Spoiler-Free Thoughts on “Wolfwalkers”

When I say, “animated movie about Celtic folklore”, what’s the first movie that comes to your mind? Can’t think of one? Well, today I’m here to tell you about one that you can add to that sparse list!

Athena ScalziWolfwalkers, directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, is the newest and final addition to Moore’s “Irish Folklore Trilogy” of animated films. Though Wolfwalkers is technically connected to The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, you can watch them all independently of each other.

Which is good news for me, considering I have only seen The Secret of Kells and it was around a decade ago that I watched it, so I don’t remember too much. The one thing that stuck with me throughout the years, was the animation style. It was so beautiful and unique. When I saw that same animation style in a movie on Netflix back in 2017, I was thrilled to see another movie by the same person, that being The Breadwinner. Another amazing movie with incredible animation and story.

Fast forward to three years later, you can imagine my surprise when I saw Apple TV+ advertising a new original movie of theirs, with that same wonderful animation. I was enthralled. Upon seeing the trailer, I knew I had to see Wolfwalkers, because if it was anything like the other two I’d seen, it was going to be beautiful, in so many different ways.

As I just mentioned, Wolfwalkers is an Apple TV+ exclusive/original, and not a lot of people have or use Apple TV+. Due to the lack of accessibility to this movie, I’ve decided to keep this post spoiler-free. That being said, I will go ahead and tell you what it is generally about, without revealing too much of what happens. So if you want to stay totally in the dark about this movie, read no further, just know that I highly recommend this movie and think you should so totally watch it.

Wolfwalkers is about a girl named Robyn that wants to be a hunter, like her father. She sneaks out of the walled city she resides in and goes out to the woods, in an attempt to find some wolves to kill. There she encounters Mebh, a Wolfwalker girl. Their worlds collide and Robyn reevaluates everything she thought about wolves, and tries to help Mebh stop the townspeople from destroying their woods.

Before this movie, I had never heard of a Wolfwalker before. If I’m honest, I don’t really know anything about Celtic folklore, so this was an entirely new thing to me. I thought they’d be like werewolves, but they’re totally their own thing, and it’s a really awesome concept.

This movie not only encapsulates the beauty of the wild and the forest, but shows the brutality and ugliness of what “civilization” can be. It reminds the viewer that cities weren’t always here, they were made through deforestation and the sacrifice of animals and the displacement of their homes.

Wolfwalkers explores independence, rebellion, friendship, trust, betrayal, habitat loss, deforestation, colonization, and more. It’s a beautiful story of self-discovery and acceptance, with intriguing characters and stunning 2D animation that makes it all look hand drawn. Sometimes there are sketchy lines, and sometimes the color goes outside the lines, but all these “imperfect” things make it so wonderful.

This is truly a perfect work of art. An absolutely astounding movie that deserves every bit of praise it has gotten. Not only does it have a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience score for it is a perfect 100%. Wolfwalkers also won Best Animated Film from several film critic associations, such as Chicago Film Critics Association, Columbus Film Critics Association, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, New Mexico Film Critics Awards, and New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

I honestly believe it deserves an Oscar. And I believe you should totally watch it! It is well worth two hours of your time. It is sad though that not more people can see it, due to it being an Apple TV+ exclusive. Ninety percent of Apple customers don’t use their free year of Apple TV+; I know I certainly wasn’t. If you’re among this ninety percent, I highly recommend that Wolfwalkers be the first thing you watch on it!

If you’ve seen this absolute gem of a movie, let me know your thoughts on it in the comments! Or if you’ve seen any of the other movies by Tomm Moore, I’d love to know how you thought they stacked up against this one. And as always, have a great day!


17 Comments on “Spoiler-Free Thoughts on “Wolfwalkers””

  1. In total agreement, Athena. Everything about this animation worked for me. The artistry is beautiful, even when execution chosen is more of sketched hints.

  2. Everything I’ve heard about WOLFWALKERS pretty much agrees with your take. Even people who are normally hardcore Pixar lovers think this is the animated feature to beat this year….

  3. How things change. When I was 11 or 12 (1960s) I saw a movie on TV called Pinocchio in Outer Space. I only saw it once and didn’t remember much about it except Pinocchio in a whale’s mouth.

    Fast forward to the 80s, I’m writing 8086 assembly language and stumble upon this thing called Usenet. I asked about PiOS, best replies I got was it was a dream.

    90s. Now Usenet is really getting to be a thing and I was pretty active on it. Asked about PiOS, crickets

    2-3 years ago. I now have a Plex server and am pretty good at, um, finding stuff. Found a copy of PiOS. Watched it.

    Or tried to. It was bad. Really bad. It also had a wiki entry which basically said it was really bad.

    The moral? Don’t bother tracking this movie down, it’s bad. And it’s amazeballs how things have changed in the past 30 years, let alone my lifetime (remember, I’m older than your dad)

  4. The trailer for Wolfwalkers was where my very, very, very late to the game self first heard and fell in love with Running With the Wolves, and more generally Aurora. (I know, very late.) I fell in love with this song so hard.

  5. I recently watched Wolfwalkers and agree that it’s visually spectacular. I particularly loved the view from the forest down into the city, with the city portrayed as a vertical wall. My only critique of the movie is that I don’t think it understood its audience. My daughter and I both found Robyn and her father’s motivations so flat and robotic as to be annoying. I highly recommend you watch “Song of the Sea,” it had just as much visual style and a bit more robust plot.

  6. Even as a real animation fan, I’m not sure how the trailer for The Secret of Kells got onto my radar so firmly so early – the beginning of 2009 – but even that little sample just about knocked me down. I saw the film as soon as I could that summer, and enjoyed it immensely. I’m so glad that Moore and company have kept making these gorgeous films. They’re as ethereal and polished as mysterious jewels. Nothing else quite like these out there.

  7. It looks very pretty! If it’s ever available on a non-Apple platform i’ll definitely check it out!

  8. I saw the preview image on the tweet and immediately knew who the filmmakers were… I had not been aware of it, and I’m super exited to see it!

  9. The New Yorker of 11 Dec 2020 has a nice story on the animation studio (in rural Ireland) that produced this film.

  10. @Donaithnen (and anyone else who might be confused by this): the movie is available on Apple TV+, which despite being from Apple does not require any Apple hardware to watch. There are Apple TV+ apps available for Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony TVs, Playstations, Xboxes, Rokus, and Fire TVs, and you can watch it on the web.

    If you do buy some kind of Apple device, you get TV+ for a year; otherwise, it’s only a 7-day free trial, but that’s at least long enough to watch “Wolfwalkers.” (Personally, I would also suggest watching “Ted Lasso” while you’re there.)

  11. I’ve studied various branches of Celtic folklore and mythology for years, and I’ve never heard of “wolfwalkers”. Animal transformation stories are common, but they don’t involve wolves — the sole example I can think of is Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, who spent one year each as pigs, wolves, and deer, as punishment for a rape.

    I suspect that part of the alleged background is modern fantasy trends passed off as “folklore”.

    It’s a pity. There are so many actual stories in the mythology, and it would be nice to see them used, instead of rehashing whatever’s fashionable.

  12. Another film (a bit before your time) based on Irish folklore: The Secret of Roan Innish, 1984. Not sure whether the URL will cause trouble, but WikiPedia has an entry with the title as above.

  13. Got to see this in a theatre during its brief release window in Ontario (don’t worry, we were the only ones there…).

    Absolutely gorgeous on the big screen. But if you can’t see it that way, see it any way you can. The Toronto Animation Arts Festival (TAAFI) had a nice presentation about the film that may come available at some point.

  14. I refuse to join any more general-purpose streaming services. Hopefully it’ll become widely available sometime in the future, because it looks amazing.

  15. I’m so looking forward to Wolfwalkers! I loved The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea so much. I would love to see Tomm Moore/Cartoon Saloon do The Dark Is Rising; it would righteously obliterate the crap live-action version of the story that came out some years ago.

    Beth, perhaps Moore drew on the “Werewolves of Ossory” legends (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werewolves_of_Ossory)…