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Feature Film

A First Look at ‘Wolfwalkers,’ Tomm Moore’s New Feature (Trailer Exclusive)

Irish animation director Tomm Moore recently revealed his third feature film, Wolfwalkers, at Cartoon Movie in Bordeaux.

Cartoon Brew has the exclusive debut of the full trailer today on Cartoon Brew. Watch it below:

Moore’s first two features, Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, cemented his status as a storyteller and filmmaker of the first class, while boosting Ireland’s animation scene into the global limelight, earning him two Oscar nominations and countless other accolades. Now, with Wolfwalkers, Moore is ready to deliver what he describes as the “final panel of our Irish folklore triptych.”

It’s an idea that Moore has been developing for years. Wolfwalkers tells the story of 11-year-old Robyn Goodfellow, a young apprentice hunter who comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack of wolves. Her life changes though after she saves a native girl, Mebh, which leads to her discovery of the Wolfwalkers and transforms her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.

As he has done with earlier works, Moore uses Celtic folklore as a window into our contemporary world. Thematic undercurrents of wilderness versus order, and man’s impulse to control nature, are key to the world of Wolfwalkers.

Wolfwalkers. © Cartoon Saloon.
Wolfwalkers. © Cartoon Saloon.

Visually too, Moore’s new film retains a connection to his other films. Firstly, through his commitment to hand-drawn animation. Drawing isn’t simply a defiant aesthetic choice in our cg times, but integral to how Moore wants to tell his stories. “We are hoping to show how the characters feel with great acting, movement and facial expressions, but also with how they are drawn,” he explained to Cartoon Brew. “As our characters moods and emotions change, the linework can become more expressive.”

Moore will co-direct the film with longtime collaborator Ross Stewart, who was the art director of The Secret of Kells, and co-directed with Moore the Cartoon Saloon sequence in the anthology feature The Prophet. “Since we came up with the idea many years ago it felt natural that we would co-direct this film together,” Moore said.

Moore and Stewart have spent time developing a graphic language that reinforces the themes and values of their story through the visual design of the film. As seen in scenes from the trailer, the Puritans and English army are rendered in an ascetic woodblock style, while the wolfwalkers and wolves exhibit a freer, more expressive line style. “When we see the world from the point of view the wolves, it’s animated in charcoal with a very limited palette and color only where there are scents,” Moore said. “In contrast to the block print style in Kilkenny we have a much looser look to the forest — lots of ink splats and loose watercolors and scribbly pencil lines.”

Wolfwalkers. © Cartoon Saloon.
Wolfwalkers. © Cartoon Saloon.

Taking inspiration from block prints and artwork of the period, Wolfwalkers will be set in Kilkenny, Ireland, in the mid-1600s around the time of the English civil war. Moore and his crew haven’t had to travel far to research the film: modern-day Kilkenny is where their studio Cartoon Saloon is located.

The small Irish town still has retained its historic character throughout the centuries. “It’s interesting to imagine how places we see everyday might have looked back then,” Moore observed. “Since the folklore and history we are drawing from is local it’s a really nice way for the crew who are not from here to connect with the city.”

The studio created this mini-film for Cartoon Movie that shows their crew exploring local surroundings – both man-made and natural:

Will Collins, who wrote Song of the Sea, is writing the script for Wolfwalkers. “Ross and I have lots of story meetings with Will as we work on the visuals,” said Moore. “They inform each other for sure. Certainly many visual concepts and ideas influence the script, and vice versa.”

To date, Cartoon Saloon has received some development financing from the Irish Film Board and the E.U.’s Creative Europe program. The studio is still putting together financing for the production of the film. Moore, who is a co-owner in Cartoon Saloon, is optimistic and believes that the budget will be in place by the end of this year, allowing full production to begin in early 2018.

In the meantime, another studio co-owner, Nora Twomey, is wrapping up production on her first feature, The Breadwinner. That film, set in modern-day Afghanistan, is expected to release before the end of 2017.

Wolfwalkers. © Cartoon Saloon.
Wolfwalkers. © Cartoon Saloon.
  • A Frog with Sunglasses

    Amazing!
    The fact that every environment is distinguished by art direction (charcoal, thicker lines, smoother lines) is simply fascinating

  • This has me more excited than Song of the Sea! The look and feel of the animation just makes me wish this was out this weekend (I know they still have more work to do). Really, this is intriguing, I can’t wait to see this! Keep it up Cartoon Saloon, continue to bring hand drawn to the masses!

    • FM Hansen

      Agreed. Looks more fun and full of life.

  • Leigh D Maxwell

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS

  • Well, now I’ll buy a new Moore film to add to my collection once this is released.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Looks brilliant. Almost storywise,like a European Princess Mononoke.

  • ea

    Beautiful animation and designs as always.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but does anyone get any gay/lesbian vibes from the trailer? You got the relationship between the femme pilgrim girl and the tomboy wolf-girl, plus the Christian fundamentalists and the other bigots who persecute the latter’s kind.

    Maybe if they highlight those themes, it may have a chance at the Oscars (you know, social justice and all).

    • ddrazen

      It would be just as accurate to see the dynamic in terms of fighting terrorism or “radical Islam” or anything else that we insist that we understand just because we demonize it.

      But that’s the hallmark of a good story, isn’t it? It allows the reader/viewer to see more than one thing going on while the story remains intact. I am looking forward to this as an addition to Moore’s Irish tryptich.

    • Netko

      Your comment reminds me of someone who thought there was romantic tension between the monk and Aisling in Secret of Kells.
      The girls aren’t “femme” and “tomboy”. One is wild while the other is a civilized person of high status. You wouldn’t call her father “femme”.

  • Johnny Marques

    This is genuinely my most anticipated movie right now. Seeing it all in motion only served to make it even more impressive.

  • Tre

    Looks like it’s going to be another wonderful film from the gang at Cartoon Saloon. Can’t wait to see it. <3

  • Real excited about this. I love the characters and the world we see a glimpse of here! Also love the rougher treatment of the animalistic characters. More please! :)

  • UsaMiKo

    Initial reaction to seeing trailer: This looks so amazing! I can’t wait to see it!

    Sudden realization after trailer: Crud! This is a concept trailer! The actual movie probably won’t be out for another four to five years! Dang it!

    Either way this looks beyond amazing. I hope they’ll get enough funding to keep this quality of diversity. It was pretty cool to hear about the art direction on the characters; the first thing I noticed about the wolf girl was that she looked a bit more “3d” and less graphical than the other characters. So interesting to see this stuff being done on purpose.

    And I have to say I always get a little giddy watching concept trailers (like the ones Headless Studios used to put out). There’s just so much potential waiting to be delivered on. A remember when a came across the concept trailer for Song of the Sea by accident all those years ago .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdCabgJQpbA

    Either way, I wish them luck in all that they do.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    The kids in the above picture look like they were designed by British comics artist (and Gorillaz member) Jamie Hewlett. Was he involved with the character design?

    • Sara Bersani

      I was thinking the same thing

  • So great to see such thoughtful design! I can’t wait to see the film – please hurry up Tomm & crew! :-)

  • KW

    American animation studios need to take note of what theyre doing at Cartoon Saloon. We’re lagging way behind in films with unique art direction.

  • Sara Bersani

    Yes, this looks very promising and more interesting than Song of the sea.
    Best element is the woods layout