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.