Best Animated Film

Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart

Faeries and selkies, magical mentors and mystic monastics: Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated films The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea explore Celtic mythology and Irish legend with rare sensitivity and evident delight. With Wolfwalkers, the final installment in this “folklore trilogy,” Moore and his creative team, including co-director Ross Stewart and Song of the Sea screenwriter Will Collins, have crafted a gorgeously immersive and irresistibly engaging film that’s perhaps the finest animated feature yet to emerge from Moore’s Kilkenny, Ireland-based Cartoon Saloon studio.

Set during the turbulent 17th-century Cromwellian subjugation of Ireland, Wolfwalkers centers on young English immigrant Robyn Goodfellowe (voiced by rising British actress Honor Kneafsey) and her encounters with wild child Mebh Óg MacTíre (Eva Whittaker), a shape-shifting forest denizen capable of transforming into a wolf while she sleeps. Together the girls strive to prevent Robyn’s father Bill (Sean Bean), a hunter bound in service to Kilkenny’s colonialist Lord Protector (Simon McBurney), from exterminating the remaining wolves inhabiting the surrounding woodlands.

Bursting with adventure and shot through with playful humor, Wolfwalkers consistently over-delivers, propelling Robyn and Mebh headlong toward their shared destiny as they set out to protect the wolfpack at any cost. With its finely detailed, hand-drawn style, Moore’s naturalistic feature further elaborates his favored 2D animation and graphic-novel techniques throughout a coming-of-age tale that interprets anime’s magical-girl motifs as fluently as the tropes of Irish folklore. This nimble fluidity also enables the filmmakers to seamlessly integrate themes of personal empowerment, wildlife diversity and decolonization to energetic effect.

Wolfwalkers exuberantly celebrates this finely attuned confluence of cultural references, along with an ever-inventive visual style and an unfailing affinity for family entertainment — all attributes characteristic of one of the animation world’s foremost creative teams.

— Justin Lowe