You’ve got used to our Bitesize Irish Gaelic interviews where we showcase some of the Bitesize member’s stories, but today we have planned a different kind of interview. We’re going to meet Thomas O’Briant who uses the Irish language to create an animated series called – Liam and Séamus in the “Shadow Realm Adventures“.
He spent 30 years designing and screen printing t-shirts for collegiate sports, college clubs, fraternities, sororities and local businesses. Now he’s creating cartoon webisodes, “Liam and Séamus in the Shadow Realm Adventures” based in Brooklyn, NY featuring his own characters, and utilizing Irish history.
You can learn more about him, his characters, and the connection between Brooklyn (New York), the O’Briant Clan, and the Irish Gaelic language. Read his interview below, watch the YouTube cartoon and let us know what you think in the comments section.
Bitesize: Can you please tell us what’s the story behind the Liam and Séamus project?
My father passed in 2008, and his last wish was to spread some of his ashes over my grandfathers grave 800 miles away. During the trip, I met cousins I never knew and had a chance to share family stories. I felt such a bond for family, and a loss for my father that when I returned home, I started a group page on FaceBook named the “O’Briant Clan“. With in one year, our membership was up to 800 O’Briant/O’Bryant members. The page became a small community where we shared posts daily.
I decided to try again to bring the entire O’Brien Clan and all it’s twenty alternate surname spellings into a new group page named, “The O’Brien Family Tree”. This larger group page now has 5,000 active members after a few short years. The O’Brien Family Tree members decided to consider our group a Global Irish Clan and over time began to call each other Cousin.
Many of the Irish descendants are historians and love studying history. I am one of those people. I have had a fascination for Ireland since I was young and I enjoy reading about all the Celtic Nations. I have been challenged a few times by Irish natives over Irish history, and I was told they were impressed by my world view of modern Ireland and my grasp of the Irish history. Laughingly they told me I was very calm for an Irish descendant and I seem like an old soul.
This is where I started having the idea to create a cartoon project that utilizes the Irish Mythological Cycle from the Book of Invasions but to set my characters in a more modern setting. Liam and Séamus in the “Shadow Realm Adventures“ is the name of my project. It took over a year to outline the beginning of my story and to build the back stories of my two main characters. I wanted to share pagan Irish stories because I find them so interesting with both the descendants and native Irish who were never exposed to them.
During that year I met two book authors and became friends with both of them. You can hear an interview they did with me on the website www.liamandseamus.com.
Armand Rosamilia has two podcasts on writing (Armcast Dead Sexy Podcast, The Mando Method). I have also listened to over 200 author podcast interviews, and through those interviews, I came to understand I could create my own world for my characters while placing them in a modern environment with all the daily struggles we all face but challenged by a global threat from Ireland’s past that only my heroes can thwart.
Simply put, my story is about Liam (the last child of High King Brian Boru), a seven-year-old boy, and his best friend, a shape changing dragon (Pooka) named Séamus.
I created the Shadow Realm as a dimensional gate between the past and the present. This story telling device allows me to bring many of the Heroes/Pagan Gods from Ireland’s past into our future challenging and aiding both Liam and Séamus.
Bitesize: Do you have Irish Ancestry? Tell us about it.
My O’Briant surname is an alternate spelling of the anglicized English version of the Irish surname O’Brien. My ancestors came to American from Ireland around 1740 and lived in the Virginia/North Carolina territories. My ancestors would have most likely spelled their surname O’Briain, we believe my branch signed a Protestant Cross after their name to show they followed the Church of England. At some point, a clerk moved the “t” over changing the spelling. The surname O’Briant/O’Bryant are interchangeable on many of our branch’s family trees.
My knowledge of the Irish Language is mostly from reading. I do have a few words I can pronounce and use within conversations along with some modern Irish slang terms I have picked up. I have found Irish to be a complicated language to learn, but I have a strong desire to build that skill. Right now I can recognize more words than I can pronounce.
I have no direct relatives in Ireland, but because of The O’Brien Family Tree group page, I have a lot of free meals waiting on me when I finally travel to Ireland.
I call my cartoon webisodes an Irish Urban Fantasy placing the characters in Brooklyn, New York in the year 2017. I spend a lot of time deciding on a home location for my boys and choose Brooklyn because I am an Irish descendant. I wanted to honor all those Irish who felt they had to leave everything they loved and knew to travel to foreign lands for the safety and health of their families. My story is parallel to the Irish descendants in many ways.
Bitesize: How did you hear about Bitesize Irish Gaelic?
During my research for upcoming episodes, I often want to incorporate the Irish language into my scripts. I have to pronounce the names out for the voice actors so they can record. Here is an example: Dál gCais [Dawl Gash] / Dalcassians [Dall cash ee ans]
I have used a few native Irish O’Brien Cousins to help me navigate the Irish language in the past but when I found the website Bitesize Irish Gaelic I was hoping your program would help my story telling of Liam and Séamus while making it easier. So I reached out to you and expressed an interest and shared my project.
Bitesize: Let’s get back to your project. What’s the current status and what do you plan for the future?
So currently I posted episode 3 on YouTube and also created the first Liam and Séamus Bedtime Stories named, “King Brian Meets a Pooka“. I hope to write episode 4 within the next two weeks then I need to draw it. If all goes well, it should post sometime late September. The next bedtime story is easier to create because for now, they are .mp3 audio files only. I hope to have the next bedtime story written within a few weeks.
I am researching all the time trying to find content to build upon. The Shadow Realm Adventures story is ongoing, and I designed it to be flexible, so if I want to divert from my outline to insert a character driven storyline, the overall epic adventure is not affected.
I also plan to design location pictures of Liam and Séamus around Brooklyn and post them up on an Instagram account trying to send more traffic to the main website. Today I received an email back from the Brooklyn Tourism Office. I mentioned my project to them and how I want to promote the city of Brooklyn within my webisodes. They seemed to like the idea, and I am hoping as I grow this project my relation with them will also grow.
There are so many Irish names/locations I can not pronounce I am hoping the Bitesize Irish Gaelic website will become a great resource for my project. I often try to express the Irish culture and attitude in my series, but it is difficult because I live in the America, so I rely heavily upon my O’Brien native cousins giving me their input. I ask a lot of questions. I do not assume Hollywood has represented Ireland well the last 100 years, so I try hard to stay away from the modern Irish tropes.
Bitesize: Most people from the Bitesize community see learning Irish Gaelic as a tough but rewarding challenge.
Did you face such a challenge in developing your project?
I have always wanted to create my world with my characters, but all the pressures and demands of life along with the self-drought stopped me. After listening to all those authors and hearing their stories many of which were similar to my own, I decided all I really care about in life is my family, my friends, my day job and the Liam and Séamus project. Once my mind was set I became determined to grow the series. I consider it my final opportunity to achieve my oldest dream.
Bitesize: Do you use the Irish language in any way? Are there any Irish speaking communities in your area?
I like to use the Irish language when I correspond because it gives my message an up scale tone. I try to use the Irish language during conversations, but until it feels more natural, I often refrain.
Kansas City does have an Irish Community and a huge Saint Patrick’s Day Parade along with a very active summer Irish Fest.
The Kansas City Irish Center down town is an Irish Heritage Culture Center. There are Irish Pubs and shops. We have a few local Irish bands; the most famous is The Elders. There are Irish organizations such as The Ancient order of Hibernians on the Kansas and Missouri sides.
I have marched in many Irish Parades and volunteered during the Kansas City Irish Festivals. My favorite is the Gaelic Mass that is performed a few times throughout the year.