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‘Wolfwalkers’ Filmmaking Team on Incorporating a Range of Animation Styles into their Film

With inspiration from 17th Century woodcuts and Irish folklore, the Apple TV+ movie has a unique look.


Consider This: Conversations highlight film’s award-worthy productions through panel discussions with the artists themselves. The above video is presented by Apple TV+, produced by IndieWire’s Creative Producer Leonardo Adrian Garcia, and hosted by Chief Film Critic Eric Kohn.

With inspiration from 17th Century woodcuts, Irish folklore, and rendered in an animated style, Apple TV+’s “Wolfwalkers” represents the combination of disparate elements into a cohesive film.

For example, the town setting of Kilkenny is more rigid, inspired by woodcuts. Outside the town, in the forest, the lines of the animation take on a much more loose, flowing style that mirrors the natural environment of the forest.

In a discussion with IndieWire Executive Editor and Chief Critic Eric Kohn, some of the key members of the “Wolfwalkers” team — co-directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, “Wolfvision” Supervisor/Animator Eimhin McNamara (“Wolfvision” is a concept depicted in the movie) and Lead Character Animator Federico Pirovano — detailed how they got their inspiration and pulled off such a unique vision.

“As Tomm and myself started developing the story, even really really early on, it was really clear that we wanted as much of that historical reference in there as we could,” Stewart said. “The woodcuts from around the 17th Century were a really obvious choice, and we were lucky enough to have a couple of printmakers with us on the concept team. One of them, Clara, a Spanish printmaker, she more or less took charge of translating that woodcut aesthetic into the style of the town.”

The film is the third installment of Moore’s Irish folklore trilogy that saw him and Moore collaborate. Set against the backdrop of Oliver Cromwell’s colonization of Ireland, the film follows a young hunter and her father who are sent to track and kill wolves. But the young girl soon learns the wolves, with their rich spiritual lives connected to humans, are not to be feared.

Pirovano said the film includes several different styles of characters whose look is determined based on their environments. That meant that when they interact, the animation styles needed to be slightly modified so that their juxtaposition is less jarring when they share the screen.

“If you look, for example, at the townspeople, they are kind of just an extension of the background. It was much easier to design them in that sense and use the background. That’s why they are much more stylized. Because their action was limited, we could go much more flat because they really didn’t need to move in the 3D space,” he said.

Moore explained the impetus of the story: “The oft-told tale is that Ross and I went for lunch at a veggie restaurant in Dublin and came up with the idea. The core of the idea is that someone who was a hunter could change and become so empathetically connected to the creature they were hunting, they would change sides. That was something we were passionate about, because we were passionate about animal rights and environmentalism.”

Watch IndieWire’s full conversation with the team in the video above. “Wolfwalkers” is now streaming on Apple TV+.

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