Irish artist and filmmaker Tomm Moore is two-for-two in getting Academy Award nominations for his previous animated feature films, The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014). He’ll likely earn another nod for Wolfwalkers.
Like his other movies, Wolfwalkers is visually sumptuous and narratively mythological, taking elements of Irish folk tales and weaving them into an original fable set in a storybook past outside of actual history. This time, the heroine is young Robyn Goodfellowe (voiced by Honor Kneafsey), the daughter of an English huntsman (Sean Bean) who was brought to an Irish village to rid its forest of wolves. When Robyn ventures into the woods, she meets Mebh (Eve Whittaker), a girl her age who’s a wolfwalker — a person with a magical connection to the animal pack.
Moore’s signature style is distinct: Hand-drawn characters appear intentionally flat, as though book illustrations had come to life, and the backgrounds in Robyn’s village are designed to resemble medieval woodblock prints, with overlapping layers in place of perspective. The woods, by contrast, are rich with color, depth and movement. Moore’s direction — co-credited this time around to concept artist Ross Stewart — emphasizes artistic flourishes, although his determination to give Robyn fully realized surroundings sometimes bogs down the early going (a subplot about local bullies goes nowhere, for example).
But this is no Studio Laika mishmash. Moore is a better storyteller than that, and the tale he’s relating soon becomes clear and captivating. Very small children may be a bit confused or frightened, but school-age kids should love Wolfwalkers, particularly the thrills in its second half. Meanwhile, adults will admire the vivid and original artistry and smile at the satisfying finale.
Starts Nov. 13 at Carolina Cinemark. Available to stream starting Dec. 11 via Apple TV+