Fantasy has always been intertwined with animation ever since the very beginning. When Walt Disney released "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937, it paved way for astonishing animated fantasy and fairy tales that have delighted audiences for years. Now in 2020, a new animated fantasy movie has been made by Cartoon Saloon and released by Apple called "Wolfwalkers" and it quite simply astonished me with how it was presented. This is an animated film that steps up the bar for fantasy stories and astonished me with every scene. This film really is a marvel for animation.
In a 17th century Irish village called Kilkenny, a young girl named Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) has just moved to the village alongside her father (Sean Bean) who has been brought to the village to kill the wolves that lurk outside the village in the forest by the Lord Protector (Simon McBurney). Wanting to help her father, Robyn sneaks out of the village and encounters another young girl named Mebh (Eva Whittaker) who accidentally bites Robyn trying to free her from a snare trap. Mebh lives with the wolves alongside her mother and is known as a wolfwalker which is a human whose spirit can transform into a wolf while asleep. And that's all I'm going to say about this film. I could reveal more, but I'm not going to because I want you to see the rest for yourself.
I was simply amazed by this film. There haven't been a lot of animated movies that have come out this year for obvious reasons and I was eager to watch something new and had no idea of what this film had in store. The story is one of the best stories for an animated fantasy film I've ever seen. It's a film drenched in lore that could have backstories within itself and one where that feels so unique and original. We've seen many stories where soldiers have tried to fight against nature and this is easily one of the best I've seen. Not only that, but this is also a film that is not afraid to get dark. There are scenes in this film where you're surprised and shocked and all the moments don't come off feeling unpleasant or disturbing since the film has plenty of light-hearted elements to keep it afloat. Not to mention it builds to one of the most sensational animated third acts I've seen in years. As far as the animation goes, it's stunning throughout. The traditional animation is so rich and gorgeous that I was hypnotized while watching it. The film looks often like a tapestry crossed with the Xerox look of "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" that it lends itself to eye candy. The pencil lines on the characters were really a highlight along their simplistic designs working well off the somewhat complex backgrounds. The animation of Robyn and Mebh's hair was especially so pleasant to watch as well. Though what really stole the show was how experimental the animation got. I'm not gonna spoil the tricks they use in the film, but I will say the way they used the animation to tell the story was nothing short of genius. As far as the characters go, every single one of them works. Robyn is such a compelling protagonist and the way her character grows was absolutely perfect. Mebh was probably my favorite. Her playful attitude yet rough and tender side made her a very strong character and I found her chemistry between Robyn so splendid. This is a great example of how to write friendship in an animated movie. Even Robyn's father and the Lord Protector are brilliantly written with the father wanting to do what's best for her daughter and the kingdom while the Lord Protector's evil being bent on God was compelling and rich. This really is an animated movie that works so well though if I did have to criticize it, I will say that some of the transitions came off a little bizarre and weird. It felt like I knew where scenes ended and didn't always flow completely naturally as I wanted, but that's really my only complaint.
"Wolfwalkers" is a triumphant animated movie with a strong story with well-established lore, gorgeous animation that breaks the rules and isn't afraid to experiment, and characters very strong and well written. I cannot recommend this film enough. This film is a reason why I love animation and why I keep howling for more great work. I hope in the future we can get more movies like this because this is what we really need.