Many years after the disappearance of their mother, siblings Ben and Saoirse are still drowning in grief, as is their lighthouse-keeper father. Ben blames his little sister for the loss of their mother, and despite being six years old, Saoirse has yet to speak. When the kids discover that Saoirse is a selkie and the magical world that their mother told stories about is real, they dive into an adventure to keep the spirit world from disappearing forever.
Created by: Tomm Moore Adapted by: Samuel Sattin
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Animated films have received a ton of attention this year (since the production of many live-action films was postponed), with more on the way. Despite many big studio releases, I think it will be very hard to top Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s Wolfwalkers, another visually stunning work heavily inspired by Irish history and folklore. I say “another” because Tomm Moore and the studio Cartoon Saloon have been consistently crafting fantastic films in this vein for years. Secret of the Kells, Song of the Sea, and now Wolfwalkers all pull from similar legends and historical art to create a trilogy of mesmerizing and joyous tales. All of the lessons learned from their previous works are on full display in this new release, as it deftly explores themes of otherness, transformation, and responsibility.
Wolfwalkers is set in Ireland during the Interregnum at the end of the Irish Confederate Wars, a period in English history where the monarch was overthrown and Oliver Cromwell made himself head of state and lord protector of the country. Cromwell then asserted control over Ireland, passing laws that discriminated against Irish Catholics and confiscating their land. This tension is baked into the story. As we are introduced to the main character Robyn and her father Goodfellowe, other children show disdain for Robyn because she’s English. Her father serves Cromwell in his crusade to tame the wild land (it’s not subtle, but it’s for kids, y’know?). Robyn’s desire to follow in her father’s footsteps lead her to meet Mebh, a girl who can turn into a wolf when she falls asleep. Robyn’s relationships with her father and with Mebh soon come into conflict after Cromwell orders all wolves in the forest killed.
In contrast to many of the Pixar-esque, 3-D animated films of this century, Wolfwalkers shows that 2-D animation is stronger than ever. The near death of 2-D animation in popular studios has led to innovation that few 3-D animated features have achieved. Even with several big 3-D movies being released this year, Wolfwalkers sets itself apart with its attention to visual storytelling.
The film pulls heavily from Celtic art and imagery, while also using that imagery to contribute to the film’s story. The difference between settings is shown by the drastic visual contrast, as Robyn’s village is rendered in rigid, straight lines, while the surrounding forest is made up of semicircles and curves. As the villagers cut down the forest, we literally see the fields become drawn more like the town, with angular tree stumps covering the frame. This attention to detail is also present in the designs of the wolves, as the sketches their final animations were based on can be seen in many scenes. All these touches serve to emphasize Wolfwalkers’ themes, as the forest and the wolves feel unfettered and free while the inflexible angular lines of the town feel like a trap for the characters. Symbols of chains and prison bars are used in the village to highlight Robyn’s desires, while they reinforce her father’s worries.
All this artistry serves a well-told, if predictable story. This conflict has been seen in other children’s films (even other ones with wolves in them), but a smart script and a few twists and turns give the film enticing energy. I would rewatch this for the animation alone, but it’s so fun I ended up watching it twice before finishing this review! Wolfwalkers is an excellent addition to Tomm Moore’s unofficial Irish trilogy with stunning animation elevating its story to one of the best told of the year.
“THE SECRET OF KELLS” PANEL AND APPEARANCE AT NEW YORK COMIC CON
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9 AND SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2010
Academy Award®-Nominated Animated Film Releases Today on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD;
New 110-Page Graphic Novel and Preview App Releasing Day-Date 10/5
To commemorate the DVD and digital release this week of his critically-acclaimed, Academy Award-nominated animated feature film, THE SECRET OF KELLS, director Tomm Moore will be participating in distributor New Video’s panel at the 2010 New York Comic Convention, the largest pop culture event on the East Coast. With the film’s creative director, Ross Stewart, Moore will share the creative process behind the visually-stunning animation of the film.
Also released this week is a new “The Secret of Kells” graphic novel for iPod and iPad available on the “Comics” by comiXology platform for iPod and iPad ($4.99 download). An accompanying free 22-page preview app features “Prequel 1: Brendan,” telling the origins of the main character, Brendan, and his rescue from barbarian attacks as a young child. In addition to the prequel story, the free preview app features additional sample pages from the full graphic novel, a link to download the film on iTunes, and four extended video clips from the movie.
THE SECRET OF KELLS is being released on DVD and Blu-ray October 5 by New Video’s Flatiron Film Company and will also be distributed day-and-date on video-on-demand (VOD) and on digital platforms via New Video’s partners.
Booth appearance and signing: Saturday, October 9, from 1:00 to 2:00 pm
Panel: Sunday, October 10, from 2:45 to 3:45 pm
The Jacob K. Javits Center, 655 West 34th Street, New York, New Video Booth #1665.
About THE SECRET OF KELLS
Magic, fantasy, and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color and detail that dazzle the eyes, in this sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times. Young Brendan (Evan McGuire) lives under the care of his uncle Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson), in a remote medieval outpost under siege from raiding barbarians. One day a celebrated master illuminator (Mick Lally) arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest, where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling (Christen Mooney), a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him along the way. But with the barbarians closing in, will Brendan’s determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil? The motion picture is a France/Belgium/Ireland co-production of Les Armateurs, Vivi Film, Cartoon Saloon and France 2 Cinema.