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‘Puffin Rock’ Returns with A New Movie, New Friends, and More to Come

Director Jeremy Purcell and Assistant Director / Sequence Director Lorraine Lordan talk about their animated feature, ‘Puffin Rock and the New Friends,’ from Cartoon Saloon and Shout! Studios, based on the award-winning preschool series, that follows puffins Oona, Baba, May and Mossy, with new friends Isabelle, Phoenix and Marvin, in a race to save a lost egg before a storm hits their rock island home; available today, April 16, on Google TV, Prime Video and Apple TV+.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of a studio known worldwide for its stunning visuals: Cartoon Saloon. It’s also fitting that this is the year one of the studio’s most beloved, nature-focused properties, Puffin Rock, gets a well-deserved revival.

“It’s lovely for us too because we were there at the very beginning of the studio,” shares Jeremy Purcell, director on the brand-new animated feature, Puffin Rock and the New Friends. Purcell, who worked on the Cartoon Saloon features The Breadwinner, Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, was also the assistant director on Puffin Rock’s original 2015 series. “So,” he continues, “it is our anniversary with Cartoon Saloon, as well.”

Puffin Rock, now available to stream on Netflix, aired on Ireland’s RTÉjr from 2015 to 2016. Purcell directs New Friends from a script by Puffin Rock’s Sara Daddy. Paul Young and Tomm Moore produce alongside Nora Twomey from Cartoon Saloon, with John McDaid and Fionnuala Deane from Dog Ears. The film, distributed by Shout! Studios, is self-funded by Cartoon Saloon and Dog Ears, with support from Northern Ireland Screen, Screen Ireland, RTÉ, and BBC Alba. 

The series follows two puffins, Baba and his big sister Oona, as they live life with their two parents and numerous animal friends on “Puffin Rock.” Baba and Oona swim with sea lions, sing songs in underwater caves, brave treacherous cliffs, and befriend bristly foxes, all while giving young viewers a front-row seat to the marvelous landscapes of their rock island home. Purcell and Lorraine Lordan, assistant director and sequence director on the show, never thought they’d get the chance to revisit Puffin Rock after such a long absence.

Fast forward eight years, and Puffin Rock and the New Friends isn’t just the property’s first feature – available starting today, April 16, on Google TV, Prime Video and Apple TV+ to rent or purchase – but, as the director teases, it’s the start of something exciting… this is no farewell film. “This is not the last you will see of the new friends,” says Purcell, who wasn’t allowed to say more than that. 

Based on the Kidscreen Award-winning and three-time Annie-nominated animated series, Puffin Rock and the New Friends follows Baba and Oona’s usual crew of pygmy shrew Mossy, rabbit May, harbor seal pup Silky, Flynn the fox, and old hermit crab Bernie as they welcome newcomers, including puffin Isabelle and her stepbrother Phoenix, to the island. As Isabelle struggles with feeling homesick, Oona discovers her community has a new egg, and the group of friends all take it upon themselves to protect it. But when a storm descends upon the typically tranquil Irish island, the egg goes missing, and it will take the whole community coming together to track it down and bring it home safe. 

The international cast features returning narrator Chris O'Dowd, with Beth McCafferty voicing Oona in place of Kate McCafferty and Jo McDaid voicing Baba in place of Sally McDaid. Returning actors include Anna McDaid (May), Orna Canning (Flynn), Laura McCallan (formerly Silky, now hedgehog Spiky), Jim Craig (Bernie), and Geraldine Cole (Mama). Eva Whittaker joins the cast as Isabelle, along with Euan McGrath as Phoenix and Clara McLaughlin as Silky. 

“When the film came around, and we got to come back, it was really comfortable for us to return to this project we loved with people we loved,” says Lordan, assistant director and sequence director on the film. “We were really lucky that so many of our original team were able to join us as well. For some of them, the Puffin Rock TV show was their very first job in the industry. They've progressed so much that now they're we're taking on their first supervisory roles.”

Production on Puffin Rock and the New Friends started in 2019, using the same 2D animation software Moho, and took three years to complete due to COVID. The film first released in Ireland in June of 2023.

“There was talk of a movie very early after the show ended,” remembers Purcell. “We were at a Christmas party and Maurice Joyce, the director of the TV series, asked me, after a few drinks, if there was a movie, would I take over. He was lined up to do a few other things at the time and wanted to leave it in safe hands.”

He continues, “We were supposed to have a production schedule of a year and a half. And then everything that's happened…happened. We’ve had a couple of messages over the last couple years saying, “Hey, are you guys still doing that movie?”

Lordan chimes in, “Some people were really frustrated that it was taking so long. But we did also have some people who were jumping to our defense, which we really appreciated.”

But the movie did get finished; it’s first U.S. screening was last month at the New York Children’s Film Festival, where tiny voice acting booths for tiny wannabe voice actors were set up in the Irish Arts Center. “The scene playing had Oona, Baba and Bernie, so if kids were too small to read the script, we just had them say some Baba lines, since they tend to be quite simple,” shares Lordan. “And then the other kids could do Oona, and if the parents were there, they could do Bernie. There was something for everyone.”

Purcell adds, “After all, we do need more voice actors.”

Whether or not that was a tease for more Puffin Rock adventures to come remains to be seen. 

But getting children hands-on with the film seems to be a theme of this Puffin Rock revival, if we could be so bold to call it that. The daughter of art director Fran Bravo played a fun role in deciding which rocks to include in the film’s landscapes, which celebrate the beauty of Ireland. “Fran and his family are native to Spain and his daughter has this collection of rocks, so she laid out her collection for us and explained which ones were native to Ireland and which ones weren’t from here,” says Lordan. 

Purcell continues, “She was about nine at the time and everyone was working at home by this stage of the production. So, she heard us talking on a call to her dad about these rocks and started making some suggestions about what rocks and minerals could work for different scenes. One of them was uranium, which we decided not to use. But it did give us the idea to use quartz in parts of the caves.”

One of the new – and most challenging – locations featured in the Puffin Rock film is a bat cave, filled with sparkling stalactites and stalagmites. 

“That was thanks to a design intern who was working with us in the studio before the lockdown,” notes Purcell. “She just went off for a week and researched rocks and caves and everything from around the world. And then myself and Lorraine and Bravo got together, and the intern did like a 45-minute presentation on all these types of rocks. It took maybe three years of on-and-off work going through different departments to figure out how those sparkles were going to work.”

While somewhat less strenuous, the flowers and foliage found in Puffin Rock’s meadow and undergrowth also had to be accurate and the team prides itself on attention to the smallest details. 

“We feature some yellow dandelion flowers in the movie and, at nighttime, if you look closely, they’re all closed,” says Purcell. “Then they’re open again during the day. Turns out, these flowers only open in the daytime and close back up at night. So, we went through and checked every single dandelion to make sure they all were doing the same thing in each frame. Nobody really sees that or notices it, but it was important for us to be accurate. After the New York screening, an audience member, who was a horticulturist, approached us and said, ‘You guys did a really good job.’”

Puffin Rock has always excelled in achieving an organic, naturalistic feel, whether in the movements of the show’s characters or in the assortment of flora and fauna that speckles the hills of the animals’ burrows. Though Lordan notes creative liberties have been taken in some instances, and they’re always aiming to “marry reality with story,” accuracy is at the heart of everything the Puffin Rock team creates. It could be why Cartoon Saloon saw the merit in revisiting the property all these years later. But it’s definitely the reason The Heritage Council in Ireland approached the studio about incorporating the series into nature curriculum. 

“They ended up creating a booklet that’s maybe 30-40 pages, full of Puffin Rock artwork to illustrate trails and plants to search for and things like that,” shares Purcell. 

Lordan adds, “It’s nice to see it come out of the screen and put into the world.”

Over the years, Purcell and Lordan say they and their whole crew have become well-versed in geology and the natural world of Ireland. Purcell goes so far as to say that “maybe I know more than I really need to.” But it’s an experience neither would trade, and both are equally excited to embark on new territory with Baba and Oona. 

“We’re just so glad for what it means to people,” says Lordan. “We're surprised and so delighted and people saying, ‘You don’t know what this show means to us,’ has got us through some tough times. That sort of thing gets you reinvigorated to go back to work.”

Victoria Davis's picture

Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at