Born: 7th May, 1935. Died: December 12th, 2022.
Jim Quin, who has died aged 87, was a pioneer of Irish animation and founder of the Quin Films
studio. He produced classic stop-motion series for RTÉ television throughout the 1970s and 80s.
These included such series as An Baile Beag (1975, 1977-79), Muintir na Móna (1983-85) (for RTÉ’s
Dilín Ó Deamhas), Lug na Locha (1981), and numerous inserts for RTÉ’s Bosco (produced by Joe
O’Donnell) that included the ever memorable Tongue Twisters, Gregory Gráinneog, and Faherty’s
Garden (created with David Byrne). His work often dealt with Irish subjects, as with the series An
Baile Beag (1977-79) which followed the adventures of a young boy called Jimín in a bucolic Irish
village set in an indeterminate period of the mid-20th century. Quin Films, along with Aidan Hickey’s
Grafliks, were the two of the main indigenously founded studios to created original animated
content for RTÉ’s children’s schedules during the 1970s and into the 1990s.
Born in Limerick in 1935, Jim (James Joseph) Quin moved with his mother to Thurles following his
father’s death and spent his childhood there, attending Thurles C.B.S. and later becoming a telegram
boy for the local Post Office. He gained invaluable skills as a technician while employed with the Post
Office and these served him when he was accepted into RÉ (Radio Éireann) as a technician in 1956.
Quin’s technical origins are notable as he moved through the ranks of RTÉ, becoming the Head of
Film Sound in 1956, Head of the film Camera Department in 1968, and finally Manager of RTÉ’s Film
Production Department in 1972. In 1974 he moved with a team from RTÉ, headed by Sheamus
Smith, to become Studio Manager of the National Film Studios of Ireland (which had formerly been
known as Ardmore).
Quin began animating puppets for RTÉ television in the attic of his house at 32 Leopardstown
Gardens in Dublin and gradually expanded his operation into a portacabin in the back garden. Quin
relocated the studio to Tipperary in 1982, initially using an existent house on the grounds of a
disused coalmine as a studio space. It was there that Ireland’s first dedicated stop-motion studio was
built by Quin Films in 1987. The studio and Quin are notable for their longevity of production,
spanning across three decades and two generations of animators, and have a prolific place within
the history of Irish television animation produced on a cottage industry scale. In terms of Irish
animation history, Quin Films can be likened to the UK’s Smallfilms (helmed by Oliver Postgate and
Peter Firmin) that made such classics as Bagpuss and The Clangers or Gordon Murray Productions
that made fondly recalled series Trumpton and Chigley.
Quin Films was taken over by Jim’s son David in the early 1990s and the studio went on to create
animations for RTÉ up until 1999, with the studio finally closing for good in 2006. However, the
works of the studio have remained vivid in the imaginations of many Irish viewers both as nostalgic
reminiscences and sometimes for their slightly scary qualities (the peculiar hedgehog of Gregory
Gráinneog or Deirdre the Giant from The Morbegs’ Dunín, anyone?). In recent years snippets of Jim
Quin’s animated works have been made available once again through the RTÉ Archives player (Lug
na Locha) and the The Best of Bosco DVDs. Scenes from Muintir na Móna were prominently featured
in RTÉ’s 2021 celebration for Seachtain na Gaelige, Cúpla Focal, which was a wry take on the quirks
of learning the Irish language through television.
Quin will be deeply regretted by his family and friends.