Filled with woodcut-style beauty and sensational storytelling – Wolfwalkers took the spotlight in 2020 as one of the best animated feature films alongside various other masterpieces like Soul and The Willoughbys.
The film weaves Irish folklore and history together to present an enthralling, classic tale of thrill and adventure, embellished with beautifully heart wrenching moments.
Just like Cartoon Saloon’s previous animated works like The Secret of Kells, Breadwinner and Song of the Sea, Wolfwalkers tells the story of a touching friendship between two girls from vastly different worlds through an animation adored by both children and adults alike.
Bringing timeless folklore to life
Set in Kilkenny, 1650, a period when Ireland was an English colony, Wolfwalkers is a fable centered around wolves with the ability to shapeshift into humans. The story portrays a battle against extinction and a beautiful friendship between a Wolfwalker and a human.
The story takes off when Robyn’s dad, Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) was posted to Kilkenny and assigned to track down and hunt wolves that were attacking the city.
His inquisitive daughter, Robyn, sneaks outside the city walls to follow him.
However, she ends up getting caught and berated for transgressing against the social expectations of women to operate within the household.
Still, she pays no mind to her father and returns to the woods. There, she chances upon Mebh Óg Mactíre (Eva Whittaker), a Wolfwaker who has the ability to transform into a wolf while her human form lays asleep in her mother’s arms.
Soon, a special bond blooms between the two girls.
But good times don’t last.
Lord Protector, ruler of Ireland, is enraged after realising that Robyn has disobeyed orders and demands her father to kill the wolves in two days.
Having discovered the truth behind the legend of the Wolfwalkers, Robyn attempts to tell her father to stop the massacre; but does so in vain.
With the impending doom of the forest, the prospect of the Wolfwalkers’ extinction looms over Mebh and her mother.
Robyn and Mebh search for Mebh’s mother, Moll Mactíre (Maria Doyle Kennedy), so they can escape danger and evacuate to a safer place.
Catch a sneak peek of the trailer here:
Reinventing hand drawing
At a point in history where Pixar or Disney has flooded theatres and screens with animated films packed with computer graphics and expositional chunks of lore – Wolfwalkers takes a different approach through its unique, hand-drawn animation style and emotional voice-work.
Cartoon Saloon, the creators behind Wolfwalkers, is comparable to Studio Ghibli, the renowned animation studio known for works like Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle.
In terms of the similarity of the themes they’ve both explored, along with their unique, stunning visual style, the two are one and the same.
Wolfwalkers pays homage to the 1600s woodcut illustrations and even uses it as a thematic device to enhance the storytelling.
For example, the animation of fire mimics the woodcut print effect but also evokes a sense of confinement and claustrophobia to highlight the rigid and stifling environment in Kilkenny.
The town is also splashed in shades of grey and is stylistically rendered in a flat, two-dimensional manner to depict the art of the era the movie is set in as well as the general atmosphere of Kilkenny.
This is juxtaposed with the forest, where one witnesses a burst of vivid autumnal colours, the swift and fluid grace of animals and entrancing shimmering waterfalls.
The contrast between the free-flowing lines characteristic of the forest and the harsh straight lines of the town is highlighted by the exquisite hand-drawn animation that never fails to bring forth a timeless wonder.
Aside from the background animations, character designs are equally fascinating.
Each character’s design is based on their tendency towards political strength or mother nature – the former often features geometric rigidity while the latter is presented in artful sketchiness.
To emphasise on the Wolfwalker’s close association with nature as well as to create a stark contrast between the Wolkwalkers’ perspectives from the humans’, the Wolfwalkers are shown to experience the world via scent instead of sight.
As Wolfwalkers roam, their visions have this state of dreamy fluidity demonstrated through smooth, beautiful transitions.
The main takeaway
Hand-drawn animation’s appeal to the young and old transcends time and trends.
Whether it’s with 2D, 3D animation, visual effects or motion graphics, we can bring your story to life.
We’re not just an animation company – we’re a team of dreamers and storytellers who enjoy producing unique content that suit your needs.
Not familiar with animation? That’s fine – we’d love to offer you advice on the most appropriate animation styles to use while keeping the animated video production cost in consideration.
Let’s get cracking!