Our independent movie is up against a $150m Pixar masterpiece
With Irish animation Wolfwalkers up for an Academy Award, DANIELLE DE WOLFE talks to its directors about their chances
IRISH animation studio Cartoon Saloon is ready to put the town of Kilkenny on the map. Taking on film-making powerhouses such as Pixar and Studio Ghibli this awards season, the studio’s latest release, Wolfwalkers, is very much the cinematic underdog.
It has received rapturous reviews from audiences and critics alike, and yet its success continues to bemuse directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart.
“It’s mad, isn’t it?” reflects director and illustrator Tomm.
“Maybe people are feeling cooped up in lockdown and it’s just a nice escape in some ways, or maybe it speaks to some contemporary worries about, you know, the environment and the polarisation of society.
“Maybe it’s more topical than we would like it to be... because it [shows] some of the dark side reflected in today’s world.”
A labour of love, the project drew inspiration from traditional ditional Irish folklore, grounding ounding itself in the pair’s home me town of Kilkenny.
The vibrant tale of Robyn Goodfellowe, odfellowe, the daughter of an English wolf hunter sent to rid the city of the last known wolf pack – voiced by Miss You Already actress Honor Kneafsey – Wolfwalkers is a 17th-century journey of discovery.
A glorious blend of handdrawn animation and threedimensional design, the film follows Robyn as she befriends a young girl n named Mebh, a member of a rumoured mystical tribe capable of transfor transforming themselves intow into wolves at night. “I think we ha happened upon so something as well... th that there haven’t been e enough animated featur features with two young wome women as the main protag protagonists, so I think that’s be been a bit of a breath of f fresh air for audiences too,” says Tomm.
Having lost out to Pixar’s
Soul in the Best Animated Film category at Sunday’s Baftas, the Academy Awards on April 25 will be ‘round two’ for the directing duo.
“Our old nemesis, Pete Docter,” laughs Tomm, of his Pixar-based counterpart and the creative mind behind, Soul, the favourite to take the gold statuette. “It started back in 2010, we lost to Up. Back then we were a small, tiny studio, so that really was a massive win just to be there.”
Tomm’s offering on that
occasion was The Secret Of Kells, an animated feature that saw now co-director Ross jump aboard as an art director. “We sat beside Pete and became friends with him over the years, so the fact that this time we’re seen as a second place or a serious contender is massive,” continues Tomm. “It’s been really fascinating to see how an independently made, pretty modestly budgeted, hand-drawn film can go up against a $150m CGI Pixar masterpiece.
“So yeah, I’m happy that we’re fighting above our weight class.”
With The Secret of Kells and 2014 follow-up feature, Song Of The Sea, both claiming Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature, Wolfwalkers makes it three out of three for the creative pair.
The people back home in Ireland will certainly be willing the pair to success.
“There’s also a weird thing that happens in Kilkenny too – because Kilkenny is a small town in the middle of Ireland,” says Ross.
“It’s been really successful with the national sport, hurling – they win and win and win.
“And so, when we get nominated, they are like, ‘ah, you’ll win it this time!’ – and they just don’t know the level of competition; it’s not like, you know, winning an All-Ireland. So, we have that pressure as well.”
■ Wolfwalkers is available to stream on Apple TV+ now.