The Other Side of Animation 196: Wolfwalkers Review

imageedit_1_5258732762.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

With everything that is going on in the year 2020, it does seem like foreign animated films are having a much harder time finding wider audiences. Even with film festivals going online, very few are being shown outside of their country of origin. From what I have seen, only a handful have been able to go online, due to probable legal shenanigans and not wanting to risk the film leaking online through piracy and whatnot. I get that, but it then makes the overall film year feel bone dry. No real news either has been announced for some of the other major foreign releases from last year, like Swallows of Kabul. People want to see these films, but due to the pandemic, and the legal complications of it all, the films are stuck in release/distribution limbo. So, when film festivals or distribution companies do make these films available to see for a wider audience, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it also gives financial support to the festivals, distributors, and studios. That’s why I was so excited to check out what is probably going to be the best animated film of 2020, Wolfwalkers

Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, written by Will Collins, and animated by the ever-amazing Cartoon Saloon, this is the newest film by Tomm Moore that made its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival 2020. It will soon be released on Apple TV+ and will have a limited theatrical release by GKIDS. So far, it has gotten critical acclaim, and it rightfully deserves it. Let’s bear our fangs and get right down to talk about this film. 

imageedit_5_9456241848.jpg

The story follows a young girl named Robyn Goodfellowe, voiced by Honor Kneafsey. She has moved from England to Ireland with her father Bill Goodfellowe, voiced by Sean Bean. Her father is a hunter for the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, voiced by Simon McBurney, who is the leader of the town in which the Goodfellowes live. The town is having a bit of a wolf problem that is preventing the town from chopping down the forest to, well, colonize the rest of the land. As Robyn follows her dad into the forest (against his request, of course), She encounters the pack of wolves that are led by a young girl who calls herself a Wolfwalker. Her name is Mebh MacTire, voiced by Eva Whittaker. 

imageedit_3_3217888691.jpg

I think it would be tough to talk about this movie without first talking about what might be some of the most visually stunning animation of 2020. Wolfwalkers is hands down, some of the prettiest 2D animation ever put to film. The fluidity of the movements, the designs, the colors, the rough 70s Disney/early Don Bluth is a sight to behold. I may have only been able to see this on a laptop, but it didn’t stop me from picking my jaw off the floor with how this film looked. It’s Cartoon Saloon’s most ambitious project in the art department. I love how the film uses rough sketchbook-looking characters, and they don’t clean it up at all. It gives the entire film a rough dirty look that matches the atmosphere and grunge of the period in which the film takes place. The film’s beautiful visuals are also executed perfectly, with quite wonderful editing and Samurai Jack-style split-screen effects to add tension and to enhance the emotional experience. Even the lighting in the animation makes everything look like it was animated on wood grain. It’s insane how visually stunning this film looks, and I just reviewed Children of the Sea, and this is on that level. 

The music is also wonderful as per usual. The team behind the music is the same team-up of Bruno Coulais and the folk group Kila, and to no shock at all, the music is fantastical, whimsical, atmospheric, elegant, energetic, and heavy when need be. On top of the amazing music, the voice cast is stellar. Besides the two lead actresses playing the, well, lead roles, Honor Kneafsey and Eva Whittaker, you also have the great Sean Bean, who is always fun to see in a film or show. You also have Maria Doyle Kennedy, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, John Morton, Jon Kenny, Oliver McGrath, Niamh Moyles, Sofia Coulais, and even Nora Twomey makes a cameo in the film. It’s a wonderful and lively cast. 

imageedit_7_3274483043.jpg

However, most of this film would fall flat without a good story, and to be frank, the story is great. While The Breadwinner is probably Cartoon Saloon’s darkest and most mature film story-wise, Wolfwalkers is up there in that same area. Seriously, this film tackles such themes as colonialism, environmentalism, sexism, freedom, family, discrimination, and you even see the villain use mass hysteria to get people on his side. None of these themes would work if the characters that encounter them weren’t great, and they are. Robyn and Mebh have fantastic chemistry and act like a real pair of sisters. It brings a lot of memories of My Neighbor Totoro, due to that film having sisters as the leads. Even Robyn’s father, Ben, is one of the better dads of animation. I know many “I have to protect my daughter” film dad tropes get tiring, annoying, and unintentionally creepy at points, but that’s not here in this film. Even the villain, while not the most original or three-dimensional, is extremely effective. He’s intense, intimidating, uses hysteria to get people on his side, and if need be, he can get off of his literal and metaphorical high horse and try to get the job done himself. The only one who doesn’t get to be fleshed out, and probably the film’s one nitpick is Mebh’s mom, but she turns out to be a sweet and caring individual and  make sure Robyn and Mebh are safe whenever she gets the chance to be onscreen. 

imageedit_9_7854556093.jpg

Anyway, Wolfwalkers is a masterpiece of animation and filmmaking. It’s hands down the best animated film of 2020, and the rest of the 2020 offerings need to step it up if they want to beat Apple TV+ and Cartoon Saloon’s film. Sadly, there are no release dates yet for the film on AppleTV+, but if you are okay enough to go to a theater (I wouldn’t personally go to one, but that’s just me), GKIDS will be distributing it through theaters in the US. Either way, see this film when it’s released. Now then, I think it’s time to review a very special screener. I can’t tell you what it is, but I bet you will all love the review!  

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

My Time at Annecy Online 2020

imageedit_15_3795399113.png

Well, Annecy 2020 Online has come and gone, and for the first time since I have been covering Annecy, I have been able to participate in it due to them moving the event online. Well, they moved a chunk of it online, but we will get to that when we get to it. 

Overall, I had a great time, since I can’t afford to fly to France and partake in the full event there. Plus, it going online means it was more widely available to the mass public! So, what was my takeaway from Annecy 2020 Online? What would I say were the pros and cons of the overall online experience? Well, I have made a list of thoughts in no particular order. 

PRO: Making it more approachable and accessible to the public. 

imageedit_21_5390239472.jpg

I mean, it’s not like this wasn’t possible, but unless you lived in France, you had to pay out the wazoo to get a ticket to there, buy a pass, and then hotel and food budgets as well. It’s a little disappointing that it took a deadly pandemic for them to finally make it available online. I know there were probably some major legal and distribution issues to take care of to make it possible, but film festivals like Annecy should be open to anyone who wants to get into animation, and moving it online helps! Anyone who wants to check out what the foreign animation side has going on can now get a sneak peek or viewing of what might come over to the states and everywhere else. 

CON: The Extracts

imageedit_19_4428924340.jpg

Listen, I get it. Moving the festival online must have had a giant stack of legal and distribution papers to go through to make it possible, but I think there is something crummy when a lot of the films that most animation fans and critics wanted to see in full, were not widely available! Yeah, unless you were the Jury and Judges of the festival, not every feature film was available to watch in full. What also makes this a fumble is that the films people wanted to see, only had either behind-the-scenes production videos or up to 13 minutes of footage. Okay, so the rest of the films were fully watchable, yes? Well, yeah they were, but they were probably the films you weren’t interested in, and are now a Russian roulette of quality. 

Sure, sometimes going into the unknown is exciting and can result in some great experiences, but if you were someone hoping to see the new CGI Lupin the 3rd film, would you rather watch that or some slow personal pet project by an artist that you are not going to gel with? It’s like why bother opening it up to the public when the public isn’t allowed to watch all of the films. It also makes it frustrating since one of the films in the main category, Jungle Beat: The Movie was going to be widely available during the second week of the festival! That means its placement here feels cynical and more of a marketing stunt. If this was a price thing, I would have been happy to pay more than $16 to see the full films! 

Also, as a side note, Beauty Water had the worst extract, because it was a supercut of the entire plot! Why should I see the movie now?

PRO: Work-in-Progress section 

imageedit_5_4293383568.jpg

Honestly, the reason why I don’t look at the animation fandom with much praise is that a lot of the loudest individuals tend to be fairly unintelligent individuals who don’t care or want to learn about the behind-the-scenes, or the actual work, and the number of people that goes into making animated movies. They like to trade education for unintelligible snark and ignorance. This one category was probably my favorite part of the entire festival. Getting to see what went into making an animated film or TV show was wildly educational! I mean, you can’t get much more educated about an upcoming animated film than by the creators that are working on it! Granted, I wish some had more footage to look at, but, well, they are works in progress for a reason. 

CON: Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds‘ release date. 

imageedit_7_2983224643.jpg

This one isn’t that big of a deal, but it was disheartening to hear that films like Sirocco and the Kingdoms of the Winds would not be out by this point in time. It’s just me being greedy, because you see the trailer, and it looks amazing, and then become disappointed when its release is two years from now in 2022. 

Real CON: Some Work-in-Progress videos were lacking 

imageedit_9_2820499605.jpg

The real issue I had with this category of the festival was that there wasn’t much to see in some films. Some of them were even just the trailers that we saw a few months back. Like, they were a bit too early to show off for their own good, but even then, there was a lot of promise. 

PRO: Old Man the Movie

imageedit_27_6664996884.jpg

In the end, I don’t know if I would consider this a great movie due to how all over the place the tone was, but man, did I enjoy it more than the more artful-driven films at the festival. I don’t think I laughed this hard at an animated film since The Willoughbys this year. It’s too adult for kids, and too juvenile for adults, but it’s an experience you will never forget. 

PRO: Mosley

imageedit_17_9833817950.jpg

Probably one of the biggest surprises of the festival was being able to watch this movie, and while I wasn’t able to fully watch it during the festival time, I caught it elsewhere, and it was way better than most of the fully viewable films at the festival. It feels like an 80s film pulled from the sands of time in terms of its tone, pacing, and themes. It’s not perfect, but I highly recommend people check this film out if it ever gets a proper US release. 

PRO: Connected Preview

imageedit_29_7423079762.jpg

Being able to see a snippet of a highly anticipated animated film is just a delightful treat. I feel like people are sleeping on Connected as it’s coming off like a sleeper hit of 2020. It’s look into the animation process, the production, and learning about the inspiration for the story and characters, made for quite a delightful preview 

CON: Lava 

imageedit_11_2338948110.jpg

Lava is a film I feel like could only be shown at a festival, and nowhere else. If it ended up on YouTube or had some theatrical release here in the states, it would get turned into the next punchline. Not that it didn’t have any real promising ideas, but on top of unlikeable characters, the animation was downright ugly. It looked like super early 2000s flash animation. If you want to be alongside the big kid animated films at the festival, then you are going to get judged like a big kid, and to be frank, Lava was not good. 

CON: Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Water Rebus 

imageedit_3_4060649563.jpg

How the heck did this film count as animation? I know it’s the Contrechamp category, but it barely counts as animation with mostly filters and just enough rotoscope to be “animated”. It was also wildly boring and possibly the worst of the fully watchable films. If I can’t follow the plot, and I had to find some kind of plot summary online, then your movie failed in one of the most important aspects of storytelling. Again, just like Lava, how did this film get on here when there were supposedly 76 films that were submitted? What made this one stand out from the rest? Was it because it was more artistically driven? Well, okay, but it made for a slog of a film to sit through. 

PRO: To: Gerard 

imageedit_25_6336952359.jpg

Probably my favorite animated short of the bunch and one of the few US short films to be at Annecy this year was this new one by DreamWorks Animation. It showed a much more wholesome and heartfelt side of a studio mostly known for snarky comedies. It was a cute short about bringing magic to three different generations of people. I hope DreamWorks makes this short widely available to watch soon, because everyone should watch it, and I hope DreamWorks can bring the charm and heart from this short to their main film line-up. 

PRO: The Town 

imageedit_23_6605540043.png

Another highlight of the shorts was The Town, a Chinese short by a first-time director that was pretty much the premise of a Twilight Zone or Black Mirror episode about a city that’s population’s entire future is reliant on getting a certain surgery done. It’s a creepy and poignant short that warrants the commentary about living in a society and being an individual. I hope it can be made available soon, because it’s also one of the best-animated shorts that I could watch from the festival. 

CON: Running on French time

imageedit_1_7763707263.jpg

Yeah, this is a real minor criticism, but due to the different time zones, the festival ended on the same day here as there, but I wish I could have gotten a few more hours to watch some of the other shorts, master classes, and making of sections. 

CON: The site could have been better set up

imageedit_13_2672986315.jpg

While I think the site was well designed, there were some aspects that were a bit tedious to go through. For example, due to how many shorts there were, they were all put into sections of 8 or so shorts each. It made finding specific shorts, previews, and specials more cumbersome to get to and enjoy, because I had to dig through different sections to find them.

In general, as I said above, I did love my time with Annecy Online, and I hope that they can do this again with having both the live version and the online version. It pulled in over 15K people. You can’t tell me that isn’t some kind of positive incentive to do it again. Still, I hope more people get to try and enjoy Annecy Online in 2021

Animation Tidbits #2: What’s Cam Looking Forward To? 5/5/17

coco01

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

So, in my personal life, I love to make emails about a bunch of upcoming films for my family, who may or may not know much about what’s coming out. I recently did an email with all the upcoming animated films that are being released here in the states or somewhere around the world where I hope they get a stateside release. I decided to make a series of Animation Tidbits, where I show off some trailers or clips of upcoming animated films that have caught my eye. Now, some of these are already well known, but I’m sure many people have not heard of many of the films listed in this editorial. Let’s get started.

Early Man 

Up first is the trailer for Nick Park’s newest stop-motion feature, Early Man. I mean, I love Aardman Entertainment and all of their films. I don’t see why I shouldn’t be up for this one. While I don’t usually get super-hyped for big-named cast members in general anymore, I think Early Man has an incredible cast, including Tom Hiddleston (Marvel films, The Night Manager), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Timothy Spall (The Last Samurai, Enchanted, and Sweeney Todd), and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones). Unfortunately, I have to wait until 2018 for this promising flick.

Coco

While Cars 3 doesn’t technically look terrible, and it does seem like Pixar wants to make a good movie from this flawed and merchandise-spewing trilogy, Pixar’s original film is what I’m looking forward to more. Yes, it’s another animated film based on Day of the Dead, and I do know the pointless turf war Coco fans and The Book of Life fans brought up with each other on Twitter with the two films’ directors, but it’s Pixar. I know their recent track record has been bumpy, but I usually feel like I can be excited and love their original content. The voice cast for this film is also pretty stellar with Benjamin Bratt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Renee Victor, and newcomer Anthony Gonzalez. Hopefully, this becomes another great original film in Pixar’s line up.

Wolfwalkers

I’m patiently waiting (badly) to hear a release date, and for GKids to pick this film up. Wolfwalkers is the next film by two-time Oscar-nominated director Tomm Moore, who was the director of Song of the Sea, and The Secret of Kells. The animation looks beautiful, you can sense and feel the atmosphere and Irish cultural elements, and it’s a downright gorgeous 2D animated film. I do wish the movie-going world would give this director and the super talented team at Cartoon Saloon a lot of support.

Gatta Cenerentola

Or as it’s known in English, Cat Cinderella. This is the first obscure film that I hope gets an English release. It’s an Italian CGI animated film, using mostly motion-capture for the animation. It’s a modern dark take on the Cinderella story, and it looks amazing. I know the movements can come off as clunky, since motion-capture can be finicky if not done correctly, but I think the tone, setting, and the idea will elevate it. Plus, it has a gorgeous art style, and I could listen to that song in the trailer all day.

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

If you watched the amazing Ernest & Celestine, the art style should look familiar to you, since one of the directors of the film, Benjamin Renner is behind this film. It’s based off of his comic, and while the trailer is in French, you can pretty much understand what is going on. It has good animation, a great sense of humor, and it’s just adorable. Hopefully, GKids can pick this one up.

Calamity

One of my favorite films from last year was the French film, Long Way North. While I think it went under the radar way too much last year, the same group that made Long Way North are back with another female lead-driven film. While it might be based on the historical figure, Calamity Jane, the filmmakers are taking on the character in their own story. I know that might be a bad idea in some cases, but Long Way North was so fantastic, and these guys know what they are doing.

 Icarus

While I love a lot of the films on this list, I think Icarus has me the most excited in terms of the setting. It’s a mixed-media animated film, using CGI and beautiful 2D animation. It makes the three Greek Gods, Zeus, Poseidon, and Aphrodite not just Gods, but Newspaper Journalist Gods as they try to weave interesting tales out of Greek Mythology for the paper. First off, the idea itself is awesome. I could see a lot of commentary about journalistic integrity, and how a lot of sites like to use clickbait-style headlines for not very interesting stories. I also love the combination of CGI and the lovely 2D animation. You just watch the trailer, and you get a lot of great visual eye candy. It also helps that there is a Pixar Veteran directing the film named Carlos Volgele. I just love the idea, and I definitely want GKids or Shout! Factory to bring it over.

Well, there you have it. These are the animated films that I am looking forward to at this point in time. I will do these from time to time when I find enough films to warrant a list like this, but do expect more of these. I might do these more so than a “Most Anticipated Films of –insert year here-“lists. Thanks for reading, and I hope you all have a good day!