Animation Ireland at Dubai EXPO 2020

Following a one-year postponement, Expo 2020 began in Dubai on 1st October 2021 and was one of the first large-scale, in-person international events to take place since the beginning of the pandemic, bringing together 191 countries. 

Animation Ireland was invited to attend EXPO 2020 in Dubai by Screen Ireland and the Department of Foreign Affairs for a “Celebration of Irish Animation” during the St’. Patrick’s Day Festival from 15th to 17th March. Our CEO, Ronan McCabe travelled to Dubai to represent Animation Ireland along with Paul Young (Cartoon Saloon) and Will Fitzgerald (Galway Film Fleadh).

Ireland’s theme at EXPO was ‘island of innovation: putting creativity at the centre of human experience’. 

The St. Patrick’s Festival at Expo, led by Minister Darragh O’Brien, included amongst other cultural offerings, screenings of Irish animation features, shorts and a trailer, curated with Galway Film Fleadh, in partnership with Screen Ireland and Animation Ireland.

Animation Ireland hosted an animation panel event on 15th March from 2.30pm to 3.30pm, moderated by Ronan McCabe with Amna Abulhoul and Paul Young as panelists. It was attended, by the Commissioner General of the Irish pavilion, Pat Hennessy, the Director General of Global Ireland, John Concannon and the Department of Foreign Affairs representatives on the ground. Local Emiratis were also there. 

Paul Young is a co-founder of Cartoon Saloon and a former board member of Animation Ireland.

Amna Abulhoul is the Executive Creative Director of Expo 2020 Dubai. She began her career in the Blue Sky department at Walt Disney Imagineering, Los Angeles. This role saw her contribute to the creative concepts and designs for rides and attractions in Disney theme parks. 

The Irish animation shorts were exhibited after the panel discussion at the Irish pavilion. The nature of the pavilion is that there was a steady stream of people coming through all day. The Irish animation shorts attracted a good crowd and were exhibited twice as time permitted.

Three Irish feature animations were played on the evenings of 15th, 16th and 17th March at the Festival Garden venue at EXPO. This was very much a family event and the screenings were followed, by a Q&A with Paul Young and Will Fitzgerald.

On two of the nights the Q&A was followed by a highly energetic performance by the Irish band Kila, whose music featured in the Cartoon Saloon movies.

The Festival Garden set up was about the size of a large football field with a stage and screen at one end and a screen at the other. There were picnic tables and beanbags on the pitch and food trucks to one side. The atmosphere was family friendly and conducive to watching a movie and listening to a band.

On St. Patrick’s Day the Irish animation trailer was shown at the Al Wasl Dome followed by “The Bird and the Whale” animation short. The dome is only suitable for short form content. This event was attended by the full Irish delegation, and a local delegation, as well as Irish ex pats living in UAE.

The animation trailer was also shown on the 16th March at the Al Wasl dome.

Irish animation, music and craft were very much front and centre for St. Patrick’s week at EXPO 2020. Screen Ireland and Animation Ireland were name checked at all events by Minister Darragh O’Brien and Department of Foreign Affairs officials. The role that Irish content plays in Irish soft power globally was acknowledged and celebrated at every occasion.