Placing distributor Apple TV+ in that race for the first time, the nom is a first for Moore’s longtime collaborator, Stewart. Moore, meanwhile, has just achieved a hat trick, having now scored Oscar nominations for each film in his ‘Irish Folklore Trilogy,’ which includes his two prior features, Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells.
For both Moore and Stewart, news of the nomination was a relief. “You don’t want to break the streak. I think everyone gave it 110%, all the crew that we worked with—our ‘wolf pack,’ as we call them,” said Moore. “So, I’m so happy that all their hard work has been recognized.”
“It’s a bit surreal,” added Stewart. “We were just praying for good news, and we got it.”
For both directors, it’s always great to see a small European studio like Wolfwalker’s Cartoon Saloon be recognized, alongside U.S. mainstays like Pixar. It’s also validating to see Hollywood continuing to embrace their distinctive work in hand-drawn animation. “It’s amazing. We’re a small studio in a small city in the middle of Ireland, and to be recognized by our peers in the main center of the industry is always very humbling,” Moore said. “It’s surreal and amazing, and you kind of forget that it’s crazy. It’s so unusual that this could have happened.”
Widely embraced throughout award season, the co-production between Cartoon Saloon and Melusine Productions has received many accolades prior to today’s announcement. Recently, the film established itself as a leader at the Annie Awards, with 10 nominations, matching those earned by Disney/Pixar’s Soul. The first animated film to win AFI Fest’s Audience Award, Wolfwalkers has also earned Best Animated Feature nominations from industry groups like BAFTA, the Producers Guild Awards, the Critics’ Choice Super Awards, and the Golden Globes.
Moore attributes some of the film’s resonance to the way in which its themes have aligned with events playing out on the world stage. “I think we’re all reconnecting with nature and are longing for the freedom that the characters in the movie are longing for, as well,” he said. “So, I think there’s some kind of connection in the timing of the pandemic, and all of the craziness of the last couple years, and the needs and wants of our main characters.”
Looking ahead, Moore and Stewart can’t say for sure whether or not they’ll reteam as directors on future projects. “You never know,” says Moore. “We wouldn’t say no, we wouldn’t say for sure.”
But with all the success the pair have seen together, another collaboration seems like a safe bet. “We haven’t really talked past Wolfwalkers, but Wolfwalkers worked out really well,” said Stewart. “We didn’t kill each other, and made a beautiful project together.”
For now, Stewart says he has committed himself to helping Cartoon Saloon through the pandemic, serving as “connective tissue between the different projects, and the different parts of the crew that are all working from home.” If either Moore or Stewart has another project lined up, they’re not speaking to it yet.
Released in theaters by GKIDS, Wolfwalkers is set in 1650, in the medieval Irish town of Kilkenny. Its protagonist, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), is an apprentice hunter, who journeys with her father from England to help take out a pack of wolves. Long confined by the Puritanical society in which she’s been raised, the girl experiences true freedom for the first time only when she befriends Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a girl from a mysterious tribe, which is said to transform into a pack of wolves by night.
Also featuring the voices of Simon McBurney, Sean Bean, Maria Doyle Kennedy and more, the film will return to theaters across North America, beginning Friday, March 19.
Wolfwalkers’ nom today is a historic 12th for GKIDS, also marking Cartoon Saloon’s fourth consecutive recognition by the Academy.
At this year’s Oscars, the pic will compete for Best Animated Feature against Soul (Disney/Pixar), Onward (Disney/Pixar), Over the Moon (Netflix), and A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Netflix/Aardman Animations).