Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rte Christmas day

This Christmas day just after your dinner
you cab settle down and watch The Secret of Kells
on RTE.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Present idea!
Why not buy a DVD from our online shop?
I will do you a little painting and dedicate it to you or whoever you want.
We can source US , French, Flemish or Australian versions of the DVD as well as the Irish version if there is a demand for them!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Home again

Thanks to everyone who came to our screenngs n Tokyo , always glad to see
a full house!
The supefans who already knew about the film
were such a boost! Thank you all for coming and waiting to chat.

I had time too for a lovely visit to the ghibli museum and
to see some of Tokyo... An amazing place!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Osaka Screening Sold out

Hooray, thanks all who came along! The signing session was fun too, lovely to meet you all.
I was impressed with how many people had already heard of our film, especially the guy who had bought
the book from France!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Japanese Screenings

Well here I am with young Ben in Osaka Japan. We have some screenings here as part of the European Film festival. We've never been to Japan before it was as amazing and overwhelming as I expected yesterday , walking around with jetlag!
Luckily we hooked up with an old Ballyfermot college pal - Dave "Yer man in Japan" McDermott who was a able to give us a fascinating insight into the place as we walked around the Osaka castle and city centre.
He is a fluent speaker of Japanese and  had an interesting insight into the difference between cultures because of language. He feels Japanese people think much more visually because their language is pictorial . It would explain the fact that comics and animation are so much more part of mainstream culture here .

We have the first Japanese screening that I've been aware of today, I hope we get a good crowd and that they enjoy the film. Having been compared to Japanese animation so often in the States it will be interesting to see what Anime fans make of it here!

Friday, November 12, 2010

If there were no books....

All knowledge would be lost for eternity.

heres Kilkenny county library mobile unit , bringing books to the they may have hope.
and its got a nice decoration on it now too ;)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy halloween

My thanks to Jamie and Rodolphe for showing me this cool Aisling Pumpkin . I think its from a pumpkin carving show in Dreamworks.

Aisling in Empires Top 50

 Just found out that Aisling made Empires Top 50 animated characters list! :)

 The nice thing about the list is teh artwork they used to illustrate it is often not screenshots.
Coraline is represented by a modelsheet drawing by Shane Prigmore for example
and Aisling has a nice rough modelsheet drawn by Barry Reynolds.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Thief line tests

Well new to me anyway. This stuff blew my mind in college. Still does.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Two years!

Since we wrapped and still I'm enjoying Reading reviews abd tweets, blogs and
mentions from people discovering thus film fir the first time.
I bought empire yesteday and there was the review on paper in the magazine
I always read.And The DVD release in the uk is very soon actually.
I think the us DVD bluray and especially netflix (number one for instant streaming the day it was released!)release has allowed more people
than ever before see the film. That's what it's all about really.
It was slow to finance, slow to make and slow to find a large audience but I feel like we are getting there the same way , slow and steady. Maybe it's good this way , it all lasts longer and doesn't fizzle out so fast.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back on the auld sod

Many thanks to everyone in sf Portland and NYC who cane along to the screenings and the panel in nycomicon ! I had a great time ,but glad to be home.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

NY ComicCon

Wow an amazing day , I have never been to a ComicCon on that scale before. Its quite surreal and intense.
Thousands and thousands of serious comics, anime and cartoon fans in all sorts of get ups.
If any of you readers are here in NYC tmrw please do come along to our panel and we'll be selling comics, books and DVDs afterward with sketches too!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Uk website

UK reviews

Hey there,

I agree with those of you who contacted me saying they felt the movie was not "strictly for kids" kind of a strange review, although positive they seemed to miss some of the denser layers of meaning I guess.
Anyway I'm still pretty happy with the general press response in the UK. A friend told me yesterday that theres something in Sight and Sound this month too, so I'm looking forward to picking up a copy of that too when I get home.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Uk poster

And don't forget to if your in the US you can buy the DVd or bluray in your local Target, Best Buy or Barnes and Noble tommorow!

Uk reviews summary

October 01, 2010, Daily Mirror - Ticket, David Edwards, 4 star review

“Old school and proud of it, it's no surprise this toon earned an Oscar nomination earlier in the year...Strike a blow for tradition and see it”

October 01, 2010, The Times - Arts and Entertainment, Kate Muir, 4 star review

"...THE SECRET OF KELLS is a hand-drawn Celtic extravaganza....Take a child to see the inspiring KELLS rather than Garfield's Pet Force 3D"

October 01, 2010, The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw – 3 star review

“A low key pleasure.”

October 01, 2010, Daily Telegraph, Tim Robey, 4 star review

"...The look of the film is simply ravishing. The highly stylised images...are all realised with a gorgeous intricacy".

October 01, 2010, Daily Star - Big Screen, Alan Frank, 6/10

"This Irish animated feature looks great. But it's strictly for kids"

October 01, 2010, Metro - Life, Angie Errigo, 3 Stars

"The artistry is beautiful, the tale of courageous quest affecting. But children addicted to showier...3D might chafe at something of subtler (although frequently scary) style"

Fri 1st, The Evening Standard, 3 star review

“It is the original animation that draws you into the film which parents may take their children to without fear of adult boredom.”

Sat 2nd, The Times, Kate Muir 4 star review

“A compelling animated film for children – and an artistic delight for adults.”

Sat 2nd, The Guardian (Guide), “Out Now”

“Irish animation whose vibrant, intricate aesthetic is in tune with its monks and illuminated manuscripts.”

Sat 2nd, The Daily Telegraph (Review), Tim Robey 4 star review

“Intricately gorgeously drawn, the story of Ireland’s medieval Book of Kells is a complete and magical delight.”

Sun 3rd, The Sunday Times (Culture), 3 star review

“It’s handsomely done and serves a decent story.”

Sun 3rd, The Sunday Telegraph (Seven), Jenny McCartney – 4 star review

“The quirky style of animation echoes the drawings and calligraphy of the Book of Kells itself, while the mesmeric tale weaves myth and magic together with the historical miracle of the book’s own survival through fierce and freezing times.”

Sun 3rd, The Observer (Review), Philip French – no star rating

“It’s about the creation of that which endures and asserts both man’s faith in the spirit and his celebration of the beauty of this world.”

Sun 3rd, Mail on Sunday, Jason Solomons 3 star review

“The story is certainly enchanting and should appeal to smart children.”

Sun 3rd, The Independent on Sunday, Nicholas Barber - no star rating

“The film is still a treat, thanks to its stylised, kaleidoscopic artwork.”

US DVD release

Check out the Kells graphic novels on line at comixology -

I also saw a cool Secret of Kells viewmaster today in the offices of New Video our DVD distributors.
I'm looking forward to the panel at the NY ComicCon this weekend .

Mr.David O'Reilly just buzzed into NYC tonight too, looking forward to hooking up with the original inspiration for Brendan's design in person again .

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Noo yawk noo yawk

Saturday & Sunday, Oct 2 & 3 at 11am
IFC Center, 323 6th Ave (at West 3rd Street)
Q&A with Tomm Moore(me!) and free Kells DVD for every household!

Advance tickets are strongly recommended,
and available from

UK screening info

ABC Widgets

Secret of Kells Screenings, UK

To all our friends in the UK -
The Secret of Kells goes on release in select cinemas across the UK this weekend with Optimum Releasing.
We hope you can check it out.... of course if you can't check it out, please tell someone to go instead of you!
The roll out for the Secret of Kells is as follows
October 3rd
Everyman Theatre, Belsize Park
Ritzy Theatre, Brixton
Picture House Theatre, Greenwich
Curzon Theatre, Wimbledon
Picture House Theatre, Clapham
Regal Theatre, Henley On Thames
Screen Theatre, Oxted
Screen Theatre, Reigate
Picture House Theatre, Stratford East
Picture House Theatre, Bury St Edmunds
Arts Theatre, Cambridge
Phoenix Theatre, Oxford
Picture House Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon
Picture House Theatre,  Liverpool
Scala Theatre, Prestatyn
Little Theatre, Bath
Screen Theatre, Winchester
Cityscreen Cinema, Newcastle Tyneside
Picture House Theatre, York
Belmont Theatre, Aberdeen
October 8th
Glasgow Film Theatre
Edinburgh Filmhouse
Newcastle Tyneside
October 22nd
Aldeburgh Cinema
Newcastle Tyneside
Lexi Cinema
November 5th
South Holland Arts Centre, Spalding
November 12th
Courtyard Hereford
Cube Bristol
Watermans Brentford

Empire review :) five stars!

One of the things that’s magical about Miyazaki’s strange fables is the fact that they are so rooted in Japanese myth and mindset, and so – for Westerners – offer an insight into an alien culture that’s endlessly fascinating. This 2010 Oscar-nominated cartoon from director Tomm Moore accomplishes a similar feat, nailing the peculiarities of Irish culture in a way that puts it alongside The Field and The Commitments on the short list of films that neither stereotype nor patronise the country.

The plot – concerning the creation of The Book Of Kells, the astonishing illuminated Bible that is a treasure of the nation and a masterpiece of medieval art – mixes Christianity and paganism in a way that might seem out of place anywhere but Ireland, where devout belief and fathomless superstition have always co-existed. Young Brendan (Evan McGuire), who leaves the safety of his monastery home to brave the wild woods in search of the berries and creatures needed to create ink for the Book, meets mischievous sprite Aisling (Christen Mooney) but also the more sinister ancient gods and the threat of Viking invaders after the monastery’s treasures.

Also typically of Ireland, much of the film’s conflict comes from within the community, with stern Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) clashing with the more free-wheeling Brother Aidan (Mick Lally). The former’s determined to focus on the abbey’s defences, while the latter keeps his focus on the art of illumination. And the art is astonishing – real snippets from the Book are shown, and its motifs and themes echo through the film in tiny details, especially in the scenes where Aisling introduces Brendan to the glories of the forest. In contrast, the Viking invaders are drawn in slashes of smoky black and blood red, quick touches of CG enhancing their sense of invasion, of otherness.

Brendan’s quest mixes absurd humour and adventure, naïve art and intricate detail, in a way that could seem haphazard or chaotic but which is rigorously thought out – even in the traumatic detail of a climactic Viking attack. The result is a story that will enchant children but also offer something fresh and exciting for adults, the closest thing we’ve seen to a European Miyazaki movie.

Unlike anything else you’ve seen, and very much worth seeking out, this is a unique and beautiful creation.

Reviewer: Helen O'Hara

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

the journey continues

i continue to be amazed at the travel oppurtunities i'm getting as as result of making a film - and we wrapped more than two years ago!
The Uk release is just starting in cinemas - check out the Cambridge Film festival this Sunday and then around the Uk plus I'm looking forward to seing this months issue of Empire and Total Film - just being mentioned in there as a new release is going to be a kick.
This Saturday I start a whirlwind promo tour for the DVD and bluray - beginning in San Fran with some school visits and the Film Festival screening then onto Portland for a screening there after its amazingly long run in that hipster haven, and then onto Ny for the ComicCon.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Remi Chaye

Just checked out Remi Chaye's sketch blog from Mongolia.
Of all the amazing draughtsmen who I had the privilege to work with on Kells I think Remi
may have been the most unsung (and underutilized) hero.
He did plenty of beautiful storyboards and layouts but sadly spent
most of his time doing Excel sheets and tracking the production.

I urge one and all who wander this way to go check his amazing drawing skills.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mick Lally recording Brother Aidan

Heres some nice footage of the late Mick Lally recording some lines from The Secret of Kells as Brother Aidan,
many thanks to screenwriter Fabrice Ziolkowski for providing the footage.

UK release October 1st 2010

Cambridge film festival 26th Sept is screening Kells just ahead of the Uk release....

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Thanks "Christine" for highlighting this cool cosplay and toy work based on Aisling and Pangur Ban!
Kudos to the lady who did these :)

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Big thanks to all in Slovenia who made the premiere there such a success,
especially the very hard working and dedicated team of Rok,ursca and igor .
I had a lovely time , love Ljubljana a beautiful city and
it was pretty amazing to even be a guest if honour at the residence of the
Irish ambassador to Slovenia .

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Back from brazil since sunday who woulda thunk making a cartoon would lead to dinner innthe house of the Irish ambasador to Slovenia? Mad . Good to see igor again I have a sketch of him somewhere of him in conversation at Zagreb 2009! It's all good .

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mick Lally

Just got the very sad news of the passing of Mick Lally, our thoughts are with his family.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Great article

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Interesting discussion

just wanted to thank Robert t for pointing out this interesting
discussion going on about kells on this site .
He posted other links in the comments to the last post.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cosplay aisling Paul found online

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Andmapsandplans excellent video for Jennifer Evans


Whats this got to do with The Secret of Kells? well both the director/designer/animators of this video are artists who worked on Kells and will be on Song of the Sea too.
Alan Holly and Adrien Merigeau are "Andmapsandplans".
And  they are cool cats.
And you should watch it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Thanks Robert T!

"The Andreadis Unibrow Theory of Art" by Athena Andreadis, Ph.D., posted on May 5, 2010 06:12 PM

Friday, July 23, 2010

Spanish Interviews

Did some interviews with Spanish press for the upcoming Spanish release of Kells in August today
Watch out for it in Spain folks!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Musical memories

Reminiscing with colm from kila about the recording
session with Bruno coulais in Sligo

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Song of the Sea blog

sorry folks but for now the Song of the Sea blog will be off limits .
Once the finance is locked and we begin production we will unlock it but until then the info is sensitive.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

US Blu Ray + DVD on the way this October!

With free prequel comic in the Blu Ray box!
this is a sketch I made for the title page ... not available in the French edition.

Friday, June 11, 2010

answer to Robert T

Robert left a message on the last post, and I thought I'd try and answer it if I can -
Robert wrote a very thoughtful review not long ago which I posted here.
He seemed very sensitive to all the subtle textures and depths we hoped had been layered in over the years of development which of course is very gratifying for us as filmmakers.

"Hi, Tomm, I have a question here and I mean no offense. But since the subject has been brought up by Mr. DiGiovanna, about the deeper appreciation of adults and kids coming from the same source, I'm wondering if there's another special reason why Brendan's image appears on the Chi Rho iconograph. To be honest, I initially thought that scene to be a form of defacement, albeit a mild one. I had put this interpretation behind when others took its place. It was my recent noticing of something strange about the Abbey which brought it up again."

The idea behind placing Brendan in the Chi-Rho page was a response to some people feeling unsatisfied by the ending on the Chi Rho page, I understood their concerns and we had an early storyboard and script draft that returned to the abbots room after the Chi rho sequence and tried to wrap up the story and characters. This was always unsatisfying and seemed like an epilogue , the story is over with the completion of the Chi Rho page and all it symbolizes for our characters and for history.
We could see that it would only be a design and story "anti climax" to continue the story after that final sequence, and felt it was the Abbot Cellach's death sequence, who could be argued is in fact in some ways the hero of the story, his redemption, his glimpse of eternity in the Chi Rho page. The chance to reprise the main characters in the details of the real Chi Rho page was there,
Brendan growing from boy to man is seen in the way a stylized Brendan transforms into the human head at the center of the real page, Aisling is remembered in the flowers that bloom when a mist passes over them and we see Pangur in the cats that are present on the actual page too. Initially we planned to have Aidan and Cellach unified in the image of the two angels holding the book between elsewhere on the Chi Rho page, but it felt too labored and we left it out in the end.

I hope that answers your question sir!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

tucsonweekly review

Animation With Style
'The Secret of Kells' is an enchanting film that will similarly delight both children and adults
by James DiGiovanna

Not Rated

Featuring the voices of Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney, Mick Lally and Brendan Gleeson

Directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey

GKIDS, 75 minutes

While reviewing a film, I like to point out that only a certain subset of the population will enjoy it. For example, if it's something like Saw or Hostel, then I assume that John Yoo and Jay Bybee will want to see it; if it's Sex and the City 2, then I urge paleontologists to give it a look.

But with The Secret of Kells, it's hard to imagine who wouldn't want to see it. Maybe the Amish? But other than them, and those incapable of appreciating beauty, everyone will love The Secret of Kells.

The film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, though it lost out to something sappier and far-less inventive. Perhaps that's because, instead of the usual three-dimensional, computer-generated attempts at realism, Kells is, like nature and God himself, gloriously two-dimensional. Taking its cue from the eighth-century illuminated manuscript "The Book of Kells," the film is filled with Celtic knots, gilded letters and swirling, circular images that gather up characters, trees, buildings and wolves into undulating, abstract images that tell a clearly delineated story.

Ten-year-old Brendan (the voice of Evan McGuire) lives in the Abbey of Kells, a walled fortress controlled by his uncle, the Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson). There, frightened villagers await the arrival of the evil Norsemen, while a team of scriveners and illuminators work on the ornate manuscripts that Irish monks preserved throughout the Middle Ages.

All of the monks revere the legend of Brother Aidan, the greatest illuminator of all, who lives in far-off Iona. In a glorious, dreamy sequence, we see the island of Iona—a bulge of green in a gold-and-blue sea—attacked by the Norsemen. The raiders are represented as elongated rectangles with horned helmets, fiery eyes and flaming swords burning the island to ash. Brother Aidan flees and arrives at the mechanically complex Abbey of Kells, where the Abbot Cellach devotes all resources to building walls in an effort to keep out the barbarians.

I could imagine that if you were a Norseman, you might be offended by the depiction of your ancient kinsfolk as violent rectangles. But archaeological evidence and Molly Hatchet album covers do suggest that the Vikings were not peace-loving philanthropists, as their descendents—Bjorn Borg, Brigitte Nielsen and Dolph Lundgren—would have us believe.

In spite of the anti-Norse bigotry, Kells is a deeply sensitive film. The focus is on Brendan as he learns, against his uncle's wishes, the art of illumination. In the process, he acquires a deep relation with Brother Aidan, and with a mysterious woodland girl named Aisling, both of whom help him find his artistic voice.

But the true charm of Kells is in its visual beauty. Modern animators seem to have forgotten that highly modeled images in perfect perspective, while certainly truer to naturalism, are not inherently superior to thoughtfully styled, if somewhat more abstract, modes. In Kells, for example, perspective is flattened out in the manner of a medieval mosaic. This allows the animators to produce thematically recurrent images that evoke the enchanting styles of ninth-century Ireland.

Frequently, the characters stand in the middle of highly ornamented concentric circles. One such image is formed by stairs in front of an altar; in another, a ring of wolves encircles frightened monks.

All of this is evocative of the animation styles of the 1960s and '70s. Combining the inventiveness of Fantastic Planet, the geometric abstraction of The Point and the psychedelic swirls of Ralph Bakshi's skies and landscapes in Wizards, Secret of Kells is like a soothing version of an acid trip, only with more monks and berries.

The imagery isn't mere window dressing, though; it's deeply involved in the film's smartest themes. For example, in the forest, trees form endlessly ornate patterns that mimic the knots and twirls of the decorative styles of the monks' border designs, hinting that the mechanical world of the monks has its inspiration in the woodland areas from which they've walled themselves off. But nature isn't simply romanticized in the manner of Avatar's semi-literate smurf-porn. Instead, Kells allows the trees, plants and animals to show a natural world that is vicious and beautiful at the same time.

So I hope everyone will go see Kells. It's the very rare case of a film that children and adults will find equally enchanting. The adults' entertainment doesn't come from winking and going over the children's heads, but from a deeper appreciation of exactly those same elements that are captivating the kids.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I love seeing the fanart on Deviant Art. JB uses that site a lot and its cool to see so many people trying out the Kells Style. These cloth dolls are a definite favourite though...:)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lily in Mexico

Lily Bernard , one of the lead background designers on The Secret of Kells on Mexican TV just before the Oscars!
Lily is just finishing working on the backgrounds for a job in the Saloon now before returning to Mexico to teach.
She is helping to develop our first preschool show Puffins Rock,so we hope she'll be back in Kilkenny very soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Heres a sketch I made for this auction . I don't know Pres but his friends Charles Solomon and Jamie Bolio asked me to contribute something.

Ross Stewart is donating some stuff from his Kells days too.

Our best wishes to Pres!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Thanks Mr.Mark Cumberton

My Brothers

"My Brothers" directed by Paul Fraser, written by Will Collins, screenwriter of Song of the Sea is playing Tribeca this week. Check it out.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

UK distribution at last!

Our sales agent, Hengameh Panahi of Celluloid Dreams has said its finally official -
Optimum releasing will take the UK theatrical and DVD distribution rights for The Secret of Kells.

Optimum are a great label to be with - alongside the Studio Ghibli titles :)

Its great news following our win at the British Animation Awards last week.
Now all our UK fans will hopefully spread the word like our US friends have been doing.

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Perrific Review

Movie Review – The Secret of Kells & Director Tomm Moore Interview: An Illuminating Tale of Creativity

Published on: 3rd April, 2010

(4 1/2 out of 5 starfish)
Opens (San Diego) Friday, April 2nd
Landmark’s Ken Cinema

4061 Adams Avenue – (619) 819-0236

By Perry S. Chen April 2, 2010

Do you know the name of the world’s most visually stunning book? It is illuminated, called The Book of Kells. It was produced in the early 8th century in Scotland. The book of Kells went on a long and arduous journey, somehow made its way to Trinity College in Dublin, where it resides today. The rest in Real history!

The Oscar-nominated animation “The Secret of Kells” is a story about a young orphaned boy Brendan, who lives in the Abby of Kells, under siege of the raiding Vikings. Brendan’s only family is his strict uncle, the powerful Abbott Cellach of Kells. Although the Abbott loves his nephew, he doesn’t have the right way.

Soon, Brother Aidan, a master illuminator from a foreign land, came to the walled city of Kells. He took Brendan under his wings and sent him on a journey to go into the forest to seek a special kind of berry: its juice can be made into emerald green-colored ink for writing “The Book of Kells,” yet to be finished. Brother Aidan brought this sacred book with him, a book overflowing with wisdom and brilliant artistry, to be completed by Brendan!

In the mysterious forest, Brendan is at first terrified of the strange sights and sounds. He encounters a fairy that is unlike any other fairy in fairy tales. Her name is Aisling. She has many qualities that are lacking in ordinary fairies: She is completely white who can change into a wolf in an instant. She has territorial instinct just like a wolf, but unlike a wolf, she can climb trees! She does not have wings and is more agile on her feet.

I noticed that Brendan has a crush on Aisling. It is hard to impress a fairy, but Brendan tried his best and eventually succeeded! Together, the two must join forces to stop the Viking’s invasion and find a magic crystal, so that Brendan can finish the last pages of the Sacred Book.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview director Tomm Moore from Ireland who made The Secret of Kells as his first feature length animation. I asked him what inspired him to become a filmmaker in animation. “When I was a child I loved comics and animation,” said Moore, “The Don Bluth studio which made The Land Before Time and An American Tale had relocated to Dublin, so I dreamed of working there. I was a member of Young Irish Filmmakers, a group in my hometown of Kilkenny for children and young people who were interested in making their own films. I had a school friend whose aunt worked for Don Bluth and we got a tour of the studio in Dublin.”

Moore studied in the college Don Bluth helped set up – Ballyfermot Senior College but by the time he graduated, they had returned to the US. So he set up his own studio Cartoon Saloon with some friends back in the premises of Young Irish Filmmakers in Kilkenny.

My favorite characters are Brendan and Aisling. Brendan is faithful, loyal, curious, hard-working, loves literature, and through Brother Aidan, discovers his own hidden artistic talents. I am a master at art, just like Brendan, though my parents discovered my talents much earlier, as soon as I started drawing when I was three. I consider myself a better artist than a film critic, because I have been creating art for a much longer time than reviewing movies!

I also share a great imagination and love for nature with Brendan. I love to see wild animals in the natural ecosystem. I also wrote and illustrated lots of books, such as “Journey to Land,” about the adventures of a pack of African cheetahs, and books about our garden. In my view, imagination is only “magic” to those who don’t understand it. To those who have imagination, art is simply a natural way to express that imagination.

I like Aisling because she acts most like a real kid. She is a free spirit, and loyal to Brendan. One of my favorite scenes is when Aisling magically turns Pangur Ban (Brother Aidan’s mysterious cat with differing eye colors!) into a spirit as she sang a beautiful, haunting song.

According to director Moore, “Aisling is based a little on my younger sister, she had a similar personality, (a little pest!) and she had big eyes and bushy eyebrows, pink knees from climbing trees and playing outdoors and pale skin. She was also a talented singer from a young age. I made several designs of her to try and find a fairy type character but also one that felt like a real little girl, so I based it on my sister. Once I had something I was happy with I turned to Barry Reynolds who was a college classmate of mine who took my first designs and made the final versions of all the characters you see in the film.”

I asked Moore if Aisling was made up or based on Ireland legand, he said, “She’s mostly made up as a representation of all the old Pagan gods and creatures who went before. But in Ireland there is a tradition of poetry called ‘Aisling Poems’ as Aisling means dream or vision in Gealic.”

“In these poems a beautiful young woman will appear to the poet in a dream representing Ireland. I thought it was fun to make her a little girl instead of a beautiful woman. Also the poem you hear her speak in the opening scene is based on a very ancient poem called the Song of Tuan Mac Cairill. He was one of the ancient race of the Tuatha De Dannann left behind when they disappeared underground and became what we call fairies today. He survived in the world of men by transforming into a Stag, a Wolf Into a salmon and so on, and we took that idea and applied it to Aisling.”

“The Secret of Kells” is an “illuminating” tale about friendship, wisdom, overcoming fear, and discovering your own creativity. It has splendid visual, haunting music, and amazing storyline built upon historical facts. I think this movie would appeal to a wide audience, although younger kids may be disturbed by the war scenes.

I give the film 4.5 starfish. It’s Perrific! I noticed that the cat, Pangur Ban, did not age as most of the human characters, nor did the old man with long beard who first discovered that Brendan was gone from his cell. Are they magic? I asked director Moore. “I get asked this all the time :) Well, for me, Pangur Ban is sort of a symbol of Aidan and Iona, she may be magical like Aisling,” said Moore. “Pabgur Ban IS kind of immortal because a monk wrote about his cat Pangur Ban in a poem that’s in one of the manuscripts from that period, so school kids in Ireland learn about Pangur Ban to this day. Or maybe the cat at the end is her daughter :) !” Which one do you think is more likely?

There were many similarities between “The Secret of Kells” and other “Perrific” animations. It is visually stunning like one of my all-time favorites, the 5-starfish-rated “Azur & Asmar,” directed by the French animation master Michel Ocelot. Monsieur Ocelot has become a dear friend of mine since I interviewed him in San Francisco last year. Also the Princess Charnsous Sabah in “Azur & Asmar” was locked up in the palace and not allowed to leave; just like Brendan was forbidden to leave the walled fortress of Kells.

Brendan, just like Hiccup in “How to Train Your Dragon,” lived a thrilling double life. At the start of the film, Brendan was always thinking about what his uncle the Abbott Cellach would do to punish him. Once he befriended Aisling, he forgot all about his worries and lost track of time. Both Brendan and Hiccup lost their moms and had a strict father or father figure in their lives, who lacked confidence in the boys. Both boys violated the rule of the leader of the village, however, such violations transformed their lives permanently for good. Each befriended a mystical creature who became their ally. But Toothless is more than an ally, he gradually turned into a pet once Hiccup tamed him! Aisling, however, kept her wild spirit and independence.

I noticed that the Vikings in this film have eyes that are like glowing balls with dim light. They are heartless and don’t look human at all. The Vikings show a lack of respect for artistry and human knowledge, as they rip the pages of the sacred Book of Kells.

While other films have more complex visuals, “The Secret of Kells” succeeds in its own unique visual style: simple but elegant. The lines that make up the human characters and objects are bold, decisive, and beautiful, suffused with splashes of vivid colors. Adorned with priceless jewels, with a bright golden cover and pages that seemed to glow from within, The Book of Kells represents the power of art, literature, and human creativity itself.

Friendship can heal your worries. The path to enlightenment takes courage, creativity, and perseverance.

Copyright 2010 by Perry S. Chen


Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning child film critic, Annie Awards presenter, artist, TV personality, and radio talk show host of “Perry Previews the Movies” on His recent appearance on National Public Radio (NPR) Weekend Edition Sunday with host Liane Hansen was a major hit with listeners worldwide. He has been featured on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Fox, KUSI, CW channel 6 San Diego Living, San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego Family Magazine, San Diego Magazine, SDNN, Art Rocks! radio, The China Press, World Journal, etc.

Perry has been invited to numerous film festivals, awards shows, press junket, and movie premiers to interview prominent filmmakers such as Oscar-winning Pete Docter of Up, John Musker & Ron Clements of The Princess & the Frog, Oscar-nominee Bill Plympton, directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders of current top box office winner “How to train your dragon,” and walked on the red carpet.

Perry reviews films on a starfish rating system, 5 being the best. His reviews are available on his website:

Listen to his radio show on

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Friday, April 02, 2010

LA Times Review today :),0,6599746.story

'Secret of Kells' comes to life with bright, imaginative spirit
Hand-drawn animated film from Ireland was an Oscar nominee, and it's clear to see why.

April 2, 2010

"The Secret of Kells" is an anachronism many times over, and what a good thing that turned out to be.

A ravishing, continually surprising example of largely hand-drawn animation in the heyday of computer-generated imagery, an inexpensive and sophisticated European production in an age of broad-stroke studio films, even a spirited defense of books and bookishness while Kindles walk the earth, "Kells" fights the tide every way it can.

Yet this longshot that began as a college project for Irish director Tomm Moore edged Hayao Miyazaki's "Ponyo" for one of five feature animation Oscar nominations, and in a year without Pixar's "Up," might even have won. That's how magical this story of a boy and a book turned out to be.

The book is the Book of Kells, a circa AD 800 illuminated manuscript whose recounting of the four gospels was so dazzlingly decorated and illustrated (in part by the monks at the abbey of Kells) that it's universally regarded as one of Ireland's national treasures.

"The Secret of Kells," co-directed by Nora Twomey, is a fable-like tale of how that book might have come to be completed, involving the stern Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson), the master illuminator Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), and the 12-year-old Brendan (Evan McGuire), "the little brother with the big questions," whose pluck and fortitude end up saving the day -- with a little help from some woodland friends.

But though "Kells' " story (by director Moore) and screenplay (by Fabrice Ziolkowski) are delightful, the narrative itself is only part of the reason for the success of a film that is a tribute to and an example of the power of the imagination, an enterprise that insists that what the mind imagines, the hand can achieve.

The heart of everything, not surprisingly, is that marvelous visual style, not only heavily Celtic influenced but also a glorious throwback to the more stylized, painterly work of decades past, the kind of vividly colored, fanciful pictorials that are usually confined to the small-scale realm of animated shorts.

Also breaking out of boundaries is the spirit of this film, which has room for multiple approaches. The main sensibility is light on its feet, even playful -- Brendan chases a goose, as it turns out, not to kill it but to pluck feathers for quills -- and there's a sense of gentle fun about the proceedings that is tonic to experience.

But this easy nature also admits to the presence of evil, both the flesh and blood malevolence of invading Norsemen, looking like animated versions of the barbarians in Eisenstein's "Alexander Nevsky," and the more mythological evil of dark forces that dwell in the murky depths of the forests.

Because he sees the forest as dark and threatening, the severe, unbending Abbot of Kells has decreed that young Brendan cannot go outside the enormous walls that he's building around the abbey in the hope that they will keep the invaders at bay.

All this changes when Brother Aidan, a charismatic master illuminator whose work is of such high quality that "it's capable of turning darkness into light," shows up at Kells with a book he began illustrating on the island of Iona before the marauding Norsemen made him flee.

Very much attracted to the making of art, Brendan overcomes his fears and the abbot's strictures to go into the forest in search of berries that Brother Aidan needs to make one of the manuscript's especially vivid colors.

Deep in those trees, Brendan meets the marvelous fairy Aisling (Christen Mooney), both young girl and wolf, who introduces him -- and us -- to the glowing wonders of the forest, a place of pagan delights but also, as it turns out, the lair of Crom Cruach, a legendary monster who also has a place in the Kells saga.

With a firm footing in all these worlds -- blissfully pagan, devoutly Christian and darkly monstrous -- "The Secret of Kells" teaches important lessons in the most casual, joyful way. How it manages to do that is probably the biggest secret of all.



Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Landmark Theatre Los Angeles

Hi there ,

Any one reading this in LA or who knows anyone who'd be interested in seeing our film in LA please do let them know that its opening this weekend at The Landmark Theatre. We hope we can fill the place up like we did in New York and Boston! Tell your friends!

Tickets are available thru:

The LA screeing is at The Landmark -- 108250 West Pico at Westwood Blvd, Showtimes: (310) 281-8233 • Information: (310) 470-0492 --

Thanks :)


LA Times Piece by Charles Solomon,0,470383.story

Ancient book inspires classic animation of 'The Secret of Kells'
The Oscar-nominated Irish film adapted Celtic designs from the Book of Kells and Celtic lore for the story in the hand-drawn feature.
'The Secret of Kells'

Brendan searches for the materials needed to make ink in the surrounding woods, where he meets Aisling, a silver-haired fairy who orders him out of "her" forest. (GKIDS)

By Charles Solomon

March 31, 2010

As advances in technology allow for ever more realism in animated features, the artists behind "The Secret of Kells" -- the little-known Irish film that caught even insiders by surprise when it edged out the likes of "Ponyo" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" for an Oscar nomination -- turned instead to the intricacies and grace of an ancient text to celebrate the curves and angles of traditional hand-drawn animation.

Using the scrollwork designs and microscopic detailing of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels likely dating to the early 8th century, "The Secret of Kells," which opens in L.A. on Friday, evokes the feel of Celtic tradition and a culture long past.

The idea for the film began incubating more than a decade ago when director/co-writer Tomm Moore was a student at Ballyfermot College in Dublin. "Richard Williams' 'The Thief and the Cobbler' was a big inspiration, as were Genndy Tartakovsky's TV programs and Disney's 'Mulan,' " Moore says. "We wanted to do something comparable with Irish art. A lot of Celtic design came from the Book of Kells, so we thought that was a good starting point."

The film is set in the 8th century, when Viking raiders threatened to extinguish Irish monastic civilization. His parents killed in one such raid, 12-year-old novice Brendan lives within the walled monastery of Kells under the stern guardianship of his uncle, Abbot Cellach. When Brother Aidan arrives with the wondrously beautiful but unfinished book, Brendan realizes he wants to become an illuminator and help complete the manuscript that will be "a beacon in these dark times of the Northmen," despite his uncle's opposition.

"For a lot of us, Brendan is the kind of kid we were," Moore says. "When you're a kid trying to be an artist, you usually come up against the disapproval of your guardians."

Defying the abbot's orders, Brendan searches for the materials needed to make ink in the surrounding woods, where he meets Aisling, a silver-haired fairy who orders him out of "her" forest.

"A lot of the Christian stories from this time were very obviously adapted from earlier fairy tales," Moore says. "Aisling became everyone's favorite character because she represents that whole pantheon of fairy tales and pagan gods. We toyed with the idea of her becoming a love interest but it was more fun to make her a sort of pesky little sister."

Brendan and Aisling are brought together by Brother Aidan's cat, Pangur Ban. Its unusual name and the film's central metaphor come from a poem by an 8th century monk, describing the nights he spends studying while his cat hunts mice. It concludes, "Practice every day has made / Pangur perfect in his trade; / I get wisdom day and night / Turning darkness into light."

When Brendan fights the pagan god Crom Cruach, he steals the serpentine monster's eye. Using it as a lens, Brendan is able to create intricate and dazzling images in the book. "There's a story about St. Patrick defeating Crom -- it seems to be the source for St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland," Moore adds. "Prior to St. Patrick, Crom was defeated by the sun god, Lugh. So, in the pagan myth and the Christian parallel, we had the theme of turning darkness into light, as in the line from the poem. We decided to make Crom a snake who symbolizes Brendan's fears: When Brendan steals Crom's eye, he blinds his fear of becoming an artist."

Art director Ross Stewart adapted the intricate style of the Book of Kells for the backgrounds. The woods where Brendan meets Aisling feel like an ancient forest, but the trees form complex spirals and knotted designs. The tendrils of mist, Aisling's hair, the branches of the oaks and Pangur Ban's tail all echo the same graceful curves. The resulting look is more stylized than any animated film American audiences have seen since Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" in 1959.

But Moore realized it would be a mistake to use the same intricate style for the character designs. Detailed figures are hard to draw, and would get lost in the lush forest. "Having all that patterning and detail on each figure would just be crazy," he says. "The characters could be simple but make complicated, pattern-like shapes when they're grouped together. The individual characters are quite simple -- but they still have a medieval feel."

Tartakovsky's "Samurai Jack" showed that stylized characters should move in equally stylized ways. A character comprising flat, angular shapes, like Jack or Brendan, can't move the way a rounded Disney figure does. Moore and his key group of artists worked out ways for Brendan, Aisling and Pangur Ban to move that harmonized with the film's striking look.

Pete Docter, director of the Oscar-winning "Up," notes that " 'Kells' disproves the old dictum that the audience needs realism to connect with the characters." He also says the film has much to teach others. "The Celtic designs work organically with the story being told. The film is a lesson in how graphic arts can influence film and introduce something new that couldn't be done in any medium but animation."

Moore's next feature, "The Song of the Sea," will focus on the last Silkie -- a little girl who can be both a human and a seal -- who serves as a bridge between modern Ireland and the fairy world.

Surely, after his Oscar nomination, studios and distributors are swarming to partner up on it?

"I've got enough money to make the storyboard," Moore says. And after that "we'll be putting in applications to the Irish Film Board and so on. We missed the deadline in February because we were in L.A. doing stuff for the Oscars -- a very happy interruption -- but we hope to go into production on 'Song' " this year."

Amazing to see Pete Docters thoughts on Kells in print! I've been listening to his Directors commentory on UP as an educational tool lately !:)
Its lovely to see the character design work by myself and Barry appreciated as well as the fine stylised character animation by our amazing international teams of animators!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

US dates from Facebook

This Friday is a big day for Kells! We open in LA (The Landmark), IRVINE (Regal Westpark 8), WEST HILLS (Laemmle Fallbrook 7); SF (Embarcadero), BERKELEY (Shattuck), SAN JOSE (Camera Los Gatos), PALO ALTO (Aquarius); CHICAGO (Siskel Film Center); DC (E Street Cinema); MADISON (Sundance Madison); WEST NEWTON (WN Cinema), and are still in NYC, Boston, and Philly!

Well folks, if you are on Facebook , check out the Secret of kells official US page where Dave Jestadt of Gkids regularly updates with news of the roll out state side.
Thats where I got the above info by the way! Thanks Dave:)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oscar Spot

Thanks to Alessandra for uploading this again to You Tube after they took it down!

Rueben Awards

Big congratulations to Barry Reynolds who has been deservedly honoured lately for his excellent work on the character design on Kells with a nomination for a Rueben Award by the National Cartoonists Society in the States.
I am also super chuffed to have been nominated for my work as director on the film.
In addition to making the final modelsheets of the main characters (which we designed together) he designed many of the other characters in the film from scratch.
Heres a little reminder of his beautiful work on the film posted above.
You can see more character designs and concepts by Barry, myself and Jean Baptiste on our website -

home at last

Hey am back in Kilkenny at long long last.
Watched Ponyo with my family last night then collpased for a long old sleep.

Many thanks to Jamie Bolio for checking the technicolor print in LA in my absence! A true star.

Houston Texas is a city I never visited but we often have visitors here in Kilkenny from there, as I have many relations there. Heres the first review from that city -
It will open in the Angelika cinema there very soon.

Secret comes out with ‘Kells’

The critically acclaimed The Secret of Kells was nominated for an Academy Award and showed a beautiful side of 2-D animation.

Moviegoers of all ages will delight in The Secret of Kells masterful story-telling and visual splendor.

The Secret of Kells is by far one of the most engrossing films to come out this year. Twelve-year old Brendan has never left the walls of Kells and is content to help out his uncle’s medieval monastery with errands.

Unfortunately, most of these errands relate more to the wall than religion. Abbot Cellach has become obsessed with fortifying the giant wall in order to protect Kells from the Norsemen.

When Brendan discovers that he must finish the manuscript of Kells, he must stand up to his uncle and venture into the feral nightmare outside the walls. Young adults will relate to Brendan’s struggle. He loves his overprotective uncle, but he knows that he must leave the walls of his small town in order to finish the book of Kells.

The story weaves fantasy elements, such as fairies and Irish pagan lore, into a message about the importance of openness in an increasingly cosmopolitan society. While some fantasy films stumble over their own settings, the conflict between the close-minded abbot and his adventurous nephew takes center stage in Kells.

Viewers will be swept away by this story about a character desperate to imprison his monastery within its own walls and will cheer Brendan on as he escapes to the forest to find ink for the book.

A 75-minute viewing time ensures that the adventure remains fresh and fast-paced with just the right mix of humor and darkness. It would have been nice to see more facets of these intriguing characters and their stories, but that could have detracted from the gravity of the film’s message.

The hand-drawn animation cannot be commended enough. The thick lines and distinct forms of Kell’s striking character designs are reminiscent of the minimalist animator Genndy Tartakovsky’s dramatic and colorful work on Samurai Jack. Take a closer look at the lush watercolor forests and geometric dungeons in the intricate backgrounds to be amazed by the craftsmanship in Kells.

Art lovers will immediately recognize the inspiration taken from medieval scribes in various pieces, such as the monks’ flowing robes, the spiral scales and agile limbs of salmon and deer in the forest, and the bright white stars that illuminate the night sky while Brendan draws. This colorful movie will look absolutely stunning on the big screen, and the many allusions to medieval design as well as the visual motifs will warrant multiple viewings on DVD.

However, there are scenes that may be too dark for younger kids. One of these scenes portrays the pillaging of a village by devil-horned Vikings who speak in nasty growls as they stab a major character. This is a movie that may be best for older children.

Few moviegoers had seen The Secret of Kells when the nominees for Best Animated Picture were announced. Fortunately, movie fans everywhere will be in for an amazing story accompanied by visual delight as screenings of The Secret of Kells emerge in major cities throughout the U.S. this spring.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


here i go.heading home at long last many many thanks to all my friends here in the u.s. new and old for a fantastic its time to get back to the drawing board!:)

p.s. special shout out to colleen, ken and baby nicolas for a fine finish to a long old trip :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Animation World Network feature

just the first page copied and pasted below go to the link above to see the whole piece:)

The Secret of Kells - What is this Remarkable Animated Feature?

Karl Cohen talks with director Tomm Moore, exploring both the historical and thematic origins of the film.
Posted In | Site Categories: 2D, Films

All  images courtesy of Cartoon Saloon / GKIDS.
All images courtesy of Cartoon Saloon / GKIDS.

The Academy Award nomination for The Secret of Kells hints at the film’s brilliance. That recognition came as a major surprise as the film was only seen by a handful of people in LA & NY when it qualified for a possible Oscar nomination. It did not open nationally until this March, but thanks to a grassroots campaign by people who have seen it, and I’m one of them, word is spreading that the film is quite extraordinary.

The Secret of Kells is a wonderful film experience. It has a unique look that might be called Irish or Celtic modern, and a compelling well-told story that is as charming as it is exciting. Moreover the story seems quite real as opposed to the elaborate tall tales Hollywood invents.

As for the look, imagine the flat abstractions of nature found in Celtic manuscripts and jewelry coming alive on the screen. The film has a design that sets it apart from art from other parts of the world. It is as distinctive looking as Persian miniatures or traditional Japanese block prints. The look is rich and varied including intricate backgrounds that are sometimes quite stunning.

All  images courtesy of Cartoon Saloon / GKIDS.
All images courtesy of Cartoon Saloon / GKIDS.

Not only is the film’s bold look pleasing to the eyes, the captivating story will warm your heart. I certainly believed in the innocent boy’s quest to find the right berries in the dark forest. They are needed to create a magnificent color that will allow a great artist to complete a sacred manuscript. It is easy to believe this book is necessary for the preservation of the Celtic culture and that it has to be finished and protected from the invading hordes of barbarians from the north. What happens in the forest is the beginning of a fantastic experience.

The film’s simple plot and premise is based on facts; such illuminated medieval manuscripts do exist including the “Book of Kells” (Dublin, Trinity College Library, ca. 800 AD) and the hordes that are sacking villages in the film may be the Vikings that invaded Ireland. This plot also seems very real; most people know that people in the Holly Lands once made great efforts to preserve their culture and beliefs from invaders. The rediscovered Dead Sea Scrolls are an example of this.

All  images courtesy of Cartoon Saloon / GKIDS.
All images courtesy of Cartoon Saloon / GKIDS.

The story may be fiction, but in your minds you care and emphasize with those who are living a simple peaceful life. Their innocence is a far cry from the complex worlds and plots that Hollywood creates in films like Princess and the Frog, Shrek or Monsters Vs Aliens. While the Hollywood features are often delightful entertainment, you probably leave feeling the film was a lot of fun, and rarely think about any greater meaning or message. On the other hand while you may leave Kells with a sense of joy, you may also leave feeling the movie gives you a realistic experience of what life was like in the Middle Ages and with a belief in the goodness of the peasants and monks who lived a simple agrarian life in their rural walled village.

Boston and Philadelphia

Folks if you are in either Boston or Philly tommorow night please come along and see The Secret of Kells , help us keep the film running for longer -we need a good opening night to see us thru'
I'll be at the Kendal in Boston to answer your questions after the screening!

heres another review from Philadelphia to encourage you along!

An animated medieval tale

There they were, the five Academy Awards nominees for best animated feature, announced back in early February: Pixar's Up, Disney's The Princess and the Frog, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox, Henry Selick's Coraline and, and . . . huh? What's this? The Secret of Kells?

It turns out the Oscars' nominating committee had every reason to honor this dark horse, a little-known endeavor heretofore unreleased in the States. A beautiful, retro-style, hand-drawn feature from Ireland combining elements of 1950s and '60s Disney 'toons (geometric graphics, flat, painterly backgrounds) and traditional Celtic art (intricate, luminously colorful patterns), this spirited children's adventure set in the Middle Ages offers both visual and narrative thrills.

Drawing (so to speak) from fairy tales and illuminated medieval manuscripts, The Secret of Kells is about a young boy, Brendan (the voice of Evan McGuire), who lives in a fortified abbey under threat of invasion by Vikings. When master illuminator Brother Aidan (Mick Lally) arrives, he enlists Brendan to venture beyond the abbey's walls to collect oak berries in the forest, to use for ink in the scriptorium. This innocent-seeming mission turns into an epic quest involving magical fairies, a wolf-girl, and a cat with two different-colored eyes.

The Secret of Kells is gorgeous work, and its imagery and themes dovetail perfectly: a story about creating art, artfully created.

Philadelphia Daily News Review

An animated gem

'Kells,' about a 9th century abbey, deserved its Oscar nom

One of the nice things about 2009's being such a stellar year for animated movies is that it's not over.

Today marks the belated arrival of "The Secret of Kells," which received a surprise Oscar nomination for best animated feature, and a well-deserved one, as it turns out.

The Irish-made (but drawn by animators in some five countries) dazzler opens exclusively at the Ritz Bourse, and is worth seeking out for animation buffs, or those looking for some novel way to conclude a week of St. Patrick's celebrations.

"Kells" is the story of Brendan (Evan McGuire), a youngster at a medieval Irish abbey who, in the days before a Viking invasion, is forced to decide how to "save" his community and his culture.

The abbey is run by his uncle (Brendan Gleeson) who's wholly committed to fortifying the walls and protecting the citizens. A visiting monk (Mick Lally), however, wants Brendan (a talented artist) to finish and vouchsafe an illustrated religious manuscript.

"Kells" is rendered in an old-fashioned, two-dimensional style that gives new meaning to the phrase "traditional animation." Moore draws on motifs from Celtic art dating to the 9th century (when the movie is set).

Interestingly, we get few peeks at the artwork in the book itself (clearly based on the Book of Kells, an ancient and finely illustrated work of New Testament gospels).

Instead, Moore weaves these ancient motifs into the design of the natural world that surrounds Brendan's walled city. Against his uncle's wishes, he ventures into the woods to collect berries for the unique dyes that will color the book, and gets help from a magical fairy (Christen Mooney).

This is a way for Moore, a gaelic revivalist (who's set down the story of St. Patrick in graphic novels) to make a point about the way that Catholicism blended with existing pagan beliefs to create something culturally unique.

And, Brendan decides, worth saving. The movie's best scenes find him in the mysterious, treacherous forest, wherein Moore and his animators work their visual magic.

"Kells" is noteworthy for its unique, ornate design, its moments of silence (Moore is obviously a big Miyazaki fan) and gorgeous music.

And its distinctiveness. A hallmark of 2009 was (is) its variety - the best of Pixar, traditional hand-drawn Disney, the stop-motion genius of Henry Selick rendered in 3-D, even contributions from Wes Anderson. "Kells" is the capper, and a lovely one.

Boston Globe review :)

Movie Review

Adventure with cosmic connections

Oscar nominee ‘The Secret of Kells’ is a hand-drawn surprise

By Ty Burr Globe Staff / March 19, 2010 Text size +

‘The Secret of Kells’’ was the wild card in the recent Oscar animation race — the little Irish movie no one had heard of, let alone seen. Call it luck or a brilliant promotional strategy, but the movie opens at the Kendall today with local animaniacs primed to happily pounce. As well they should, for “Kells’’ is a visually overwhelming labor of love, a hand-drawn medieval adventure tale that seeks and finds cosmic connections.


Directed by: Tomm Moore

Written by: Moore and Fabrice Ziolkowski

Starring: The voices of Brendan

Gleeson, Evan Maguire,

Christen Mooney, Mick Lally

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 75 minutes

Unrated (as PG — some

apocalyptically scary

animated battle scenes)

Yes, you can still bring the kids. The hero of “Kells’’ is Brendan (voiced by Evan Maguire), a young boy who has been apprenticed to his forbidding uncle, the Abbott of Kells (Brendan Gleeson), and ordered never to leave the monastery. There are enough dangers out there — wolves, eldritch Celtic gods, rampaging Vikings — that the Abbott is obsessively building high walls to protect the monks and the illuminated manuscripts upon which they labor.

There’s a real Book of Kells — a 9th-century version of the New Testament renowned for its brilliant ornamentation, it’s considered Ireland’s national treasure — but it probably wasn’t created this way. The monks in “The Secret of Kells’’ are a consciously international lot and drawn by Tomm Moore with geometric glee: a big, domelike African, a toadstool-size Asian, a spherical Italian. The Abbott is a rectangular figure of authority, all corners, no curves. Brendan, blessedly, is a kid, although the lines of medieval il lustration lift his face into a smile.

The appearance of Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), a puckish renegade fleeing the invaders, kicks the plot into gear. He encourages Brendan’s reckless artistic side and sends the boy out to the forest to gather materials for ink. There the movie lifts off into a Celtic eco-pantheism not far in feel from the work of Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away,’’ “Ponyo’’). Brendan befriends Aisling (Christen Mooney), a forest wild girl with mysterious connections to the animals, plants, and Druidic forces. On the plot level, then, “The Secret of Kells’’ is a kiddie adventure with twists and turns recognizable to fans of anime and the more adventurous US animation.

On the visual level, the film is on a higher plane entirely. Moore roots “Kells’’ in the limited perspectives of medieval art — often to delightful effect — but the film keeps bursting into repeated patterns and motifs that dazzle the eye and that, by the climax, are consciously fractal, a vision of worlds within worlds within worlds. The movie belongs in the recent vanguard of arthouse animation along with Michel Ocelot’s “Azur and Asmar’’ and Nina Paley’s “Sita Sings the Blues’’ — astonishing (and primarily hand-drawn) works that push the envelope of what the medium can do. The climactic sequence in which the Vikings finally attack might scare small fry if it weren’t so surreally, almost mathematically beautiful.

Admittedly, there has to be a bit of bait-and-switch in any story about the creation of an iconic Christian text that doesn’t actually mention Jesus Christ (even if the grown Brendan does look quite beatific by the film’s final scenes). “The Secret of Kells’’ uses early Christian theology to access a wider, more universal sense of wonder — it’s a movie in which even the molecules feel illuminated.

Ty Burr can be reached at For more on movies, go to

Vatican News!

“I have seen suffering in the darkness, yet I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places. I have seen the Book – the Book that turned darkness into light”.
The Secret of Kells opens with these whispered words. The independent film produced in Kilkenny, Ireland, was one of this year’s surprise Oscar nominees. It was up for Best Animated Feature against such box office hits as Disney-Pixar’s Up and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox. The film’s plot centres on 12-year-old Brendan, an orphan in 9th-century Ireland living among a community of monks who practice illumination, the art of illustrating and embellishing Gospel texts.

Brendan’s adventures begin when a quirky old illuminator named Aidan arrives with his cat Pangur Bán. The monk is renowned for his work on a famous Gospel manuscript under the legendary St Columcille (also known as St Columba). Br Aidan’s seemingly whimsical arrival is a harbinger of danger, however; he comes seeking refuge, having fled from the Viking raids that destroyed his home of Iona. Prompted by Aidan’s request for inkberries, Brendan ventures beyond the village’s fortified walls against the wishes of his stern uncle, the Abbot of Kells (voiced by Brendan Gleeson). There in the forest he meets Aisling, the sprightly and boisterous girl who accompanies him on his journey.
Director Tomm Moore, a 33-year-old Irish illustrator, comics artist and filmmaker, spoke about the significance, historical background and creation of The Secret of Kells in a telephone interview granted to L’Osservatore Romano’s English edition on 12 March.
Moore explained that extensive research was involved in the making of the film. This included studying the actual Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels which is considered Ireland’s finest cultural artefact. Today it is displayed at Trinity College in Dublin, but originally it was housed at the Abbey of Kells, the monastery founded by St Columba where the story is set.
By combining history, fantasy, and myth, Moore’s team aimed to illustrate the importance of preserving valuable traditions and shed light on the truth common to all faiths. The result is a dream-like journey that speaks of sacrifice, gaining strength through suffering, reconciliation and hope.
Several of these themes emerge in the way the film’s catch phrase – turning darkness into light – is interwoven with the story: “We took that language from a poem that a monk wrote about his cat, Pangur Bán, and it’s a direct translationfrom the old Gaelic”, said Moore. “He wrote it in the corner of the Gospel he was transcribing. He said that his cat had a like path to him – that his cat was chasing mice but he was chasing words, and that they worked all night turning darkness into light”.
Brendan’s adventures involve facing the darkness both within and without. As the boy struggles with the idea of leaving to brave the forest, Br Aidan assures him of the importance of experiencing the outside world: “I lost my brothers to attackers from the outside. Now I only have the Book to remember them by. But if my brothers were here now, they would tell you that you will learn more in the woods… than from any other place. You will see miracles”.
In the forest, Brendan’s enemy takes the form of Crom Cruach, known in Irish legend as a pre-Christian deity to whom pagans would make human sacrifices in the hope of good crops. But in the film Crom appears as a snake-like creature that devours its own tail, an Ouroboros.
“The Ouroboros is a symbol that you see a lot in the Book of Kells”, said Moore. “It was a symbol of eternal life that was used often in the crossover period between pagan and Christian faith in Ireland”. He explained that the scene symbolizes an inner battle: “We decided to make Crom very abstract so that it was more Brendan’s own fears that he was defeating rather than a specific pagan god. It’s Brendan’s journey into his own subconscious where he has to fight with his own fears, and then comes out triumphant with a new vision”.
In his defeat of the creature, Brendan’s character parallels the figure of St Patrick, who was said to have struck down Crom Cruach, bringing an end to paganism in the country.
If Brendan can be likened to St Patrick, then perhaps the film’s illustrators can be compared to the Gospel illuminators. “Whenever we were looking at the Book of Kells, a lot of people pointed out that it must have taken a certain meditative quality to create that work. The monks would have had to be completely calm and focused, because it’s almost impossible to imagine how they created such detail with such rudimentary tools that they would have had at the time”.
Similarly meticulous is the work entailed in creating a 2D animated film like this one, which is 95% hand-drawn and produced “without a lot of fancy computer equipment”, Moore said. “People are forgetting how magical it can be that just a pencil and a piece of paper can bring something to life”.
The director explained that each second of animation took approximately 12 drawings per character, in addition to the extremely elaborate backgrounds. “We spent four years working full-time on creating the film, but prior to that there were about six years of designing and developing”.
These artists’ pencil-sketched creations include a diverse group of monks from Italy, Africa and the Middle East. Moore explained that the choice of characters came from researching the Book of Kells, in which there are inks from Afghanistan, Moroccan designs, and other foreign influences. The artists imagined that perhaps people had come from across the world to work on the Book. “We also read a book that talked about how Ireland was a kind of a refuge, that the library in Kells was one of the few refuges existent in the Dark Ages”, he said. “That’s how Ireland became known as the land of Saints and scholars, because during that period people came from all over the world to study or to work whenever it was more dangerous on the Continent”.
Moore’s favourite character, however, is Aisling. The fairy-like girl seems to be bursting with both youthful energy and ageless wisdom. Her character grew out of ideas from literature and from real life. “Aisling is often a figure in 18th century Irish poetry, where Ireland is represented by this beautiful woman, very serene, and she appears to the poet in a dream – because aisling means ‘dream’ in Gaelic. We decided to turn the tradition on its head and make her a mischievous little girl instead of a sombre matriarchal figure”. Moore based Brendan’s relationship with Aisling on his own relationship with his younger sister, whose personality he claims is similar. “My sister even looks a little bit like her, except for Aisling’s white hair!”.
As the film begins to open to record-breaking crowds in the United States, it seems the “secret” is definitely out. And with it comes a message rife with Christian meaning.
“The Book was never meant to be hidden away behind walls, locked away from the world which inspired its creation”, Br Aidan tells Brendan, destined to become Abbot of Kells. “You must take the Book to the people, so that they may have hope. Let it light the way in these dark days”.
For further information visit the film’s production blog,

© L’Osservatore Romano English edition