AN AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL
ANIMATED FILM OF PLASTIC INTEGRITY
While large animation studios like Disney, Pixar and Illumination Entertainment dominated the cinematic limelight and their animated features topped the charts at the worldwide box office and were popular with many fans, some smaller studios were in the limelight. To produce some of the most beautiful and imaginative comic book stories to last. One such studio is Cartoon Saloon, an Irish animation film company that, while lacking the profitable numbers of Pixar or Disney’s long illustrious catalog, has demonstrated some of the best animated storytelling. With three films, Cartoon Saloon has produced some amazingly beautiful comic book stories, including the one from 2009 The secret of the Kells, 2014 Song of the seaand 2017 The breadwinner; Craft imaginative stories of art and integrity as you combine surreal visions of fantasy lore and profound realities. Now Cartoon Saloon and directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart present the studio’s fourth animated film and the conclusion of their Irish Folklore Trilogy saga with the release of Wolf Wanderer. Does this latest film continue the studio’s lovable legacy, or is it a “black mark” in your appreciation for animated features?
In Ireland in 1650, Bill Goodfellow (Sean Bean) pledged his loyalty to the mighty Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell (Simon McBurney), who is the official wolf catcher for the expanding empire of the newly founded English kingdom in Ireland. Bill is a widower and raises his young girl named Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) alone. Often he is unable to curb his daughter’s unbroken curiosity, especially to explore the world behind the gates of the city. As Bill sets out to clear the area of hungry wolves in the nearby forest, Robyn creates a close interaction with Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a child who is also a wolfwalker, and her mind turns into one as she sleeps Wolf introduced to their healing powers and control of the local pack. Mebh is left alone without her mother Moll (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who became a wolf one night and never returned home. Mebh is curious about the new human girl and finds a friend in Robyn who is enthusiastic about life but who soon realizes the increasing danger. The Lord Protector refuses to rest until the wolves are exterminated and Bill is trapped in the middle of being dutiful to his master while unknowingly hunting his daughter.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As many of you know, I am a huge fan of animated films, which are probably from my childhood when I watched cartoons (both episodic TV series and various Disney / non-Disney films from the late 80s to mid 90s) . Similar to above, although I was a fan of some of the great studio animated releases, the idea of smaller studio cartoon features sometimes has better quality in both storytelling and integrity, with studios like Laika, Aardman Animations, and Cartoon Saloons as prime examples . What I like about the films from Cartoon Saloon is how different the animation of the film looks, which creates an almost dreamy folklore style from the long-forgotten cartoon age. Plus, their stories are always pretty deep; Never push pop culture references or unnecessary gags that don’t work. I have seen The secret of the Kells and Song of the seabut i had no chance to see The breadwinnerwhat i want to see. In short, while a larger animation studio will continue to produce feature films for the masses, studios like Cartoon Saloon and others are proving that finer qualities of storytelling can be found in smaller productions (i.e., quality over quantity).
This brings me back to talking Wolf Wanderer, the fourth Cartoon Saloon film and the third entry in their Irish folklore trilogy. To be completely honest, I really haven’t heard much about this movie. Yes that’s true! Despite my love for children’s animation films Wolf Wanderer went “under my radar” for some time. Like I said, Cartoon Saloon doesn’t have the same number of releases as Disney or Pixar, so I haven’t really looked for their next release, especially since the studio’s last movie came out in 2017. Even so, I finally got to hear about this movie in early November 2020 by watching the movie trailer of the movie online that I really liked and which quite intrigued me to see the movie. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Cartoon Saloon released the film in different parts, some in theaters (in international areas), while for me (in the US) the film was premiered exclusively on Apple + TV. Luckily I know someone who has Apple + TV so I was finally able to check out Wolf Wanderer after the 2020 holiday season. So … what did I think of that? Well, I liked it very much. Despite some minor issues, Cartoon is Saloon Wolf Wanderer is a beautiful and engaging animated film that incorporates the studio’s ongoing ideas of creative integrity and outstanding storytelling in its animation and narrative. The movie may be overlooked by the crowds, but it’s definitely worth checking out!
Wolf Wanderer is directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart and the duo have been part of Cartoon Saloon for a while, using Moore’s previous films from the studio such as The secret of the Kells and the Song of the seawhile Stewart respectfully worked as art director on these films. Thus, the combination efforts of Moore and Stewart seem to amplify the effect that Wolf Wanderer has and indeed see both of them to do so quite effectively. I personally think that Wolf Wanderer is perhaps the best Cartoon Studio release (that I see). Together, Moore and Stewart make the film a highlight of the last two other “Irish Folklore” entries by closing the film on a trilogy (i.e. saving the best for last). Moore and Stewart also ensure that the film runs at a steady pace. never cancel for unnecessary fillings or side stories; The main focus of the feature is always on the adventures of Robyn and Mebh. In addition, much like Cartoon Saloon’s other releases, Moore and Stewart maintain the studio’s integrity and never stray into the more mundane tropes and references that many of the recent animated films fall into. What I mean? Well, Wolf Wanderer feels like its own thing and never makes pop cultural references or misplaced music / dance numbers or snappy catchphrases. Overall, Moore and Stewart do an incredible job designing it Wolf Wanderer to be what it is; An animated film that is breathtaking to watch, stimulates thought and offers a rich array of entertainment.
in addition, Wolf Wanderer Sympathy and poignant meaning also emerge from the film’s story, steeped in Irish culture and folklore, and evolving into universal themes. The screenplay, written by Moore and Stewart and Will Collins and Jericca Cleland, is rich in various motifs and nuances that trace back to the real world of the English occupation in Ireland, much like The secret of the Kells and Song of the sea displayed. Of course, the Irish setting in the film is full of realism. Representing a nation torn between opposing factions (i.e. Christianity vs. Paganism, or Irish Catholicism vs. English Protestantism, or Celtic vs. English history) and the narrative of Wolf Wanderer a tangible backdrop from which one can spring and which one can advance in one’s own story. Also, the familiar thematic beats are quite poignant and complex, including friendship, tolerance, and family. They are beautifully rendered in the film, although they may be commonplace to children’s stories, but are still treated fairly well in the film’s script and in the overall execution of the film. Additionally, the film’s story draws on spiritual narrative influences from other animated films such as the 2010 one How to train your dragon and 1997 Princess Mononoke and while some argue that his take story stems from these two projects (more on this below), only a few similarities are required, especially given the antithesis between humans and nature, the use of fear and superstition to scare-off and the two individuals ( from opposite worlds) become friends. Overall, all of these elements of storytelling add empowerment Wolfwalker Narrative; This reinforces the powerful effect the film has on its viewers on the integrity of art.
Of course, perhaps one of the best things about the animation style of Cartoon Saloon’s features is that they are known for. Display colorful animations that are almost different from the usual use of three-dimensional computer-generated graphics. There is no doubt about that Wolf Wanderer continues this tradition of cartoon saloon; That makes it the best looking release. Given the current list of films with 3D graphics for animation, it’s almost a breath of fresh air when an animated project offers something very special and different. Choose a more traditional 2D style. In addition, the animation is in Wolf WandererWith its roots and nuances in Irish folklore, it’s more of a classic folklore storytelling animation style that makes visual sight even more impressive. almost like the story of the film being drummed out of an old legend (if you know what I’m talking about). So what is presented is absolutely breathtaking and beautiful. The backgrounds are permeated with a sense of painting style that is beautiful, and the colors throughout the movie are definitely adorable. Plus, the character designs for each character draw in remarkable and unprecedented ways, which definitely adds to the folklore aspect of the film. I love the animation of the film and could go on and on about it if I praised the feature for such a rich and quaint cartoon that with animated feature films feels like a hidden gem of late. So I really have to commend the art and the animators on this project for their prolithic work on the film. Well done!
In addition, the film style of the film should also be taken into account, which gives the film a refreshing and almost like a storybook quality in almost every scene. Concise shots and dramatic moments can be seen in this film and feel quite intriguing in almost every scene, like the film being theatrically shot / presented in a live-action endeavor. The film’s score, composed by Bruno Coulais, offers a beautiful musical composition steeped in the oh-so-whimsical nature of Irish folklore, which appeals to the setting and tone of the feature film and is cinematically driven with dramatic moments. Such a great score (even by my standards). Plus, AUROA’s main song “Running with the Wolves” is great and definitely complements the scene it presents in such a mystical and salient way. Love it!
There was very little that I didn’t like about the film, but for the sake of argument Wolf Wanderer has a few blemishes that caught my eye. Perhaps the one that’s most prevalent is the overall tone of the film, which has a good dose of healthy childhood miracle and humor, but also one that’s more serious and a little darkly depressing. I am talking about it Wolfwalker The tone, especially in the second half of the feature, is darker and has a stronger indication of tension in the narrative of the feature, which is good but can be a little too much. Yes, I understand the integrity of art and what Cartoon Saloon has been doing with its animated films (past and present). That being said, in the second half of the film the film becomes more of an adult film with a little more violence and macabre tones. Maybe it could have been toned down a little … just a little. Hence, this warns some parents out there that, despite a powerful / moving story and dazzling display of animation, Wolfwalkers may not be suitable for some of the younger “juice box” people out there. Next up, certain scenes seem a little repetitive, with the interaction of character dialogue moments and / or lines pretty much the same. This is particularly noted in Robyn’s conversations with her father, which are frequent and become a bit redundant. Last I mentioned that Wolfwalker’s story has inspiring influences from both How to train your dragon and Princess MononokeSome might argue that there is more of a “punch through” approach that makes the narrative of the film a little predictable. Personally, it didn’t bother me at all, but there are few who cry poultry in this particular aspect, especially since these two animated films have not been available for some time. All in all, these are rather small points of criticism that let the film derail at all … at least in my opinion.
What supports the film in its imaginative, seductive nature of beautifully drawn animations and gripping stories lies in its singing talents Wolf Wanderer Providing an all-round small (but quite effective) cast for its animated characters. Much like the film itself, these particular characters are based on everyday roots of realism and familiarity, but the film’s unique approach to style and storytelling undoubtedly helps nurture these respective players. This is most prevalent in the film’s two main characters, Robyn Goodfellowe and Mebh, voiced by the young actresses Honor Kneafsey and Eva Whittaker. Kneafsey, best known for her roles in Benidorm, Miss you already, and A Christmas prince, has the most experience of both and certainly knows how to make a character very lovable with just his voice; Use an unbridled curiosity and polite demeanor in Robyn who always makes for a good type of character and is easy to find from start to finish. So does Whittaker, who is known for her role in The girl at the end of the garden, offers too well in the role of Mebh. While she doesn’t have a large catalog of previous works, Whittaker takes a delight in the film. Depiction of Mebh with a feeling of a wild and caged free person compared to Robyn. Of course, these two particular characters (and their personas) are easily reflected in the English and Irish people and the political landscape era that Wolfwalkers is set in, which makes both Robyn and Mebh relatable and real.
Unlike many animated feature films that have many recognizable / well-known names associated with the feature in character voice acting, Wolfwalkers doesn’t really have to do this, especially since the talent of the film is already pretty good and the film itself offers enough time to make the characters fascinating and personable. That said, the film has two recognizable names associated with the project, with actors Sean Bean and Simon McBurney playing the roles of Robyn’s father Bill Goodfellowe and the oppressive leader Oliver Cromwell, known as “Lord Protector”. Bean known for his roles in game of Thrones, Black Death, and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, was a pretty household name (most notably for his death on screen in many of his previous projects) and his involvement in this film is pretty well placed and good-natured, especially in terms of how his voice sounds and resonates with Bill, a kind hearted, but strictly protective father. The same goes for McBurney, who is known for his roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The last king of Scotland, and The Summoning 2who is more of a recurring supporting actor in his filmography but still proving to be quite effective in his character portrayal, with his performance of Lord Protector being quite eerily evil and a great antagonist (both in character and vocal talent). Together, both actors have very different sounding voices and are perfect (almost tailor-made) for their respective roles. In addition, actress Maria Doyle Kennedy, who is known for her roles in The Tudors, Outlander, and Orphan Blackis another prominent / well-known acting talent tied to Wolfwalker; Providing the voice for Moll MacTire, Mebh’s mother and leader of the wolf pack. Like Bean and McBurney, Kennedy’s voice is quite unique and definitely fits a movie like this perfectly and adds a certain warmth to her character. although she is more in the second half of the film.
The rest of the cast, including actor Jon Kenny (Les Miserable and Song of the sea) as Ned the Stringy Lumberjack, actor John Morton (Lily’s bad day and vulture) as Stumpy, actor / producer Oliver McGrath (The secret of the Kells and The musician) as local city bully Padraig and director Nora Twomey (breadwinner and The secret of the Kells) as the head housekeeper in Lord Protector’s scullery, Bridget, round off the rest of the house Wolfwalker Players in minor supporting character roles. These particular characters (as you can imagine) are limited to a small capacity, but each has their own creative uniqueness (be it vocal talent and / or character design) to make them memorable.
At a time of English occupation in Ireland and mystical superstition, a young girl befriends a strange shapeshifter as the couple learn from each other and eventually come together to save each other’s families in the film Wolf Wanderer. In the latest projects by directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, the fourth film in Cartoon Saloons release is shown in a great way, combining poignant storytelling and creative art to enrich an animated film with pure imagination. The film is a miracle of magic and friendship and deserves high praise from the directors of the film, a meaningful story, an incredibly amazing animation style, a beautiful score and a solid voice that works across the board in all facets and positions. I personally loved this movie. It was something very unique and different from the normal animated films of recent times, and features such a delightful and meaningful story of two young girls involved in the bigger events of the country. Plus, the animation of the film is pretty impressive again and I loved it! So my recommendation for the film is a “very good one” as it should be seen by everyone, especially those with a particular affinity for cartoons with skillful artistry and narrative integrity. With the conclusion of this film, Cartoon Saloon closes its chapter on the so-called “Irish Folklore” trilogy of films. What does this mean for the future of the company? Who knows? Let’s hope the studio continues to feature more intriguing features of various stories and myths, including perhaps more Irish folklore. Yet, Wolf Wanderer is a cinema experience that feels like a breath of fresh air; Courageously take viewers on an enchanting adventure that both entertains and symbolizes what powerful and tangible storytelling is possible in such a small animated studio.
4.5 out of 5 (highly recommended)
Published on: December 11, 2020
Reviewed on: January 22, 2021
Wolf Wanderer is 103 minutes long and is rated PG for sequences of violence, images of dangers / horrors and some thematic elements