The Secret of Kells, Blu-ray + DVD (2010)
Irish/French Animation feature
Voices: Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally, Christen Mooney
Director: Tomm Moore
Studio: FlatIron Film/New Video Group [10/5/10]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD 2.0
Extras: Audio commentary by director, co-director & art director; Voice recording sessions; Director’s presentation of pre-production sketches and inspirational images; Pencil to Picture; Early concept trailer; Theatrical trailer; Aisling at the Oscars
Length: 75 minutes
This is a simple, personal and stylized short animation feature that contrasts with the big Disney and Pixar productions. Its minimalistic style of art may remind some viewers of the Cartoon Network series Samurai Jack, with flat angular characters who move rather crudely – no rotoscoping here. The style is something more like Japanese ukiuoe paintings rather than either traditional animation or computerized animation. I was also occasionally reminded of UPA animation style. The Secret of Kells was actually nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars. Much of the visuals and designs are inspired by the actual 8th-century Book of Kells – considered the most important Irish national treasure. The beautiful graphics and art of the film will appeal to adults while the story is sure to capture the youngsters.
The plot is built around the serious situation in medieval times in Ireland when the raiding Vikings were about to destroy Irish civilization. Little 12-year-old Brendan’s parents had been killed by the Vikings and he lived within the walls of Kells monastery under the eye of his stern uncle, the Abbot. Another brother arrives at the monastery with an unfinished illuminated manuscript which represents enlightenment as the best force to deal with evil. Brendan wants to become an illuminator himself but his uncle won’t allow it and focuses all his attention on the building of a high wall around the monastery which he foolishly hopes will repel the invading Vikings.
Brendan wants to complete the book against the Abbot’s wishes and is aided by a silver-haired forest fairy named Aisling, as well as a helpful cat. He fights his fears and goes on a quest into the enchanted forest to gain the eye of “The Dark One” there, a magical eye which will make it possible to complete the manuscript. Eventually it is completed, or course, but only after a terrible attack by the Viking invaders, which is very sad to see.
The special animation style seems to be the top interest here. It is truly a work of art with its very rich decorations and vivid designs of the various characters. Sometimes it looks much like a graphic novel, with a triptych of three panels showing the passage of time, each with a character moving thru them. The artwork helps bring across the mix of Celtic mythology with Christian practice. It’s a shame this film didn’t get more exposure prior to the Oscars, and that it just now came out on Blu-ray, but I believe most viewers will find it well worth the wait.
– John Sunier