From “Song of the Sea” to “Wolf People”, the Irish cartoon bard

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(AFP) – In the Middle Ages, the Irish forests had their bards, today they have Tomm Moore. This director rose to recognition by revisiting Celtic folklore with three landmark animated films, all Oscar nominees.

Very far from the 3D animation and the virtual universes of Pixar, which blew him the statuette in 2020 “Soul”, Tomm Moore cultivates in his last work, “Le Peuple Loup”, its old-fashioned cartoon style, imbued with poetry and anchored in nature. His decorations, clever interlacing of geometric patterns, are very elaborate.

With the “Cartoon Studio” which he founded and which today employs in Ireland 250 people, “we are offering something different, hand-drawn. People are more and more nostalgic for these handcrafted things” while “the big studios have to sell objects, to do something that everyone loves “, tells the director, black beard and hair in ponytail, to AFP.

Once again, this pure Irishman, who grew up in Kilkenny, a medieval town in the south-east of the island, with its artistic director Ross Stewart draws on local folklore and pagan legends.

The film tells the friendship between two little girls that everything opposes: Robyn, daughter of a warrior employed by the English to eradicate the last pack of wolves that haunts the city, and Mebh, from a mythological tribe, the “wolf people”, whose the soul flies away to turn into a cani dice when they fall asleep.

Wild and free, Mebh, in search of his missing mother, lives in harmony with a nature threatened by men. Initiatory fable between medieval atmosphere and fantasy, the “Wolf People” shows the fusional friendship between these two girls, who will find a common goal: to save nature.

– “Children first” –

During colonization, “when the English decided to kill the wolves and cut down all the trees, the Irish were symbolically tamed”, says Tomm Moore. “We have lost our true connection to nature (in the same way that) so many ancient and indigenous traditions have been swept away” around the world.

The director cultivates the long time : the idea for the film was born thirteen years earlier, the script and the storyboard are the result of two years of work.

Obviously admirer of the legend of Japanese animation Hayao Miyazaki, he is also inspired by the latter’s compatriot, Isao Takahata, or the Frenchman Rémi Chayé (“Calamity”).

Poetics, “Brendan et le secret de Kells “(2009),” The Song of the Sea “(2014) and” The People wolves “do not mean to be naive. In “The Wolf People”, the little hero was replaced by a girl, to give a film “more feminist, almost a metaphor + queer + which came out of the cliché of love at first sight between a boy and a girl”, underlines- it.

Because the one who thinks “kid’s first” (“children first”) and slams certain independent films which “tend not to be fun” does not take its mission lightly: addressing the little ones “is a big responsibility”, some images will mark them for years.

With the Oscar nominations, the company of this young grandfather of 18, who had his first child at 18 years, took the fast lane, opening “the doors of Hollywood people who wanted to do things outside the system.”

“Cartoon Studio” is became a “world class” team for the British daily Guardian, when the Irish Independent described it as “David” against the “Goliaths” of animation, before the last Academy Awards.

After working with Salma Hayek (“The Prophet”) and Angelina Jolie (“Parvana, A Childhood in Afghanistan”), Tomm Moore is now thinking about a project around animal rights, with Joachim Phoenix and his partner Rooney Mara.

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