The Murakami Award

Jimmy T. Murakami, 1933-2014, was one of the founding fathers of Irish animation.

Recipient of The Murakami Award 2024 – Michael Algar

Michael Algar has worked for over fifty years in the film industry. After years of producing TV commercials and sponsored documentaries, he was appointed first Chief Executive of the Irish Film Board (Screen Ireland) in 1982. In that capacity, he supervised the financing of selected feature and documentary films by Irish film-makers. Also, he represented Ireland on committees in the European Union and the Council of Europe concerning the development and improvement of film industries in Europe, leading to establishment of Eurimages. Since 1989, he has specialised in producing animation both for cinema and television. Credits include the features: “Christmas Carol” and “Joseph, King of Dreams” as well as series: “The Storykeepers”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Captain Star”, “Budgie the Little Helicopter”, “The Mad Cows”, and many other specials and series. His most recent special was “Deposits” and most recent series was “MyaGo”. He is a member of Animation Ireland, BAFTA and the European Film Academy.

Jimmy T. Murakami (1933-2014) inaugural Recipient 2013, was one of the founding fathers of Irish animation. He was a key figure in the establishment of the thriving Irish animation industry that we know today.

In 1965 he launched his own company, Murakami-Wolf Productions, with business partner Fred Wolf. Murakami settled permanently in Ireland while working on Roger Corman’s, ‘The Red Baron’ in 1971. His work in the 1986 feature, ‘When the Wind Blows‘ produced some of the animator’s most acclaimed work with ‘The Snowman‘ remaining an enduring children’s favourite to this day. Murakami Films opened in Dublin in 1989, with the studio producing popular television series such as ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘. Cathal Gaffney of Brown Bag Films, called Murakami “a founding father of Irish Animation”.

At Animation Dingle 2013, Jimmy T. Murakami, received the inaugural Murakami Award for his lifetime achievement in Animation. Of the event, he said

“I have been to hundreds of film festivals, all over the globe, for what seems to be the last hundred years, and in my opinion the Dingle Film Festival is the best among them all”.

Past recipients: 

Steve Woods Murakami Recipient 2023

Steve Woods works in animation, documentaries and dance films. In 1989, he helped set up the Galway Film Fleadh. He lectures at the National Film School at Dun Laoghaire, where he teaches experimental animation. He also occasionally writes and talks on film and animation and curates for film festivals. Steve’s company is Cel’ Division. He specialises in short films but also is known for his installations and directing workshops. As well as producing his own work people approach him from time to time with an animated project which other producers might consider ‘left of field.’

Eileen Bell, Enterprise Ireland Murakami Recipient 2022

Senior Business Development Advisor & Digital Entertainment Lead, Enterprise Ireland HQ

Eileen is originally from Kansas City, where Walt Disney created the concept for Mickey Mouse. She began her career in publishing, before starting her Business Advisor role in Enterprise Ireland. With Enterprise Ireland for over two decades, she has supported companies to scale and grow, collaborating with the sector nationally and internationally.  In the early years Eileen was a Market Advisor based in the World Trade Centre in Amsterdam and from 2004 moved to the role of EI’s Digital Entertainment lead working across Animation, VFX, TV & Film and Technology. Eileen has worked on key initiatives to build business capability in the sector, such as supporting the establishment of the Animation Ireland CEO Forum.  She is a member on key strategic industry groups including the Government Departmental AV Steering Committee, Animation Skillnet. and the National Talent Academy for Animation. Eileen is a very passionate supporter of the Irish screen industries and has a particular affinity to the animation sector and community, a sector which is globally recognised for its unique innovation, creativity, and storytelling. Twelve years ago, Eileen went to the first Animation Dingle which quickly evolved, achieving status as a “must attend event” on the international calendar.  

Robert Cullen Murakami Recipient 2021

Robert Cullen is the Emmy nominated creative director and was founder of Boulder Media. Since its inception in 2000, Boulder has grown to become one of Ireland’s largest animation studios. Robert has worked as a Director and Animation Director on shows such as: “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”, “The Amazing World of Gumball” and “Transformers”. He was instrumental in the reboot of 80’s classic, “Danger Mouse” for CBBC and went on to direct 72 episodes. In 2015 he wrote and directed the award winning “Fresh Cut Grass” which won Best Animated Short at the Galway Film Fleadh.

No recipient in 2020

Nora Twomey Murakami Recipient 2019

Partner & Creative Director with Cartoon Saloon, ACADEMY AWARD® & GOLDEN GLOBE nominated director. Nora has been part of Cartoon Saloon since it was set up in Kilkenny in 1999. She directed award winning short films such as “From Darkness” before going on to co-directing the ACADEMY AWARD®  nominated “The Secret of Kells” with Tomm Moore. She was creative producer on the Netflix pre-school series “Puffin Rock” and Head of Story on the ACADEMY AWARD® nominated “Song of the Sea”. Most recently, Nora directed “The Breadwinner”, based on Deborah Ellis’s acclaimed YA novel about a young girl growing up in Afghanistan. The film was nominated for an  ACADEMY AWARD® & GOLDEN GLOBE, and won the Audience & Jury Awards at Annecy 2018. Nora is married with two boys, one cat and (at the time of writing) 5 fish.

Darragh O’Connell and Cathal Gaffney, Murakami Recipients 2018

Cathal Gaffney is co-founder and Managing Director of Brown Bag Films the animation studio located in Dublin, Toronto and Manchester. In 2015, Brown Bag Films sold to Canadian distribution and animation studio 9Story and Cathal took on the additional role of Group Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for over 500 staff in production. 

As Executive Producer, credits include “Peter Rabbit”, “Octonauts”, “Bing”, “Vampirina” and “Doc McStuffins”. These children’s programmes are currently on air in over 150 countries worldwide and are watched by more than 100 million children each year.

Cathal was nominated for an Academy Award® as director on the short film “Give Up Yer Aul Sins” and has also won a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award. Cathal was previously nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Darragh O’Connell co-founded Brown Bag Films with Cathal Gaffney in 1994. Darragh produced the short film “Give Up Yer Aul Sins”, which was nominated for an Oscar® at the 74th Academy Awards® in 2002. He subsequently directed the TV series which went on to become one of the best-selling Irish DVD releases of all time. In 2010, Darragh was nominated for a second Academy Award® as producer of the short film “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” and was invited to join the Academy for Motion Pictures, Arts & Sciences.

Darragh’s director screen credits also include the TV series “I’m An Animal” (RTE), “Olivia” (Nickelodeon), and “Octonauts” (BBC), and most recently “Chico Bon Bon: Monkey with a Tool Belt” (Netflix). Darragh is currently Group Creative Director at Brown Bag Films and 9 Story Media Group and is responsible for the group’s creative content.

Aidan Hickey Murakami Recipient 2017

Aidan Hickey studied painting at the National College of Art, English and History at UCD, and Film-making at Hornsey College of Art.

During a long career in Animation he made TV series and short-films, receiving awards at various international festivals. In 2005 he wrote and directed “The Boy Who Had No Story”, winning the IFTA prizes for Best Animation and Best Children’s Film.

In recent years he has concentrated on painting. His work is comprised of portraits, narrative paintings and still life. This involves an ongoing study of classical painting and of the innovative work of 20th century painters. His current project is based on images from Joyce’s Ulysses.

Aidan is President of the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club.

He exhibits at Green Acres Gallery in Wexford and with the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club. His portrait of Bram Stoker  hangs in  the  Dublin Writers Museum and his portrait of Colm Toibín, acquired by Wexford County Council,  hangs in Enniscorthy Library.

Don Bluth & Gary Goldman Murakami Recipients 2016

When Gary Goldman met Don Bluth at Walt Disney Studios in 1972, they formed an instant friendship, soon realising that they both shared the desire of restoring the heritage of classical animation to today’s animated films, their friendship eventually turned into a creative partnership that has lasted over 30 years.

In 1985, with the assistance of IDA funding, they established the Sullivan Bluth Studios in Ireland. Known as the Disney Defectors, Don and Gary brought it into being with producers John Pomeroy and Dan Kuenster.

The studio brought over talent from California and recruited local artists and administrators, growing into a company of over 350 employees. The legacy of Gary Goldman is much greater than the films he has helped create – the existing animation industry in Ireland can be traced back to the studio’s recruitment, training and development of local talent, leading to a burgeoning industry in Ireland today, where many animation studio owners and animation educators got their start in Sullivan Bluth.

Sullivan Bluth helped with the setup of the animation course in Ballyfermot Senior College to train new artists, and the arrival of the studio, along with other animation studios at that time, was the impetus for the establishment of the animation course in the National Film School at IADT Dún Laoghaire.

Sullivan Bluth brought “An American Tail” (1986) and the production of its second feature film The Land Before Time (1988) to the Dublin studio. Bringing Bluth to Ireland was an initiative of the IDA, who hoped to create 200-300 semi-skilled jobs for the Irish economy. 

After the departure of Sullivan Bluth and other animation companies in the early 1990s, artists trained in the studios and Irish animation schools, especially BCFE graduates, began to establish the foundations of an indigenous Irish animation industry.

Tomm Moore Murakami Recipient 2015

Over Cartoon Saloon’s history, Tomm has worked as Director, Art Director, Storyboarder, Animator and Illustrator across a range of the studio’s projects . Tomm has directed 3 universally successful feature films. All three were nominated for Best Animated Feature at the ACADEMY AWARD® The Secret of Kells in 2010 and the spiritual follow-up, Song of the Sea in 2015. His latest feature film “Wolfwalkers” which he co-directed with Ross Stewart received several prominent critics awards including LAFCA Award and NYFCC Award as well as nominations for a Golden Globe and a Bafta and wins in several categories including Best Director and Best Independent Feature at the 2021 Annie Awards. Both “Song of the Sea” and “Wolfwalkers” won the IFTA for best film while “The Secret of Kells” won best animation and rising star awards at the IFTAs.

Having completed the informal “Trilogy” of Irish folklore and history inspired films he is researching a new direction for the next cycle of features focusing on the Irish diaspora and
its connections with other cultures . He is currently working as creative producer across several of Cartoon Saloon’s new film and series projects as well as refocusing on his personal art training , focusing on figure drawing and oil painting .
Tomm is a lifelong tattoo and comic book art enthusiast.

Richie Baneham Murakami Recipient 2014

Richard Baneham is an Irish animator and visual effects supervisor, who has worked on several film series, including “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, the “Chronicles of Narnia” films and the “Avatar” franchise. Amongst other awards, Baneham has received a BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects and an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 2009, both for his work on Avatar, and a further Academy Award® in 2023, for visual effects on Avatar: The Way of Water.  In 2024 Richie was honoured with the Oscar Wilde Award from the US-Ireland Alliance, presented to him by his longtime friend, director James Cameron.

 



The Murakami Award is sponsored by Brown Bag Films

Recipient of The Murakami Award 2024 – Michael Algar

Michael Algar has worked for over fifty years in the film industry. After years of producing TV commercials and sponsored documentaries, he was appointed first Chief Executive of the Irish Film Board (Screen Ireland) in 1982. In that capacity, he supervised the financing of selected feature and documentary films by Irish film-makers. Also, he represented Ireland on committees in the European Union and the Council of Europe concerning the development and improvement of film industries in Europe, leading to establishment of Eurimages. Since 1989, he has specialised in producing animation both for cinema and television. Credits include the features: “Christmas Carol” and “Joseph, King of Dreams” as well as series: “The Storykeepers”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Captain Star”, “Budgie the Little Helicopter”, “The Mad Cows”, and many other specials and series. His most recent special was “Deposits” and most recent series was “MyaGo”. He is a member of Animation Ireland, BAFTA and the European Film Academy.

Jimmy T. Murakami (1933-2014) inaugural Recipient 2013, was one of the founding fathers of Irish animation. He was a key figure in the establishment of the thriving Irish animation industry that we know today.

In 1965 he launched his own company, Murakami-Wolf Productions, with business partner Fred Wolf. Murakami settled permanently in Ireland while working on Roger Corman’s, ‘The Red Baron’ in 1971. His work in the 1986 feature, ‘When the Wind Blows‘ produced some of the animator’s most acclaimed work with ‘The Snowman‘ remaining an enduring children’s favourite to this day. Murakami Films opened in Dublin in 1989, with the studio producing popular television series such as ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘. Cathal Gaffney of Brown Bag Films, called Murakami “a founding father of Irish Animation”.

At Animation Dingle 2013, Jimmy T. Murakami, received the inaugural Murakami Award for his lifetime achievement in Animation. Of the event, he said

“I have been to hundreds of film festivals, all over the globe, for what seems to be the last hundred years, and in my opinion the Dingle Film Festival is the best among them all”.

Steve Woods Murakami Recipient 2023

Steve Woods works in animation, documentaries and dance films. In 1989, he helped set up the Galway Film Fleadh. He lectures at the National Film School at Dun Laoghaire, where he teaches experimental animation. He also occasionally writes and talks on film and animation and curates for film festivals. Steve’s company is Cel’ Division. He specialises in short films but also is known for his installations and directing workshops. As well as producing his own work people approach him from time to time with an animated project which other producers might consider ‘left of field.’

Eileen Bell, Enterprise Ireland Murakami Recipient 2022

Senior Business Development Advisor & Digital Entertainment Lead, Enterprise Ireland HQ

Eileen is originally from Kansas City, where Walt Disney created the concept for Mickey Mouse. She began her career in publishing, before starting her Business Advisor role in Enterprise Ireland. With Enterprise Ireland for over two decades, she has supported companies to scale and grow, collaborating with the sector nationally and internationally.  In the early years Eileen was a Market Advisor based in the World Trade Centre in Amsterdam and from 2004 moved to the role of EI’s Digital Entertainment lead working across Animation, VFX, TV & Film and Technology. Eileen has worked on key initiatives to build business capability in the sector, such as supporting the establishment of the Animation Ireland CEO Forum.  She is a member on key strategic industry groups including the Government Departmental AV Steering Committee, Animation Skillnet. and the National Talent Academy for Animation. Eileen is a very passionate supporter of the Irish screen industries and has a particular affinity to the animation sector and community, a sector which is globally recognised for its unique innovation, creativity, and storytelling. Twelve years ago, Eileen went to the first Animation Dingle which quickly evolved, achieving status as a “must attend event” on the international calendar.  

Robert Cullen Murakami Recipient 2021

Robert Cullen is the Emmy nominated creative director and was founder of Boulder Media. Since its inception in 2000, Boulder has grown to become one of Ireland’s largest animation studios. Robert has worked as a Director and Animation Director on shows such as: “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends”, “The Amazing World of Gumball” and “Transformers”. He was instrumental in the reboot of 80’s classic, “Danger Mouse” for CBBC and went on to direct 72 episodes. In 2015 he wrote and directed the award winning “Fresh Cut Grass” which won Best Animated Short at the Galway Film Fleadh.

No recipient in 2020

Nora Twomey Murakami Recipient 2019

Partner & Creative Director with Cartoon Saloon, ACADEMY AWARD® & GOLDEN GLOBE nominated director. Nora has been part of Cartoon Saloon since it was set up in Kilkenny in 1999. She directed award winning short films such as “From Darkness” before going on to co-directing the ACADEMY AWARD®  nominated “The Secret of Kells” with Tomm Moore. She was creative producer on the Netflix pre-school series “Puffin Rock” and Head of Story on the ACADEMY AWARD® nominated “Song of the Sea”. Most recently, Nora directed “The Breadwinner”, based on Deborah Ellis’s acclaimed YA novel about a young girl growing up in Afghanistan. The film was nominated for an  ACADEMY AWARD® & GOLDEN GLOBE, and won the Audience & Jury Awards at Annecy 2018. Nora is married with two boys, one cat and (at the time of writing) 5 fish.

Darragh O’Connell and Cathal Gaffney, Murakami Recipients 2018

Cathal Gaffney is co-founder and Managing Director of Brown Bag Films the animation studio located in Dublin, Toronto and Manchester. In 2015, Brown Bag Films sold to Canadian distribution and animation studio 9Story and Cathal took on the additional role of Group Chief Operating Officer with responsibility for over 500 staff in production. 

As Executive Producer, credits include “Peter Rabbit”, “Octonauts”, “Bing”, “Vampirina” and “Doc McStuffins”. These children’s programmes are currently on air in over 150 countries worldwide and are watched by more than 100 million children each year.

Cathal was nominated for an Academy Award® as director on the short film “Give Up Yer Aul Sins” and has also won a Daytime Emmy and a Peabody Award. Cathal was previously nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Darragh O’Connell co-founded Brown Bag Films with Cathal Gaffney in 1994. Darragh produced the short film “Give Up Yer Aul Sins”, which was nominated for an Oscar® at the 74th Academy Awards® in 2002. He subsequently directed the TV series which went on to become one of the best-selling Irish DVD releases of all time. In 2010, Darragh was nominated for a second Academy Award® as producer of the short film “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty” and was invited to join the Academy for Motion Pictures, Arts & Sciences.

Darragh’s director screen credits also include the TV series “I’m An Animal” (RTE), “Olivia” (Nickelodeon), and “Octonauts” (BBC), and most recently “Chico Bon Bon: Monkey with a Tool Belt” (Netflix). Darragh is currently Group Creative Director at Brown Bag Films and 9 Story Media Group and is responsible for the group’s creative content.

Aidan Hickey Murakami Recipient 2017

Aidan Hickey studied painting at the National College of Art, English and History at UCD, and Film-making at Hornsey College of Art.

During a long career in Animation he made TV series and short-films, receiving awards at various international festivals. In 2005 he wrote and directed “The Boy Who Had No Story”, winning the IFTA prizes for Best Animation and Best Children’s Film.

In recent years he has concentrated on painting. His work is comprised of portraits, narrative paintings and still life. This involves an ongoing study of classical painting and of the innovative work of 20th century painters. His current project is based on images from Joyce’s Ulysses.

Aidan is President of the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club.

He exhibits at Green Acres Gallery in Wexford and with the Dublin Painting and Sketching Club. His portrait of Bram Stoker  hangs in  the  Dublin Writers Museum and his portrait of Colm Toibín, acquired by Wexford County Council,  hangs in Enniscorthy Library.

Don Bluth & Gary Goldman Murakami Recipients 2016

When Gary Goldman met Don Bluth at Walt Disney Studios in 1972, they formed an instant friendship, soon realising that they both shared the desire of restoring the heritage of classical animation to today’s animated films, their friendship eventually turned into a creative partnership that has lasted over 30 years.

In 1985, with the assistance of IDA funding, they established the Sullivan Bluth Studios in Ireland. Known as the Disney Defectors, Don and Gary brought it into being with producers John Pomeroy and Dan Kuenster.

The studio brought over talent from California and recruited local artists and administrators, growing into a company of over 350 employees. The legacy of Gary Goldman is much greater than the films he has helped create – the existing animation industry in Ireland can be traced back to the studio’s recruitment, training and development of local talent, leading to a burgeoning industry in Ireland today, where many animation studio owners and animation educators got their start in Sullivan Bluth.

Sullivan Bluth helped with the setup of the animation course in Ballyfermot Senior College to train new artists, and the arrival of the studio, along with other animation studios at that time, was the impetus for the establishment of the animation course in the National Film School at IADT Dún Laoghaire.

Sullivan Bluth brought “An American Tail” (1986) and the production of its second feature film The Land Before Time (1988) to the Dublin studio. Bringing Bluth to Ireland was an initiative of the IDA, who hoped to create 200-300 semi-skilled jobs for the Irish economy. 

After the departure of Sullivan Bluth and other animation companies in the early 1990s, artists trained in the studios and Irish animation schools, especially BCFE graduates, began to establish the foundations of an indigenous Irish animation industry.

Tomm Moore Murakami Recipient 2015

Over Cartoon Saloon’s history, Tomm has worked as Director, Art Director, Storyboarder, Animator and Illustrator across a range of the studio’s projects . Tomm has directed 3 universally successful feature films. All three were nominated for Best Animated Feature at the ACADEMY AWARD® The Secret of Kells in 2010 and the spiritual follow-up, Song of the Sea in 2015. His latest feature film “Wolfwalkers” which he co-directed with Ross Stewart received several prominent critics awards including LAFCA Award and NYFCC Award as well as nominations for a Golden Globe and a Bafta and wins in several categories including Best Director and Best Independent Feature at the 2021 Annie Awards. Both “Song of the Sea” and “Wolfwalkers” won the IFTA for best film while “The Secret of Kells” won best animation and rising star awards at the IFTAs.

Having completed the informal “Trilogy” of Irish folklore and history inspired films he is researching a new direction for the next cycle of features focusing on the Irish diaspora and
its connections with other cultures . He is currently working as creative producer across several of Cartoon Saloon’s new film and series projects as well as refocusing on his personal art training , focusing on figure drawing and oil painting .
Tomm is a lifelong tattoo and comic book art enthusiast.

Richie Baneham Murakami Recipient 2014

Richard Baneham is an Irish animator and visual effects supervisor, who has worked on several film series, including “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, the “Chronicles of Narnia” films and the “Avatar” franchise. Amongst other awards, Baneham has received a BAFTA Award for Best Special Visual Effects and an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 2009, both for his work on Avatar, and a further Academy Award® in 2023, for visual effects on Avatar: The Way of Water.  In 2024 Richie was honoured with the Oscar Wilde Award from the US-Ireland Alliance, presented to him by his longtime friend, director James Cameron.

 



The Murakami Award is sponsored by Brown Bag Films