Wolfwalkers

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Wolfwalkers
U.S. theatrical release poster
Directed by
Screenplay byWill Collins[1][2]
Story by
  • Tomm Moore
  • Ross Stewart
Produced by
Starring
Edited by
Music by
Production
companies
Distributed by
  • Apple TV+ (United States)
  • Wildcard (Ireland and United Kingdom)
  • Haut et Court (France)[4]
Release dates
  • 12 September 2020 (2020-09-12) (TIFF)[2]
  • 2 December 2020 (2020-12-02) (Ireland)
  • 13 November 2020 (2020-11-13) (United States)[1]
  • 11 December 2020 (2020-12-11) (Apple TV+)[4]
  • 16 December 2020 (2020-12-16) (France)
Running time
103 minutes[5][2][4]
Countries
LanguageEnglish[2]
Budget€10 million[7]
Box office$1,266,570[8]

Wolfwalkers is a 2020 independent[9] animated fantasy adventure film directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart.[1][10][3] The film is the third and final installment in Moore's "Irish Folklore Trilogy", following his previous films The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014).[11] An international co-production[5][2][6][3] led by Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine Productions,[1][3] the film premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September[12] and was released theatrically in the United Kingdom on 26 October,[13] in the United States and Canada on 13 November,[14] and in Ireland on 2 December. It was released digitally on Apple TV+ on 11 December 2020, to critical acclaim.[4][15][16]

Wolfwalkers follows the story of Robyn Goodfellowe, a young apprentice hunter who arrives in Ireland with her father during a time of superstition and magic to wipe out the last wolf pack. While exploring the forbidden lands outside the city walls, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl, Mebh, a member of a mysterious tribe rumored to have the ability to turn into wolves by night. As they search for Mebh's missing mother, Robyn uncovers a secret that draws her further into the enchanted world of the Wolfwalkers and risks turning into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.

The film stars the voices of Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Tommy Tiernan, Jon Kenny and John Morton. It won several awards including the Satellite Award for Best Animated or Mixed Media Feature and five Annie Awards including Best Director for Moore and Stewart and Best Independent Animated Feature. It also received the nominations for Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and BAFTA Awards.[17][18]

Plot

In Ireland in 1650, the residents of the town of Kilkenny are working to clear the nearby woods under orders from the authoritarian Lord Protector (who resembles the historical Oliver Cromwell), putting them at odds with a wolf pack who have been terrorizing the villagers. English hunter Bill Goodfellowe, with his rebellious daughter Robyn, has been summoned to Kilkenny by the Lord Protector to exterminate the wolves. Bill goes out into the woods to place traps for the wolves, leaving his daughter alone at home. Wanting to help Bill, Robyn secretly follows him with her pet falcon, Merlyn, in an attempt to kill a wolf. However, she soon finds herself in the middle of the wolf pack's raid on farm sheep. After accidentally shooting Merlyn with her crossbow while trying to kill a wolf, Robyn watches a mysterious girl take him into the woods and follows them. Upon finding Merlyn miraculously healed, she is startled into a trap when one of the wolves confronts her. The wolf begins trying to help her escape, but she mistakes this for aggression and tries to fight it, causing it to bite her. Once out of the trap, Merlyn and the wolf lead Robyn to the wolves' den, where she discovers the wolf is the same girl from earlier. The girl, Mebh, explains she is a "Wolfwalker", whose spirit leaves her body and becomes a wolf when she sleeps. Robyn comes to befriend Mebh, and also learns that her dormant mother Moll's spirit has not yet returned in her search for a new home for their pack, leaving Mebh alone to take care of them. Returning home, Robyn tries to convince Bill of the existence of Wolfwalkers, but he instead scolds her for going into the forest, and insists that she take up work to occupy herself.

The next morning, while working at the scullery, as ordered by the Lord Protector, Robyn is drawn into his chambers by a mysterious voice coming from a concealed cage, but is soon ushered out by the head maid. That night, as she sleeps, Robyn discovers her soul has left her body and has become a wolf. Shocked and confused, Robyn returns to the woods where Mebh reveals her bite has turned Robyn into a Wolfwalker like her, and helps her get accustomed to her new form. Upon returning to Kilkenny, Robyn is drawn into the Lord Protector's manor where she finds Moll's wolf form inside the cage. Moll tells Robyn that Mebh and the pack must leave the forest, as the Lord Protector plans to burn it down to wipe them out. The Lord Protector, seeking to restore control of the town, assures the townspeople that he can tame the wolves, and by extension, nature itself. He ignores Robyn's pleas to let Moll go and demotes Bill for failing to eliminate the wolves.

Fearing separation from each other, Robyn and Bill tend to their duties. Mebh, having waited for Robyn to return on a promise from the previous night, enters Kilkenny and finds Robyn, who attempts to relay her mother's warning, but Mebh, hurt by Robyn's refusal to help rescue her mother out of concern for her safety, resolves to do it alone. The Lord Protector presents the captured Moll before the townspeople, showing his control over the wolves. An enraged Mebh attempts to free her but when Bill restrains her, Moll bites him. Mebh vows to return with her pack to rescue her mother before finally fleeing. The Lord Protector orders Bill to kill Moll and leads his army to burn the forest down.

However, Robyn protects Moll from Bill, before she frees and reunites her with Mebh before she and her pack can attack Kilkenny, earning Mebh's forgiveness. Bill follows them and shoots Moll, causing Moll's wolf form to become a spirit and return to her human form in the den, with Robyn's wolf form, Mebh, and the wolves following it. The Lord Protector and his army arrive and begin burning the forest. As Mebh works to heal a grievously wounded Moll using the same magic used on Merlyn, Robyn and the pack stall the soldiers. Mebh summons Robyn and her pack back, realizing she needs them present to heal Moll, but Robyn is knocked unconscious after disabling the army's cannon. Before the Lord Protector can kill her, Bill, due to Moll's bite, becomes a Wolfwalker and protects her. After being bitten by Bill and horrified by now being a Wolfwalker, the Lord Protector lets himself plummet into a waterfall to his death, praying for salvation as he falls.

Robyn and Bill return to the den and help Mebh revive Moll, and accept her invitation to stay with the pack and embrace their new identities as Wolfwalkers. They set off to find a new home, ending with a content Bill and Moll driving their caravan while the two girls sleep in the back as their wolf forms, surrounded by the pack, race each other through the trees.

Voice cast

  • Honor Kneafsey as Robyn Goodfellowe, a young apprentice hunter and Bill's daughter
  • Eva Whittaker as Mebh Óg MacTíre, an adventurous Wolfwalker and Moll's daughter
  • Sean Bean as Bill Goodfellowe, a hunter and Robyn's father
  • Simon McBurney as Lord Protector, an authoritarian but genuinely pious general and English statesman ruling Ireland. His character model, title, and mannerisms appear to be based on Oliver Cromwell, who commanded English forces in Ireland during this period
  • Maria Doyle Kennedy as Moll MacTíre, a Wolfwalker, the leader of the wolf pack, and Mebh's mother
  • Tommy Tiernan as Seán Óg, a woodcutter who believes in the existence of the Wolfwalkers
  • Jon Kenny as Ned / Stringy Woodcutter
  • John Morton as Stumpy Woodcutter
  • Paul Young as Sheep Farmer
  • Nora Twomey as Bridget, the head housekeeper of the Lord Protector's scullery
  • Oliver McGrath as Padraig, a young bully in the town of Kilkenny
  • Niamh Moyles as Fishmonger

Production

On 8 September 2018, it was announced that Apple had acquired Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart's Wolfwalkers from a script by Will Collins.[19] The film is an original concept that was created by Moore and Stewart, and its animation uses a unique 2D style alternating between a woodblock aesthetic and loose expressive line work.[15][16]

Music

Moore's frequent collaborators, Bruno Coulais and folk group Kíla, provided the film's original score.[20] Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora contributed to the soundtrack with a re-recorded version of her single "Running with the Wolves".[21][22]

Animation and design

The animation of Wolfwalkers was primarily drawn by hand using TVPaint with digital brushes to imitate physical pencil lines. Some crowds and background elements were animated with Moho. Backgrounds were drawn and painted on paper.[23][24]

The film's visual design uses contrasting styles to represent the conflict between the forest and the town of Kilkenny. The town and its inhabitants are drawn in a style inspired by 17th century woodcuts using thick lines and angular, geometric shapes. This represents the cage-like nature of the town and the Lord Protector's rules. In contrast, the forest, animals, and wolfwalker characters are drawn with sketchy and expressive linework with curving shapes to convey the freedom and liveliness of the forest.[24][25][26] Robyn's design starts out with the woodblock appearance of the town, but as she comes to identify more with the wolfwalkers her design transitions to the sketchy pencil lines of the forest.[27] The art style of the forest characters also includes intentional pencil construction lines which would normally be removed by a clean-up department. The directors were inspired by the rough, expressive animation of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya and the Xeroxed animation of One Hundred and One Dalmatians which preserved the pencilled art of the animators.[27][28] Tomm Moore said he had the idea that "it would be great to make a virtue of the fact that it's hand drawn and to really make it look like a Glen Keane line test or something like really, really rough and scratchy."[27]

Certain first-person shots in the film, called "wolfvision", depict Robyn's point of view as she moves through the environment as a wolf. Many of the wolfvision scenes required a dynamic camera that mimicked the natural movement of Robyn's head as she ran.[29] To achieve this Eimhin McNamara, the wolfvision supervisor, developed a technique that combined 3D technology with traditional hand-drawn art. McNamara's team constructed a 3D forest environment with the virtual reality painting software Quill with further refinement and stylisation done in Blender. This allowed him to previsualise the scene and adjust the camera as needed.[29][30][31] Each frame of the CG animation was then printed out in magenta which the artists drew over with pencil and charcoal to match the film's hand-drawn look. The frames were then scanned and the underlying magenta was digitally removed.[32][29][27][31] McNamara said that this technique is "just about getting an organic thing on screen that looks like people made it".[29]

Release

The film had its world premiere at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2020.[33][34]

It was released theatrically on 26 October 2020 by Wildcard Distribution in the United Kingdom[13] and on 13 November by GKIDS in the United States and Canada.[14]

Child Film distributes it in Japan and Value & Power Culture Communications will distribute in China.[33][34]

The theatrical release in Ireland was planned for the same day as the UK, but was delayed until later in the year due to the enforced closure of cinemas across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[13] It was instead released on 2 December 2020.

The film debuted on Apple TV+ on 11 December 2020, and was later released theatrically in France on 16 December by Haut et Court.[15][16] In March, Deadline announced that Wolfwalkers would be re-released to select theaters in North America, starting on 19 March 2021 with the Angelika Film Center in New York.[35]

A release on Blu-Ray Disc with bonus features is exclusively featured in the Irish Folklore Trilogy box set in the US and UK/Ireland also containing The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea and a bonus disc. GKIDS and Shout! Factory released the Region A box set in North America on 14 December 2021,[36] while StudioCanal released the box set in the UK and Ireland on 20 December 2021 (Originally planned for 13 December[37]).[38]

Reception

Box office

On its opening weekend in the United Kingdom, Wolfwalkers earned $40,802 at the box office.[8] It was distributed in France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Norway, and earned a global total of $1.3 million.[8] According to Moore, the film cost €10 million to produce.[7]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 99% of 173 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A mesmerizing Celtic-inspired adventure, Wolfwalkers offers an epic ethereal fantasy matched by profound philosophies and stellar voice work."[39] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 28 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[40]

Sam Adams of Slate called it the best animated movie of the year to date, praising the beauty and technical ability of the animation.[41] Peter Debruge of Variety wrote: "In the decade since Kells, it's not just the technological advances that make Moore's latest so impressive, but the rapidly changing cultural conversations as well. He brings everything together by borrowing from timeless visual influences, leaving audiences with another stunning artwork for the ages."[3]

Accolades

Metacritic summarized various critics end-of-year top lists, and ranked Wolfwalkers in 26th place overall.[42] IndieWire's poll of 231 critics included Wolfwalkers in its Best Movies of 2020, ranking in 32nd place.[43]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards April 25, 2021 Best Animated Feature Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young and Stéphan Roelants Nominated [44][45]
AFI Fest 23 October 2020 Narrative Feature Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart Won [46]
Alliance of Women Film Journalists 4 January 2021 Best Animated Feature Film Wolfwalkers Nominated [47]
Best Animated Female Eva Whittaker Nominated
Honor Kneafsey Nominated
American Cinema Editors Awards April 17, 2021 Best Edited Animated Feature Film Darragh Byrne, Richie Cody, Darren Holmes, ACE Nominated [48]
Annie Awards April 16, 2021 Best Animated Feature – Independent Wolfwalkers Won [49]
Best FX for Feature Kim Kelly, Leena Lecklin, Frédéric Plumey, Almu Redondo and Nicole Storck Nominated
Best Character Animation - Feature Emmanuel Asquier-Brassart Nominated
Best Character Design - Feature Federico Pirovano Won
Best Direction - Feature Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart Won
Best Music - Feature Bruno Coulais and Kíla Nominated
Best Production Design - Feature María Pareja, Ross Stewart and Tomm Moore Won
Best Storyboarding - Feature Guillaume Lorin Nominated
Best Voice Acting - Feature Eva Whittaker Won
Best Writing - Feature Will Collins Nominated
Art Directors Guild Awards April 10, 2021 Excellence in Production Design for an Animated Film Ross Stewart, Tomm Moore and Maria Pareja Nominated [50]
Austin Film Critics Association Awards March 19, 2021 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Won [51]
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards 13 December 2020 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Runner-up [52]
British Academy Children's Awards November 27, 2022 Best Feature Film Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart and Paul Young Won [53]
British Academy Film Awards April 11, 2021 Best Animated Film Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart and Paul Young Nominated [54]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards December 21, 2020 Best Animated Film Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Nora Twomey and Paul Young Won [55]
Critics' Choice Super Awards January 10, 2021 Best Animated Movie Wolfwalkers Nominated [56]
Best Voice Actress in an Animated Movie Honor Kneafsey Nominated
Eva Whittaker Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards 10 February 2021 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Runner-up [57]
Detroit Film Critics Society Awards 8 March 2021 Best Animated Feature Wolfwalkers Nominated [58]
Dorian Awards 18 April 2021 Most Visually Striking Film Wolfwalkers Nominated [59]
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Awards 18 December 2020 Best Irish Film Wolfwalkers Won [60]
European Film Awards December 1, 2021 Young Audience Award Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart Nominated [61]
Best Animated Feature Film Nominated [62]
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards December 21, 2020 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Runner-up [63]
Georgia Film Critics Association 12 March 2021 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Nominated [64]
Golden Globe Awards February 28, 2021 Best Animated Feature Wolfwalkers Nominated [65]
Golden Rooster Awards December 30, 2021 Best Foreign Language Film Wolfwalkers Nominated [66]
Gotham Awards January 11, 2021 Audience Award Wolfwalkers Nominated [67]
Best International Feature Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, Paul Young, Nora Twomey and Stéphan Roelants Nominated
Hollywood Critics Association Awards 5 March 2021 Best Animated or VFX Performance Honor Kneafsey Nominated [68]
Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Won
Hollywood Music in Media Awards January 27, 2021 Best Original Score in an Animated Film Bruno Coulais Nominated [69]
Houston Film Critics Society Awards January 18, 2021 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Nominated [70]
IndieWire Critics Poll 14 December 2020 Best International Feature Wolfwalkers 7th place [71]
International Cinephile Society Awards 20 February 2021 Best Animated Film Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart Nominated [72]
International Film Music Critics Association Awards 18 February 2021 Best Original Score for an Animated Film Bruno Coulais Won [73]
Irish Animation Awards 21 May 2021 Best Animation Sequence Wolfwalkers Won [74]
Best Art Direction and Design Wolfwalkers Won
Best Editing Wolfwalkers Won
Best Irish Feature or Special Wolfwalkers Won
Best Music Wolfwalkers Nominated
Best Sound Design Wolfwalkers Nominated
Best Storyboarding Wolfwalkers Nominated
Irish Film & Television Awards July 4, 2021 Best Film Wolfwalkers Won [75]
Best Film Director Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart Nominated
Best Film Script Will Collins Nominated
London Critics Circle Film Awards February 7, 2021 Technical Achievement Award Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart Nominated [76]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards December 20, 2020 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Won [77]
Motion Picture Sound Editors Awards 16 April 2021 Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Animation Sebastien Marquilly, Bruno Seznec, Christian Seznec, Baptiste Bouche, Felix Davin, Alexandre Fleurant, Axel Steichen, Stéphane Werner, Anne-Lyse Haddak and Florian Fabre Nominated [78]
National Board of Review January 26, 2021 Top 10 Independent Films Wolfwalkers Won [79]
New York Film Critics Circle Awards December 18, 2020 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Won [80]
Online Film Critics Society Awards January 25, 2021 Best Animated Feature Wolfwalkers Nominated [81]
Producers Guild of America Awards March 24, 2021 Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures Paul Young, Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore, and Stéphan Roelants Nominated [82]
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards January 11, 2021 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Won [83]
San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle Awards January 18, 2021 Best Animated Feature Wolfwalkers Nominated [84]
Satellite Awards February 15, 2021 Best Animated or Mixed Media Film Wolfwalkers Won [85]
Seattle Film Critics Society Awards 15 February 2021 Best Animated Feature Wolfwalkers Won [86]
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards 17 January 2021 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Nominated [87]
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards February 7, 2021 Best Animated Film Wolfwalkers Won [88]
Ursa Major Awards 2 May 2021 Best Motion Picture Wolfwalkers Won [89]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards February 8, 2021 Best Animated Feature Wolfwalkers Nominated [90]
Best Voice Performance Honor Kneafsey Nominated
Women Film Critics Circle Awards 7 March 2021 Best Animated Female Eva Whittaker Runner-up [91]
Honor Kneafsey Nominated

Future

During an interview in 2021, Moore stated that there are currently no plans for a Wolfwalkers sequel, just like his previous films The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea have no sequels.[92]

No, I don't think we do sequels per se, it would be unusual if we did that but we do tend to continue in the same vein, so we'll see. The next few films that we do will be quite different. Who knows what's down the line?

— Tomm Moore in an interview with RTÉ

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