a large number of children at the moment. Particularly those who have moved to Ireland and other countries after being displaced from their homes, not by climate change, but by war. It really speaks to the universal language of film and the universality of the themes we explore in the film - that we can resonate with different children’s experiences. Our film offers the opportunity for audiences to feel understanding and compassion for the new puffin on the island & see the different ways children can adapt to their new environment. Late in the production, our producers in Saloon and Dog Ears suggested that we make a Ukrainian version of the film voiced by Ukrainian nationals living in Ireland. It wasn't long before Screen Ireland came on board and we were reviewing tapes from some 150 ukrainian nationals living in Ireland, auditioning about 50 potential actors in person for the 18 roles. And along with the help of Casting and Voice Direction consultant, Alyona Osmanova, and Assistant Director Lorraine Lordan worked with the new Ukrainian cast to voice all the roles. I had expected that there would be dubbed versions of the film but I really could not have anticipated us sharing a version that resonated so deeply with newly arrived families from Ukraine living in Ireland. In order to reach and connect with this audience, PUFFIN ROCK ТА НОВІ ДРУЗ will be available on a non commercial basis both here at home and across Europe, open to festivals, community groups, schools and other exhibitors to request a screening."
Q: Why is it important to see your work represented at the IFTAs and to be acknowledged by your peers in the Irish film community?
- Jeremy: "It would fill us with nothing but pride to be represented at an awards ceremony as highly regarded as the IFTA’s. Awards organisations often under-recognise animated stories, in particular those aimed at a younger audience. Our crews work so hard and invest so much in order to bring joy, sadness, engagement to our audience, to give them an enjoyable - sometimes first - cinema experience. We hold our young audience in such high regard and we greatly appreciate when our peers in the Irish film community are equally respectful to them."