The fairly small-scale Irish animation production company Cartoon Saloon made a bit of a splash back in 2010 when their hugely impressive first feature film The Secret of Kells was nominated for an Academy Award, and with their latest effort they’ve stuck with the rich storytelling vein of Irish folk tales and created something even more accomplished – a moving, beautifully animated children’s story with all the right mixture of darkness, whimsy and timeless narrative devices that place it amongst the very best in its genre. Hollywood animation studios, even Pixar, could learn a lot from the craft, deep levels of human emotion and astonishing attention to detail on display here.

In fairness, this film contains more DNA from the work of Japanese genius Hayao Miyazaki, sharing his common themes of a female protagonist, the continued existence of ancient folk tales and the balance between humanity and nature. It feels as old as the fairy tales it frequently riffs from, a story that could be told in any time period, and while there is often a cheap look to low-budget hand-drawn animation, nothing could be further from the truth here – this has some of the most beautifully-constructed sequences the medium has ever seen. Above all else, it has a heart and soul so strong it’s almost tangible, marking this studio out as a powerhouse of creativity that should be closely monitored.

A small studio showing the big boys how it should be done9
Genuinely some of the best-looking hand-drawn animation you will ever see10
Managing to be timeless and universal, rather than revolving around modern pop culture9
Nailing the emotional impact that future-classic animation always seems to require9
Cartoon Saloon could well become the Irish Studio Ghibli9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
9Overall Score

2 Responses

  1. Anna

    It has beautiful hand Drawn animation which means no one will see it. It’s a shame that movies like this get pushed to the art house theaters and not the big ones.

  2. Romola Garai

    This looks absolutely stunning! I don’t think it has played in cinemas here – I’ve never heard of it before. I do want to see it though.


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