DUBLIN -- "Shamrock," says the poster, "isn't the only thing that's green and comes from Ireland."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles do too.
Their fans may not realize it, but some of the Turtle cartoons invading the world's TV screens are made by an often-tedious process in Ireland, a country that makes up with humor and motivation for its lack of any background in cartoon-making.
The Irish may be unfamiliar with "cowabunga," but they know a job-creating export opportunity when they see one, which is why the Industrial Development Authority of Ireland is willing to help pay its way.
Working from rough comic-strip storyboards drawn at Murakami Wolf Swenson, the Burbank, Calif., owner of the animation rights, dozens of artists and technicians hunch over drawing boards and photography machines, producing 35mm films that will be sent back to Burbank to be made into videocassettes.
Housed in a functional office block in the center of the city, Murakami Wolf Dublin Ltd. turns out a 22-minute cartoon every month or so to feed the global appetite for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Each cartoon requires some 13,000 separate drawings, and the work that falls to the junior animators is tedious. But for Ireland, with its chronic double-digit unemployment, anything that creates jobs is worth a try, and the Industrial Development Authority sees the Turtles as Ireland's ticket to becoming "a key player in animation for television."
"One of the advantages of Ireland is a well-educated, young population. It hasn't got a background in animation as such ... but the people are very trainable," says Eamonn Lawless, the Dublin accountant who manages the studio.
"As well as that, they're culturally compatible with the United States and with Europe."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in case anyone hasn't heard, are four terrapins who were dropped into a radioactive brew and mutated into talking, pizza-scoffing teen-age wisecrackers. A rat named Splinter trained them in the ancient Oriental art of ninja combat, and loosed them on America's streets to battle for justice.
Americans may take such amiable nonsense in their stride, but some Europeans have found it a trifle too manic. The British Broadcasting Co. insists on the title "Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles," apparently believing that British audiences may have difficulty with "ninja."
Lawless hadn't heard of the Turtles until he was approached two years ago to head the Dublin operation. But he says he quickly caught the bug.
The Dublin connection is a tribute to the Industrial Development Authority's broadminded approach, and to Jimmy Murakami, an accomplished American animator who has lived here for 17 years dreaming of bringing the cartoon industry to Ireland.
The IDA pays the studio a one-time grant of up to 9,000 pounds ($14,700) for each new job created -- half when the employee starts work, and the rest if the job is still there six months later.
The studio opened in February 1989, having promised to create 126 new jobs. It has, in fact, created 130, according to IDA spokesman Michael Flood. It produced seven cartoons in 1989, and will make 10 this year.
It also illustrates the globalization of the entertainment industry. Stories are created in California, animation is done in Ireland and South Korea and the cartoons are shown worldwide.
South Korea produces far more Turtle cartoons than Ireland, but Murakami and Lawless believe the Irish have the advantage of language and humor.
"They're easier to work with and they know what you're talking about," says Chuck Swenson, a partner in the California studio who has been here for eight months helping oversee the operation.
Half the charm of the Turtles is their laid-back, subversive dialogue -- what Swenson calls "that inane Californian slang." That makes it all the more important for animators to have a feel for English and an acute sense of timing.
For instance, Lawless cites a cartoon in which a Turtle has run out of pizza money and turns to the camera saying: "This means I'm gonna have to (gulp) get a job!" It takes a subtle hand to match the gulp to the phrase.
Also, adds Swenson, "the idea of not being very excited over getting a job doesn't really translate in Eastern Asian societies, where everybody would love to have a job."