"Wolfwalkers" "Wolfwalkers"

Wolfwalkers, the new feature from Cartoon Saloon, is almost complete, and the studio’s presentation at the virtual edition of Annecy came with a wealth of new visual and narrative details from the project. It unfolded in a blizzard of artwork, animation segments, and references to the filmmakers’ inspirations, which range from pre-Celtic megalithic art to Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Tomm Moore, who is directing alongside Ross Stewart, calls this “the final panel of our Irish folklore triptych.” As in his previous films, the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, the story is built from his country’s history and mythology — in this case, the tension between 17th-century Kilkenny, a town dominated by English settlers, and the surrounding woodland, which is home to wolves and magical forces.

The duality between town and forest is reinforced in the design. Kilkenny is all grey-brown palettes, angular shapes, and woodcut-style lines, which give way to rounded, flowing forms and autumnal greens and reds in the forest (Moore notes that the mostly Mediterranean art team initially struggled to capture the colors of Ireland’s nature).

Tomm Moore
Tomm Moore

Linework is crucial here. The Puritan city-dwellers and the wild forest folk are drawn with clean and sketchy lines respectively. “We tried to make [the way the characters are drawn] a part of the storytelling,” explains Moore. “If the characters are angry, they might actually have angry lines; if they’re happy and free, they’ll have very wild, free lines; if they’re very uptight, they might have very tight lines.”

As in Moore’s previous features, non-linear perspective is widely used. At points, however, the film adopts the subjective gaze of the wolves themselves, deploying 3d software to create dynamic camerawork and z-axis movement — techniques new to the studio.

This visual mode, dubbed “wolfvision,” was teased in the film’s concept trailer (which Cartoon Brew debuted in 2017), but the presentation showed more substantial passages. It culminated in an exhilarating sequence in which the two girl protagonists, transformed into wolves, dash carefree through the twilit forest, their heightened sensual perception rendered as freeform streaks of color.

Wolfwalkers will be the first animated feature to launch on Apple TV+. It’s shaping up as quite a debut.

Directors: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart
Producers: Cartoon Saloon, Melusine Productions, Folivari
Distributors: Apple, Haut et Court
Target public: Family
Release: Late 2020

This article is part of our wider coverage of the Annecy. See here for more.