Traditional animation buffs might take note of the feature length Wolfy, The Incredible Secret – just out this week on DVD from Random Media, in partnership with Cinedigm – a story of political machinations, anamorphic animal hierarchy and
gypsy fantasy – traditionally hand-drawn with a look that leans far away from photorealism.
The convoluted English title (French title: “Loulou, l’incroyable secret”) actually
refers to quite a few secrets, which unravel as Wolfy, an easygoing wolf, and
Tom, his neurotic bunny pal, travel to Wolfenberg to find Wolfy’s mother. A
gypsy has told them that she is the true princess as well as the leader of a
rebellion against an evil usurper—a manipulative wolf named Lou Andréa.
If this doesn’t sound like kiddie fodder, it’s not. The look of Wolfy—a cross between Studio Ghibli and those Weston Woods/Scholastic animated films—certainly appears to be the stuff of little
ones. Tom, in fact, bears a strong resemblance to Buster Bunny from the popular
Arthur cartoon series. For the most
part, kids can enjoy it for its visuals and occasional action sequences (and
the car, which looks like the one in Thatcher Hurd’s picture book, Art Dog).
The storyline can be hard to follow at times and the script contains a
handful of mature words in it, like “schmuck” and “bastard”, that are not so
much shocking as they are part of the overall sophistication.
These are adult characters. Some animals are humanlike while others are
mute beasts (like the bears). There is a class system; when Wolfy and Tom turn
up at a fancy hotel, they are turned away because Wolfy isn’t wearing clothes. There’s
also a food chain; Wolfy is a gentle, non-carnivorous wolf, influenced by his
childhood with the vulnerable citizens of Rabbitland. The wolves of Wolfenberg—and
for a time, Wolfy himself—embrace their predatory ways under the rule of Lou
Andréa; i.e., at a fancy dinner, they dine on bear claws (literally) and for
dessert, devour baby chicks as they fly from their elegant serving tray.
One quibble: the story has a glaring shortcoming in its resolution. When all
seems lost, suddenly it’s resolved in a convenient “I Dream of Jeannie” manner
that might have been improved had Wolfy taken a more active role in the
solution. As in so many animated features, Wolfy as the lead is not the most
compelling character and tends to pale next to his friends and foes.
But their quirky, unpretentious journey is worth taking if you’re looking
for something outside the mainstream while also familiar and overall as
easygoing as its protagonist.