On AppleTV+, which I have free for a year, the platform announced that Wolfwalkers was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Film on March 15, mere minutes after the announcement was made. Since I hadn’t seen any of the other choices yet, I watched it, and I was entranced.
A young English girl named Robyn Goodfellowe (voiced by Honor Kneafsey), an apprentice hunter, and her widowed father Bill (Sean Bean) move to Ireland. Their job is to “help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything changes when she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe rumored to transform into wolves by night.”
First off, it is a lovely, hand-drawn animation. The reviews, which were 99% positive, use terms such as “lush,” “gorgeous,” “beautiful,” a “visual splendor,” and its “use of color and detail make it continually dazzling to watch.” But it isn’t just eye candy.
“It’s endlessly beguiling, like the magic of the forest.” Wolfwalkers addresses the role of women and girls, deforestation and its effect, and I suppose the British version of manifest destiny.
The movie was created by the well-regarded Cartoon Saloon. They made Secret of the Kells (2009), which I did not see; it was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Film.
There is a long-running comic book series called Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini; I’ve met them more than once. I’ve only really read the first 20 issues back in the 1980s. This story faintly reminds me of that story’s ethos. Or maybe it’s just the wolves, though I don’t recall them shapeshifting as Mebh Óg MacTíre (Ava Whittaker) does.
“Here is an animated film that finds new beauty in ancient traditions; a film that fights back against the temptation to surrender what little magic this world still has left.” Yup, that’s right.