Apple has dropped the teaser for its first animated feature, “Wolfwalkers,” the latest Irish folktale from two-time Oscar-nominated director Tomm Moore (“Song of the Sea,” “The Secret of Kells”) and Cartoon Saloon animation studio. “Wolfwalkers” makes its North American world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (September 10-20), and it will stream worldwide on Apple TV+ in the fall following its domestic theatrical run from GKids.
In a time of superstition and magic in Kilkenny in the mid-1600s a young apprentice hunter, Robyn Goodfellowe, journeys to Ireland with her father 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 transform 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.
“Wolfwalkers” represents a significant advancement in hand-drawn animation for Moore, who was joined by art director-turned director Ross Stewart (“The Secret of Kells”). “As an animal rights advocate, I feel the current crisis is largely from a broken and out of kilter attitude we, as a global society, have developed towards animals, and ‘Wolfwalkers’ speaks to that at a certain level,” Moore said.
Moore developed the story with Stewart, who previously co-directed the section “On Love” for “The Prophet” feature. They based it on themes that have inspired them since they were teens growing up in Kilkenny. The visual style is quite ambitious, though, allowing them to “use the full bandwidth of the hand-drawn animation potential, creating a block print style environment for the townspeople and a contrasting pencil and watercolor style for the forest.
“In addition, we worked with Irish animator and director Eimhinn McNamara to create a style for when we see the world through the eyes of the Wolfwalkers,” added Moore, “a sort of attempt to show how the world appears to wolves, with a limited palette but heightened colors and expressive styles for scents and sounds. This final style uses a much more three-dimensional camera than our previous projects, but is rendered with charcoal on paper to create a very handmade effect.”
The character clean up line is also more detailed here than in previous Moore films, “with the final line animators using much more expressive line work to show various emotions and character development, as our heroine, Robyn, moves between the worlds of the movie,” he said.