Animation comes in all shapes and sizes. From independent features and shorts to the family blockbusters that littered theaters, back when going to the movies was a thing. We even had the occasional raunchy animated comedy. What we don’t have a ton of, at least recently, is animated works where the visuals truly take center stage. Enter Wolfwalkers, the effort from Apple Original Films (as well as GKIDS) that hopes to break into the Oscar race. Given the weak year, as well as how elegantly done this feature is, and the streaming service is poised to score an Academy Award citation. Releasing this week, it’s something the whole family can enjoy, even if the youngest of viewers may not be as enthralled as others will be.
The film is an animated adventure, set within a magical version of Ireland. This is the official synopsis: “In a time of superstition and magic, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn Goodfellowe, journeys to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last wolf pack. While exploring the forbidden lands outside the city walls, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl, Mebh, a member of a mysterious tribe rumored to have the ability to transform into wolves by night. As they search for Mebh’s missing mother, Robyn uncovers a secret that draws her further into the enchanted world of the WOLFWALKERS and risks turning into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.” Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart co-direct, while also co-writing the screenplay with Jerrica Cleland and Will Collins. Bruno Coulais composes the score, with the voice work including the likes of Sean Bean, Honor Kneafsey, Simon McBurney, Eva Whittaker, and more.
This is a stunningly animated flick, which goes without saying, considering its pedigree. Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart are talented filmmakers, directing this impeccably and co-writing a mature script with the aforementioned Cleland and Collins. The voice work is strong, the world is well realized, and the events occur with a narrative heft. This isn’t paper thin entertainment, to be sure. At the same time, it’s incredibly easy to fall under the spell of this movie, especially in terms of the animation. Moore and Stewart are supremely confident storytellers, so it’s no surprise that the story flows as it does. One can argue that it runs a little longer than it needs to, but when it’s so nice to look at, that’s not really too huge of an issue, overall.
Wolfwalkers only really suffers due to a sluggish pace (and the 100+ minute running time) that could try the patience of younger viewers. Aside from that, it’s largely a success, one that will probably translate into a healthy awards season haul. The Oscars will likely nominate it in Best Animated Feature, and depending on how Soul is received, it has a fighting change of pulling off the upset win. There are voters who especially like this type of animation, so keep any eye out on how that race evolves once the year comes to an end. If it’s a battle to the end between those two, we’ll be the winners, regardless of the ultimate victor in the category.
This week, animation fans would do well to check out Wolfwalkers. Especially if you are normally a GKIDS fan and/or were into The Secret of Kells over a decade ago, this traffics in largely the same kind of territory. Again, the smallest of viewers might be put off by some of the content, or outright bored, but kids with some attention span should be won over by the animation. It goes without saying that adults will be, and that largely is where the perceived audience is. Give the film a look and see what you think…