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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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How an Irish woman's sketch became a Disney hit

Henry Hugglemonster has been broadcast in 150 countries.

Henry-Hugglemonster-post1

IF YOU HAVE young children, you may already recognise the young monster above.

If not, his name is Henry Hugglemonster. He is 5-years-old and lives in Roarsville with his sister Summer and brothers Cobby and Ivor, as well as his parents, grandparents and friends.

He is also the creation of an Irish writer and has been broadcast in 150 countries and was just picked up for a second season on the Disney Channel.

Henry started in the imagination – and sketch pad- of Niamh Sharkey.

Niamh is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s picture books, who has won numerous awards including the prestigious Mother Goose Award and The Bisto Book of the Year.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie in Dublin this week, she said the success of Henry has been totally unexpected.

“I’ve been writing picture books for the last 15 years. When I was a kid I loved the Muppet Show and Where the Wild Things Are and I was always mad into monsters and doodling them.

“When Walker Books asked what my next book would be, I immediately said a family of monsters.

“I kind of based the Hugglemonsters on my family. Henry is very like my brother.”

A trip to the Walker Books warehouse by an executive led to Niamh’s book I’m a Happy Hugglewug being put forward for production with Brown Bag Films.

“He said that he saw the picture of the family and said this would make a great TV show. They put me in touch with Brown Bag Films. I met them and we just slowly teased it out.”

A test animation was put together and scripts written before the show was shown to, and picked up by, Disney.

However, that doesn’t mean that Niamh has left the show. She is involved in the designing of characters and even directed two episodes in season one, the Christmas and Halloween specials.

“I love working with the team in Brown Bag. They’re a really talented team. To see them give so much is amazing.”

Source: DisneyJuniorUK/YouTube

If you were in a toy shop over Christmas, you may have noticed Henry Hugglemonster on the shelves. Seeing that, among other things, has been an odd experience for Niamh.

“We got great feedback. We get letters from families all over the world and it’s great to know they’re watching it. I’ve seen it in German and French – he’s called Henry Canoodlemonster in German.

“I saw a kid with a Henry toy in London. That’s mindblowing.

“It feels very surreal.”

Animation station

Niamh Sharkey pic Niamh Sharkey

Ireland is riding the crest of an animation wave and Niamh says it comes down to a number of things.

“We’re good at storytelling, we’re creative and we’re hard workers. I think that’s why people are coming here.”

Having come into animation through something of a side door, Niamh is happy to see more women in the industry.

“I think it still is a gender imbalance in a lot of ways. It is better, but there aren’t many women in the technical side of things.

“Hopefully the next generation will see how the animation industry is going and get more involved.

“I’m happy to be a spokesperson for that if it’s needed.”

The future

The second season will see Henry go to school, and be a little bit more grown up, Niamh says.

She adds that the whole experience has opened her mind to TV as a medium for her stories.

But for now, it’s all about Henry season 2.

“My kids bring me ideas for characters. My daughter thinks she should be a voice in the second season.”

Henry Hugglemonster can be seen on Disney Junior UK

Read: Here’s how you bring an animation from page to screen

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