“Wolfwalkers” director Tomm Moore and co-director Ross Stewart joined Carlos Bustamante to talk about the making of their animated folklore feature film, which they finished off in quarantine to get it ready in time for its premiere at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.
The Irish filmmakers joined the Zoom interview virtually from Cartoon Saloon studios in Kilkenny, Ireland, where they also created Oscar-nominated folklore gems “The Secret Of Kells” in 2009 and “Song Of The Sea” in 2014. Now, “Wolfwalkers” joins the prior two films with a 2021 Oscar nod.
The third movie in their folklore trilogy, “Wolfwalkers”, delves into “a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn, comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mebh, their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transform her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Moore and Stewart told Carlos how they lucky they were to get the bulk of “Wolfwalkers” done before the global health crisis hit.
“The lockdown in Ireland happened at a kind of a convenient time,” said Stewart. “We had just finished recording the music, which wouldn’t have been able to happen if it was two weeks later. So we managed to get all the sound engineers into one space, and then the lockdown happened only weeks later.”
He continued, “So we were very lucky in that way. And then a lot of the departments that counted on teams working together in one place had just finished, so we were left with some effects and compositing, which meant that people could work from home. And a lot of the post production allowed people to work remotely… even in the final editing stages.”
But, Moore did say “animation is uniquely capable of moving to a work from home situation. It’s nobody’s preference, but it can happen… which is great.”
Having brought Oscar-nominated “The Breadwinner” to TIFF previously, Moore said it’s surreal having a virtual festival premiere for “Wolfwalkers”.
But he revealed he’s been enjoying seeing all of the online reaction to the movie: “I’m sitting on my couch, watching live with people commenting on Twitter. So, I’m kind of enjoying it actually. I’m not as nervous as I usually am when I’m there in person.”
Stewart added, laughing, “No tuxedos, no red carpet. But, it just means you can run around in your dressing room instead.”
Of course, TIFF 2017 welcomed Angelina Jolie and family to the festival to celebrate the debut of the film “The Breadwinner”, on which she served as a producer.
“The Breadwinner” is about a young girl in 2001, Afghanistan, under the control of the Taliban. The girl disguises herself as a boy to help provide for her family after her father is captured.
Like “The Breadwinner” and Cartoon Saloon’s animated features beforehand, “Wolfwalkers” has an important message for young people today.
“This time we wanted to speak to really relevant themes, like species extinction and wolves were purposely wiped out of Ireland,” said Moore. “It was almost a symbolic move by the English to try and wipe out the wolves.”
He continued, “So I thought it had, sadly a lot of resonance to today. But also, we thought that the story of friendship between the two little girls, that they were from such different points of view, diametrically opposed points of view that they were able to become friends across that divide was something important to talk about.”
Meanwhile, Stewart talked about how they used 2D to illustrate this story in such a powerful way: “The resurgence of 2D animation… allows you so much more freedom to explore them than if we were to use CGI tools.”
“I think you can see in our film, the way that maven wolves are drawn scratchy and alive and lots of energy in the lines,” he explained. “And then the townspeople who are trapped in Kilkenny, are very rigid blocky kind of lines. So it allows a real visual language to be explored.”
Now that the final film in Moore and Stewart’s folklore trilogy, “Wolfwalkers”, has been nominated for an Oscar like “Song Of The Sea” and “The Secret Of Kells” before it, Moore said he’s prepared if we’re still in a virtual setting.
“My wife has this red yoga mat,” he told Carlos. “So I’ve kind of already decided, I’ll wear an elastic waste-band for sure, but I’ll put out the red yoga mat and pretend it is a red carpet.”
“Wolfwalkers” is available now on Apple TV+.