From Wolfwalkers (2020), dir. Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart (image courtesy GKIDS)

The Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon made a name for itself over the past decade, establishing its own distinctive style with films like The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. The studio’s newest feature, Wolfwalkers, is its most ambitious yet, and pushes its artistry to new heights. Its sense of character expression and use of color and detail make it continually dazzling to watch.

Set in a fantastical version of Ireland in 1650, in the aftermath of Cromwell’s conquest of the island, Wolfwalkers follows Robyn, the brave daughter of an English hunter hired to clear out the pack of wolves preventing the town of Kilkenny from cutting down the nearby forest. Robyn soon discovers that the wolves are led by Mebh Óg MacTíre, a “wolfwalker” who is human during the day and becomes a wolf when she sleeps. When Robyn discovers that she too has become a wolfwalker, her loyalty is divided between the town and the woods. Similarly to many Studio Ghibli films, Wolfwalkers tells a fable about the conflict between human rapaciousness and the natural world, with additional subtext around the colonization of Ireland thrown in.

YouTube video

Wolfwalkers is available to stream on Apple TV+.

Dan Schindel is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Brooklyn, and a former associate editor at Hyperallergic. His portfolio and links are here.