We recently spoke to Director Tomm Moore and his creative team at Cartoon Saloon about their latest hand-drawn animation, Wolfwalkers. The stunning animation is set in Ireland during a time when wolves were persecuted. Ireland once revered the wolf, and was even nicknamed “Wolf Land”. Eventually man hunted wolves to extinction. To this day, wolves are not found in Ireland. In the film Wolfwalkers, wolves are mystical and loyal. The wolfwalkers are “shapeshifters” and change into wolf spirits at night.
Wolfwalkers’s protagonist is Robyn whose father is hired by Lord Protector to destroy the wolves to bring calm and order to Kilkenney.bRobyn, who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps of being a wolf hunter, befriends a young spirit girl name Mehb who is an actual wolfwalker.
Cartoon Saloon are masters of storytelling through traditional hand drawn images which seems to be a rare these days. I do have to say it’s refreshing to see in these medium in our CGI world. Cartoon Saloon’s hand drawn work is rich and dense and organic offering movement that helps guide the storyline of the film. My daughter noticed outlines of wolves during some of the scenes which added excitement and fluidity to the landscapes. We asked the art director Maria Pareja about how color helped set up the look of the film:
“We had these two different main locations, the town and the forest, and we wanted to make the town look oppressing and dark like a place where you wouldn’t feel free. The town is made up of grays and dark greens and it actually reflects the colors of the real live Kilkenny (where Cartoon saloon is based). The colors are of the actual buildings here in Kilkenny. It’s like the whole atmosphere here when it’s a rainy day but it’s kind of sad.”
The second location was a vast contrast- “For the forest, we wanted to have all these super vibrant colors, beautiful greens and oranges, something more happy.” The look is reminiscent of Mebh’s character, colorful and wild. Shapes also played a big part in the look of the film. Geometrical shapes make up the town and things are more square and dark, controlled as opposed watercolors and pencil drawings in the forest where everything is super loose and energetic. Robyn’s journey is between these two locations. She goes from being in a dark, oppressive place, to a very beautiful free space where she can be herself.
Cartoon Saloon has mastered visual storytelling techniques through hand-drawn art and we are hooked! Wolfwalkers is a delightful animated adventure that will be loved by your entire pack. It moved me to learn more about the history between these animals and Ireland. I also appreciated that the two leads were female showing us that they can do whatever they wanted in a time that women weren’t treated as equals.
Wolfwallkers streams on Apple TV Friday December 11.
Apple TV has provided these Wolfwalkers activity sheets!