Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Landmark Theatre Los Angeles
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: www.gkids.tv/kellsLA
The LA screeing is at The Landmark -- 108250 West Pico at Westwood Blvd, Showtimes: (310) 281-8233 • Information: (310) 470-0492 --
LA Times Piece by Charles Solomon
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
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
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 - www.cartoonsaloon.ie
home at 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’
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
p.s. special shout out to colleen, ken and baby nicolas for a fine finish to a long old trip :)
Friday, March 19, 2010
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?
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.
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.
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
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
By Steven Rea
Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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
By Gary Thompson
Philadelphia Daily News
Daily News Film Critic
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 :)
Adventure with cosmic connections
Oscar nominee ‘The Secret of Kells’ is a hand-drawn surprise
‘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.
THE SECRET OF KELLS
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
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 email@example.com. For more on movies, go to www.boston.com/movienation.
“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, http://theblogofkells.blogspot.com
© L’Osservatore Romano English edition
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Great veggie grub in the River God Pub -A grand St.Patricks day.
though i managed to get sunburnt again- typical irish eejit going out in the sun without sunblock on.
I was at a special reception in a historic landmark building with the Irish consulate and various
representatives from the Irish Government.
Joshua Daniel and Dawn Morrisey of the Boston irish film festival have been most welcoming and
I'm really looking forward to the screening in the Kendal and the reception afterwards this Friday.
hope we get a good turnout here like we did in NY!
The Academy Award nominated animation film, “The Secret of Kells,” will have its Boston-area premiere at the Landmark Kendall Square Cinema Friday, March 19.
The Irish Film Festival will also host a reception for the film’s director, Tomm Moore, at Tommy Doyles pub in Kendall Square Friday after the 7 p.m. screening.
“The Secret of Kells” features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Mick Lally, Evan McGuire and Christen Mooney. A combination of magic, fantasy and Celtic mythology, the film was an Academy Award nominee for best animated feature.Visit http://www.gkids.tv/bostonkells/ or http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Index.htm for show times and tickets.
US release notes from Gkids
Please note, although we try to finalize wherever possible, some dates and locations are subject to change. Unless noted, the film is usually scheduled to play one week only.
Do not panic if you don't see a big city on the list yet... Because there are more theaters in big cities, it sometimes takes longer than with smaller towns, but the big cities will often get the film first, so expect mid- to late-April dates when they show up.
If there are cities missing off the list you would like to see, feel free to recommend theaters and we will do our best to make them happen. You can either comment here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, we're a small independent company unable to afford big TV ads, so we heartily encourage you to spread the word and invite lots of friends!
Opening March 5
New York - IFC Center
Opening March 12
New York - Village East Cinema
Opening March 19
New York - IFC Center (return by popular demand!)
Boston - Landmark Kendall Square (filmmaker Q&A Fri at 7pm, Sat at 1pm!)
Philadelphia - Landmark Ritz at the Bourse
Pleasantville, NY - Jacob Burns Film Center
Greenwich, CT - Criterion Cinemas at Greenwich Plaza
Opening March 26
Amhest, MA - Amherst Cinema
Opening April 2
Los Angeles - The Landmark (on West Pico)
Irvine, CA - Regal Westpark 8
San Francisco - Landmark Embarcadero Film Center
Berkeley, CA - Landmark Shattuck
San Jose, CA - Camera Cinemas 3
Chicago - Siskel Film Center
Washington DC - Landmark E Street Cinema
Madison, WI - Sundance Cinemas Madison
Gainesville, FL - Hippodrome Cinema
Opening April 9
Houston, TX - Angelika Film Center, Houston
Santa Fe, NM - CCA Cinematheque
Jacksonville, FL - Citrus Cel Animation Festival (Apr 9 only!)
Maitland, FL - Florida Film Festival (Apr 10-11 only!)
Oklahoma City, OK - OKC Museum of Art (weekend only)
Honolulu, HI - Honolulu Academy of Art (weekend only)
Opening April 16
Dallas, TX - Angelika Film Center, Dallas
Denver, CO - Starz Denver Film Center
Nashville, TN - The Belcourt
Columbus, OH - Gateway Film Center
Shreveport, LA - Robinson Film Center
Sarasota, FL - Sarasota Film Festival (Apr 17-18 only!)
Portland, ME - Movies at the Museum
Gloucester, MA - Cape Ann Community Cinema
Fargo, ND - Fargo Theater
Opening April 23
Minneapolis/Edina, MN - Landmark Edina Cinemas
Atlanta, GA - Midtown Art Cinemas
Detroit, MI - Landmark Maple Art
Phoenix, AZ - Harkins Valley Art
Iowa City, IA - Bijou Films
Opening April 30
Salt Lake City, UT - Broadway Theater
St Louis, MO - Landmark Theater TBA
Indianapolis, IN - Landmark Keystone Art
Waterville, ME - Railroad Square
Opening May 7
Austin, TX - Landmark Dobie
Ft. Worth, TX - Museum of Modern Art (May 5-10 only)
Omaha, NE - Film Streams
Ann Arbor, MI
Opening May 14
Seattle, WA - Landmark Varsity Theater
Kansas City, KS - Tivoli Theater
Lincoln, NE - Mary Riepma Ross Media Center
Opening May 21
Bellingham, WA - Pickford Film Center
Park City, UT - Park City Film Series
Opening May 28
Albuquerque, NM - Guild Cinema
Columbia, MO - Ragtag Cinema
Springfield, MO - Moxie Cinema
Ft. Collins, CO - Lyric Cinema
Tacoma, WA - Grand Cinema
Spokane, WA - Magic Lantern Cinema
Opening June 4
Tucson, AZ - Loft Cinema
TBA - coming soon
San Antonio, TX
Chapel Hill, NC
Happy paddys day !
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
I think it'll be a howl.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
so i did'nt even know about this until some friends said they were going ...hopefully some london based folks will see this and go along tommorow!
i had a nice time at the Q+A tonight, thanks to everyone who braved the horrendous wind and rain to make it down to village east for the screening.
Its still a kick to see the posters and stuff up in New York!
On the BREW
Samurai Beat Radio
i had a few interviews these past few days here in New York, the Huffingtin post, Washington times and with the esteemed Mr. John Canemaker , as well as with a Vatican newpaper ! heres a nice radio interview with Samurai Beat Radio - thanks Sara for the interview and I hope your arm heals soon so you can get sketching again!
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
thats cool, hope people there know about it. I did'nt.
I went to the Oscar nominated shorts in the IFC here in NY tonight. Some of the "highly commended" ones like Partly Cloudy and Runaway were everybit as good as the nominees.
I saw "The Art of the Steal" too, which was depressing but well made - like most documentarys sadly. I hope The Cove winning the Oscar will help somehow with the plight of the marine life it featured. I wonder if Art of the Steal will help change peoples attitudes to Art being displayed against the donors wishes...
Anyway I peeked in on the Kells screenings and its good to see a healthly crowd at each showing.
Thanks New York. I took a picture of the sign before they took the big letters down.
I'm doing some Q+As tommorow in the east village cinemas...hope theres the same amount of interest there:)
I'll be there!
Friday, March 12th
7:20pm Screenings starts
Location: Village East Cinemas
181 2nd Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets
8:30pm Q&A to follow
Saturday, March 13th
5:00pm Screenings starts
Location: Village East Cinemas
181 2nd Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets
Confirmed dates for Us screenings...more to follow:)
*Confirmed theatrical engagements:*
March 12 - Village East Cinema, NYC
March 19 - *Boston, MA*; Landmark Kendall Sq (w/ Tomm's apperance)
March 19 - *Philadelphia, PA*; Landmark Ritz at the Bourse
March 19 - Pleasantville, NY; Jacob Burns Film Center
March 19 - Greenwich, CT; Bowtie Cinemas (about to confirm via email, if
this does not leave enough time, let me know)
March 26 - Amherst, MA; Amherst Cinema
April 2 - *Chicago, IL*; Siskel Film Center
April 2 - *Washington, DC*; Landmark E Street Cinema
April 2 - *San Diego, CA*; Landmark Ken Cinema
April 2 - *San Francisco, CA*; Landmark theater to be determined
(pushing for Embarcadero)
April 2 - *Berkeley, CA*; Landmark Shattuck
April 2 - *San Jose, CA*; Camera Cinemas
April 9 - *Houston, TX*; Angelika Houston
April 9 - Santa Fe, NM; CCA Cinematheque
Apr 12 - Cape Ann, MA; Cape Ann Community Cinema
Apr 16 - *Dallas, TX*; Angelika Dallas
Apr 16 - Shreveport, LA; Robinson Film Center
Apr 16 - Portland, ME; Movies at the Museum
Apr 16 - Columbus, OH; Gateway Film Center
Apr 16 - Denver, CO; Starz Denver Film Center
Apr 23 - Iowa City, IA; Bijou Film Center
Apr 23 - Phoenix, AZ; Harkins Valley Art
Apr 30 - Salt Lake City, UT; Broadway Centre
May 7 - Omaha, NE; Film Streams
May 14 - *Seattle*, WA; Landmark theater to be determined
May 14 - Kansas City, MO; Tivoli Theater
May 21 - Park City, UT - Park City Film Series
May 22 - Bellingham, WA; Pickford Cinema
May 28 - Tacoma, WA; Grand Cinema
May 28 - Spokane, WA; Magic Lantern
May 28 - Springfield, MO; Moxie Cinema
May 28 - Colubmia, MO; Ragtag Cinema
May 28 - Ft Collins, CO; Lyric Cinema
June 4 - Tuscon, AZ; Loft Cinema
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
carson daly show
Red carpet treatment in Kilkenny Oscars
Although they missed out on the award for Best Animated Feature Film, the animation company celebrated their nomination in style.
Staff from the company, friends and family gathered to watch the Academy Awards live on a giant screen.
As guests walked the red carpet into the private party they got a small taste of what it was like for those attending the main event at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles.
As a warm up to the main event Cartoon Saloon held their own alternative version of the Oscars called the Schloscars. A list of nominees was posted on Facebook leading up to big night and people voted for their favourites. Winners were presented with gold statuettes designed especially for the event.
The winners were as follows: Best in pictures - Nicci St George Smith; Male hair in a leading role - Mick Greene; Female hair in a leading role - Capri Parysek
Performance in a supporting role - Arthur Drohan; Most animated person - Eilis Brophy; Achievement in giving directions - Alan Slattery; Best foreign accent - Assunta Domanico; Achievement in costume design/make-up - Marie Thorhauge Torslev; Music in a leading role - Mark Stewart; Best animated dance of the year - Paul Young; Best short temper subject - Mark Stewart and Achievement in laughing - Helen Jackson.
Due to being in Los Angeles attending the Academy Awards, Paul Young of Cartoon Saloon was unable to accept his award in person. He did however send a video clip from beside the pool in his hotel in LA thanking everyone for their votes.
When the Best Animation Feature Film category was announced there were huge cheers for Cartoon Saloon as Director of The Secret of Kells Tomm Moore and his wife Liselott Olofsson were caught several times on camera.
The award was given to Disney-Pixar's Up but there was no disappointment shown by Cartoon Saloon who said they were thrilled to have received the nomination.
Speaking afterwards to Kilkenny Alive, Ross Stewart, Art Director for The Secret of Kells, said: "It was amazing to lose to a film like Up. We didn't expect to win. We won by being nominated for the Oscar. Just to be there at the awards ceremony is our prize. How amazing was it to see Tomm and the rest of them up there on the screen?"
Other nominees with Kilkenny connections also missed out on awards. The Door’, Directed by Juanita Wilson and produced by her husband James Flynn, who has deep Kilkenny roots, lost out to The New Tenants by Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson; George Clooney who is related to the family of the late Pearse Clooney of Maudlin Street, Kilkenny lost out to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Animated clips from Oscar night on Youtube already!
I would have loved to have had a Viking answer the question of "what does the nomination mean to you?" with a loud "GOOOOOLD!" and then have him trash the place..Big laffs.
but we figured this was the biggest audience we'd get to advertise our surprise nomination, so Aisling would be best as shes the cutest character and the one everyone seems to love (along with Pangur ban) the most. We would have liked to have included Brendan but his voice was provided by Evan McQuire almost 4 years ago and Evan has since become a towering strapping young chap with a very deep voice;) Thankfully the talented young Christen Mooney still sounds pretty much like Aisling does in the movie - at least when shes in character!
The producer Bill Mechanic asked us to do the piece while we were out for the Annies and the Santa Barbara film festival and Pixar sort of set the template. it was a mad panic to complete this and we were'nt paid anything for it, it was just an amazing oppurtunity to create something for one of the biggest Tv shows in the world . We only had three weeks total to do it too.
Paul and I brainstormed the script with Nora over skype the night we got asked to come up with something and we had a few revisions from Bill Mechanic before we got it right, I met up with my friend Jim Capabianco in Santa Barbera at the festival there and ran some of our bad ideas by him until we whittled it down to something do-able!
Time was tight so I was doodling ideas directly on the tablet pc with the scratch track provided by Paul Young - sounded pretty weird to have a 35 year old man do Aislings voice but it quickly showed we had too many ideas for the time we had. Nora did a scratch of the lines we settled on and I did a scribbly Flash animatic on the plan from LA to Dublin.
Flying back from the Annies , I had a four hour stop over in Chicago where I tried to call in to the sound studio when Nora and Christen were recording the final approved dialogue. But we were pushing mobile phone technology a bit too far and Nora took care of the voice directing alone ;)
I sketched the pose and basic idea in Brown Bag studios in Dublin first thing in the morning when I flew back to Ireland as I knew the time was tight for all involved and the hours I'd have lost getting to KK that morning would have been crucial not to lose.
Design wise I made her a little more like how she appears in the short prequel I drew for the French comics.
With extra long hair trailing into mist and flowers in it to give her a bit of glamour for Oscar night:)
Thanks to Darragh and the lads in BB for their help, without whom I could'nt have got the pose and design off to the talented Allesandra Sorrentino and Alfredo Cassano in time.
Our Italian friends animated it in beautiful full, frame by frame style, but in Flash, drawing each drawing directly into the computer with wacoms, the result is pretty much as good if not better than their superb work on paper for the feature itself IMO.
Lily Bernard and Maestro Ross Stewart made the BG and the sound studio Piste Rouge in Paris tidied up the sound and did some subtle forest efx.
Serge Ume and his team in digital graphics made the Ink and paint and compositing in five days and hey presto , Aisling was ready for the Oscars.
It was a great honour to create something original for the actual show and we scrambled to rebuild our international pipeline mainly because every one in our own studio are so busy on other projects right now but also because it was good to work with some of the best talent we had on the movie itself.
It was cool also to see the Fantastic Mr.Fox clip mention The Secret of Kells too...almost makes up for not getting to meet Wes Anderson after all. I only saw all the other clips on the night myself, so they were all a lovely surprise.
I have to say Pete Docter is the ultimate gentleman and his speech is just lovely to watch again after the clips play when he most deservedly wins the goldy fella.
It was very moving to be sitting next to his lovely wife Amanda , but I am very sorry that I kept standing on the end of her gown all night :(
New York New York
sadly lovely liselott had to continue onwards home to Kilkenny tonight.
I am in the swanky Marriott Hotel - thanks Gkids and ready for a good kip after digesting
my latest hoard of comics from Meltdown in La. Nice.
tommorow looks reasonably busy with press again, its all good and although its a pity not to be back on the old sod until the end of the month, I'll b excited to see NY and Boston around Paddys day.
oiche mhaith agaibh.
Am new york interview...
Discovering "The Secret of Kells"
5:24 PM By Robert Levin
When “The Secret of Kells” was announced as an Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature the collective response from pundits, film buffs and just about everyone else was, “Huh?”
Now they’re finding out. In the wake of its terrific opening, hauling in $39,826 at the IFC Center to post the highest per screen average of any film last weekend, viewers have begun to discover director Tomm Moore’s beautiful hand drawn work. It’s a compelling blend of impressionistic and cubist sensibilities that depicts a young boy’s coming of age amid the terror and upheaval of Dark Ages Ireland. amNewYork spoke with the filmmaker.
In the age of photo-realistic animation from Pixar and the like, where do you see yourself and your company Cartoon Saloon?
I guess we’re on the outside knocking on the door, looking to come in, but what I’m happy about is I look at the other nominees in our category this year [and] there’s two stop-motion movies and we’re one of two hand-drawn movies, so I’m hoping … things have come around again. Hopefully, we’re part of a resurgence of traditional techniques, but only time will tell.
What is it about the 9th century that lent the period to the imaginative, abstract approach you’ve taken in the film?
For us when we were looking [at material], I wanted to make something that was Irish and looked a bit different than what [had been] coming out of America or Japan, the main powerhouses of animation. We said, “Our culture was really rich at that time, we have a lot of mythology from that time and the history lent itself to a dramatic story with the Vikings and everything.” I think the 9th century was a pretty subjective time; people’s imaginations were crossing over into reality. They didn’t know about the world beyond the edge of their village, so I think it makes sense to do an animation in that period.
What styles did you draw on to come up with the film’s distinct look?
The time period that we set the film in was pre-Renaissance, so the artwork that we were looking at was pre-Renaissance. We were looking at, besides the manuscripts and the tapestries you see in the forest [in the film] … things like wood blocks and wood cuts for the Vikings, to show them being a little bit more primitive. … More magical stuff [we made curvier], more like the calligraphy we were looking at. It was just a question of looking at the art styles from that period and trying to adapt it to animation.
The film is animated and ostensibly for kids, but it’s genuinely scary. What’s the key to finding that balance?
I think a lot of people when they think they’re doing stuff for kids, they put on the kids gloves a bit too much. The movies that inspired me to be an animator, like “Bambi,” they deal with heavy themes in terms of a serious threat. I just felt the story we were telling wasn’t a “Care Bears” movie, you know? It was real history. The Vikings really were a danger at the time. But aside from that, we were dealing with this kind of mythic structure and the real fairy tales and the real myths that we were looking at have that element of danger to them, and I think that’s important, even in kids’ stories.
Monday, March 08, 2010
IFC Box Office Records broken in New York!
The Secret of Kells Breaks New York Box Office Record
March 7th, 2010 Tomm Moore's
Oscar nominated, critically-acclaimed The Secret of Kells, has broken the opening weekend box office record at New York's IFC Center. The film, released by GKIDS, propelled the IFC Center to its biggest single day and weekend grosses ever, as well as the best Friday and Saturday in the theater's
history. The Secret of Kells weekend gross of $39,826 was the best screen average of any film in the nation for the weekend of March 5-7.John Vanco, GM of IFC Center said, "With The Secret of Kells selling out all but one of its weekend shows, IFC had its biggest, Friday, Saturday, Sunday in the theater's history. Saturday was our single biggest day ever and we also had our biggest weekend ever. We're thrilled to be able to extend our mission of showcasing the best of independent film by presenting a wonderful picture like Kells, which gloriously proves that kids and parents are just as starved for quality alternatives to Hollywood product as IFC Center's regular audiences are."Eric Beckman, President GKIDS said, "We are just thrilled beyond words at the record-breaking reception New York audiences have given to The Secret of Kells, as well as the love the film has received from NY critics. It has been an amazing ride so far, and we now look forward to expanding our release and giving audiences in other markets an opportunity to experience this amazing film." The film will next open in Boston and Philadelphia on March 19th.The film opened to unanimous praise from NY critics, A.O. Scott from the New York Times called it "Extraordinary!""Critics Pick! Extraordinary! The Secret of Kells discloses strange new vistas that nonetheless seem to have existed since ancient times." - AO Scott, New York Times"A Visual Feast! Unlike anything I have ever seen before!" - Lou Lumenick, New York Post"Rapturous! Stunning! A riot of color!" - Village Voice"Pure Inspiration! One of the most beautiful works of animation ever!" - NY Press"Enchanting!" - Time Out New York"Dazzling! Utterly Charming! A haunting blend of history, fairy tale and pure invention!" - Andrew O'Hehir, SalonMagic, fantasy, and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color and detail that dazzle the eyes, in this sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times. Young Brendan lives in the Abbey of Kells, a remote medieval outpost under siege from raiding barbarians. One day a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest, where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl, who helps him along the way. But with the barbarians closing in, will Brendan's determination and artistic vision illuminate the darkness and show that enlightenment is the best fortification against evil? The Secret of Kells is a France/Belgium/Ireland co-production of Les Armateurs, Vivi Film, Cartoon Saloon and France 2 Cinema and features the voices of Brendan Gleeson (Harry Potter, In Bruges), Evan McGuire and Christen Mooney.
tweetmeme_style = 'compact'; tweetmeme_source = 'movieweb';
Sunday, March 07, 2010
good box office news from new york too ;)
Saturday, March 06, 2010
come one come all big or small
Jonathon Loughran of the Irish film Board has organised a party to accomodate any of the cast or crew of the Irish nominees heading out to LA -
Sunday 7th March
3pm- ??? Irish Oscar viewing party
Dillon’s Irish Pub
6263 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 315-9744Given that you will have so many filmmakers, family and friends in LA for the big day, I have arranged for a reserved area in the recently opened Dillon’s Irish Pub on Hollywood Blvd, which is ¾ mile away from the Kodak Theatre. The upstairs area is held for the entire Irish group so please feel free to invite as many people as you like to view the red carpet and ceremony together on their multiple TVs. The place will get packed early so please ask everyone to get there as close to 3pm (when the red carpet telecast begins) to get a spot. Please note this is not a hosted event, but all bottle and tap beer is $3, house wine $4, so we won’t find a better deal in Hollywood! RTE will be covering this event and hope to conduct interviews with the travelling support, so have your smiles ready for the cameras….
"The Secret of Kells": Oscar's dazzling Irish surprise
Animator Tomm Moore talks about turning Celtic art and fantasy into Oscar season's unexpected delight
Since the Academy Award for animated features was created in 2001, the category has been dominated by big-budget, computer-animated films from a handful of studios and distributors, mainly meaning Pixar (six nominations and four wins, in eight years), Walt Disney and DreamWorks. There were exceptions -- Hayao Miyazaki's hand-drawn "Spirited Away" won in 2002, and Nick Park's stop-motion "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" in 2005 -- but those almost seemed to underscore the wider world of innovative animation Oscar was ignoring. Over the last several Oscar seasons, the roster of nominated films has seemed so predictable and unadventurous that some commentators have suggested abolishing the category.
Nobody's saying that this year. While Pixar's "Up" (also nominated for best picture) is considered the likely winner, it's definitely nothing like a formulaic kid-flick -- and it's also the only computer-animated film among the five nominees. After more than a decade of CGI dominance, handmade is suddenly all the rage: Even Disney's nominated "The Princess and the Frog" was hand-drawn, as if in a deliberate effort to suggest that company's great tradition. Nominees also include two stop-motion literary adaptations aimed at a kidult crossover audience, Henry Selick's "Coraline" and Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox."
But those movies had all been widely seen, favorably reviewed and discussed as possible Oscar fodder. Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, was prepared for the nomination of "The Secret of Kells," a dazzling, not to mention utterly charming, hand-drawn fable about a 12-year-old boy's adventures in early medieval Ireland. "We thought we might be in line for some Irish and European awards, and that would be that," says director Tomm Moore. "The Oscars? No way. That never entered my mind."
A haunting blend of history, fairy tale and pure invention, Moore's film follows a young student monk named Brendan, who has spent his whole life inside the fortified walls of the Abbey of Kells, whose forbidding abbot (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) has built it as a sanctuary against the Viking raiders who are pillaging and burning Irish villages at will. (It's somewhere around the year 800 A.D., give or take.) Into Brendan's cloistered life comes a playful monastic wanderer named Aidan (Mick Lally), who apparently studied with the legendary St. Colum Cille (aka St. Columba) on the Scottish isle of Iona, and carries with him perhaps the single greatest treasure of medieval Ireland.
That treasure is neither gold nor jewels but a book -- a lavish illustrated manuscript version of the Gospels that in centuries to come will be known as the Book of Kells. (Today it is considered Ireland's most important single cultural artifact, and can be seen under glass in the Old Library at Trinity College in Dublin.) Brendan's yearning to help Aidan complete the manuscript, and safeguard it from Scandinavian marauders, leads him outside the walls of Kells into the magical forest around it -- and also out of the then-new Christian world into the pagan past.
Borrowing a wide range of illustrations and motifs from the Book of Kells and numerous other medieval and indigenous sources, Moore and his team of Irish, Belgian and French animators send Brendan on a mystical voyage. He is aided by an irrepressible forest sprite named Aisling ("ASH-ling"), but must go alone to face the terrifying Crom Cruach, an ancient and perhaps demonic Celtic deity who -- at least in some legends -- required the sacrifice of first-born children to ensure the harvest.
All this is a freewheeling and fanciful blend of art and legend; Moore doesn't pretend to offer a historical account of how the Book of Kells was created, or a coherent version of the collision between paganism and Christianity in Ireland. Rather, "The Secret of Kells" is a gorgeous transcription of medieval decorative art and its themes into a contemporary animated narrative, one that should enthrall children older than 8 or so, along with the adults lucky enough to watch with them. (My guess, so far, is that the invading Viking hordes and the Crom Cruach sequence are probably too scary for my 6-year-old twins. They have a difficult time with the evil stepmother in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.")
American distribution rights for "The Secret of Kells" belong to GKIDS, an independent producer and distributor of children's entertainment whose main property is the New York International Children's Film Festival. To its credit, the company responded to the unexpected Oscar nomination by pushing the film into one New York theater this weekend, with wider release and a DVD version soon to follow. I had hoped to meet Tomm Moore in person during his New York visit, but both of us were snowed in after the recent blizzard and decided to talk on the phone instead.
It's such a wonderful idea for an animated film, but also a pretty unlikely one. Tell me how and when you came up with it.
I had an idea along these lines when I was in college in '99, and I started to develop it with a group of friends -- the idea of trying to translate Irish art, Celtic art, into animation. To do something along the lines of, say, what they did in "Mulan" with Chinese art.
After I got out of college we set up an animation studio in Kilkenny and we were doing commercials and other kinds of jobs. So this was a pet project we could never get off the ground until 2005, when we met the producers of "Triplets of Belleville" [the French-Belgian animated feature, Oscar-nominated in 2003]. We were able to put the financing together and work on a final script. We had many years of development prior to that, in terms of the art style. But in 2005 we were finally able to hit the ground running.
Talk about the art style. Obviously you drew on the Book of Kells itself. Was there other medieval art, or art from other periods, that you looked at?
At a certain point it was the Book of Kells itself, and then we started looking at medieval art in general, the triptychs and other things. Basically anything in and around that whole era -- European medieval art and also anything involving indigenous folk art that had been translated into animation. We looked at, like, the Hungarian folk-tale series that had been done in Eastern Europe, where they had taken Hungarian art and animated that. Or American things like "Samurai Jack," where they'd taken Japanese and other indigenous art and adapted it into TV animation. We took all of that as reference points, and tried to come up with our own style.
I know this is a work of fiction, not history. But how much research did you do? Did you want to paint something close to an accurate portrait of that era?
We started off with a fairly dry version of the story, which was even a little bit too historical. Then we started working with a screenwriter named Fabrice Ziolkowski, this French-American guy, and he helped us tease out more of the hero's-journey story. That opened it up to allow us to bring in some of the legends and fantasy that surrounded the history, which might have made the story skew a little bit younger, and also made it a bit more fun for the animators doing it.
Telling the story through this young boy, who's a kid but also a monk -- or, I guess, a student monk -- was an interesting choice.
We were always telling the story through Brendan's eyes, but I think I was looking too much at Aidan and the Abbot in the first draft of the script. Seeing the world through Brendan's eyes is much more interesting. Imagine the suggested world of a kid in the Middle Ages who's never been outside the walls of this abbey -- that gave us another way of looking at the whole movie. So he became central rather than secondary.
Was the Abbey of Kells really this kind of fortified bulwark, the way you portray it? Is that part historical?
Yeah, basically it is. The land was given to Cellach, who was a historical character, by a local nobleman. Iona had been burned out and sacked so often that they decided to come into the center of Ireland [County Meath, roughly 40 miles north of Dublin] and try to get away from the Vikings. Of course the Vikings just came up the rivers and wound up sacking Kells in the end anyway. Maybe the walls weren't that big! We exaggerated that a bit, now.
It's fascinating that you depict the monks at Kells as being not just Irish, or not even principally Irish, but as coming from all over the world -- Italy, Africa, the Middle East. What's the historical basis for that?
Well, this is what we found most interesting and surprising when we did research into the Book of Kells. One of the things they don't understand is that there are inks and patterns and designs in the Book of Kells that come from all over the world. There's some ink that seems to have come from Afghanistan; there are patterns they've linked to Morocco. It's fascinating stuff: They've found bones of pet monkeys, things like that. Stuff we didn't even use in the movie. There was a lot of trade and interaction, a lot of people coming to Ireland from mainland Europe for refuge. Maybe it was all down to trade and dialogue, and maybe there were all sorts of people from all over the world living in Ireland at the time. We thought it was a nice reflection of how cosmopolitan Irish society has become today.
Right. As you and I both know, Ireland in the 20th century was, at least at times, a pretty provincial place, somewhat cut off from the world.
I grew up in an Ireland where basically all my friends were Irish people with good Irish names, all of that. My son now goes to an Irish-speaking school where he's got friends from Burma, Poland, you know, everywhere. So I thought it was interesting to see that in the Middle Ages Ireland had an influx of people from everywhere, which parallels what's been going on just in the last 10 years.
Wait -- your son goes to school with Burmese and Polish kids who are learning Irish?
That's fantastic! I wish my dad, who was a Celtic scholar, was still around to see that. It seems like you're trying to address the old-style Irish nationalist stereotype, the idea that there was some pure culture that had been handed down from ancient times.
Ah, no. We're a mongrel breed and that's for sure. A lot of Irish people are surprised by how rich a cultural history we had around that time.
Talk about the way you use the pagan and pre-Christian iconography in the movie, especially the ancient Celtic god Crom Cruach, whose image was supposedly destroyed by St. Patrick.
What I found most interesting about that period -- I've done a couple of graphic novels about St. Patrick, and what I really learned was how the ancient Celtic gods had been transmuted into the new Christian pantheon. A lot of the saints, like St. Colum Cille, had all these amazing legends around them: His hand glowed, so he could write at night! All this strange stuff. It would always be this confluence of the old pagan beliefs and the more modern -- well, not modern -- but the newer Christian stuff.
I found that the Crom Cruach story seemed to be linked to this old duality, with Lugh as the sun god and Crom as the god of the underworld. There were all these legends about human sacrifices that St. Patrick stopped by defeating Crom Cruach. I sort of thought, maybe that's where the idea of the snakes being driven out of Ireland came from, St Patrick defeating Crom. Even though Crom is most often represented as a worm or a giant, a giant idol, we picked on serpent. We thought there was symbolism we could use from the Book of Kells, where they have all these Ouroboros, these snakes eating their own tails, going around the pages. So we thought, let's make Crom into something Brendan imagines after seeing some of the Book of Kells.
And then there's Aisling, your little forest sprite. Where does she come from?
I don't know if you know much Gaelic, but Aisling means "dream," and there's this tradition of Aisling poems, more from the Celtic Revival period, you know, the William Butler Yeats era. They used to write these poems where Aisling would be a girl the poet would see, who would tell tales about Ireland's woe or whatever. We thought it would be fun to make her a little girl rather than a woman, make her this symbol of the matriarchy that Christianity was replacing, but also something like a little sister to Brendan. I based her on my own little sister, you know? She's always trying to best him, and she's got all these powers. Because she's a fairy she can transform into any creature. She's kind of a mixture of this wise old pagan deity and a pesky little sister.
Tell me a little bit about the techniques and technology you used. This is all hand-drawn animation, or mostly?
The animation is 95 percent hand-drawn. We did 20 minutes of animation in Kilkenny, and that was the lead for all the other studios. In Belgium they colored all the characters on the computer, and we did some CG, like the Crom Cruach sequence and the Viking attacks. We had to use CG for the crowd scenes, but we tried to make it all look hand-made, keep it looking like medieval art. That was the goal.
Surprisingly, you're up against another hand-drawn animation ["The Princess and the Frog"] and two stop-motion films, along with "Up."
It's amazing to me. When we started making this movie in 2005, hand-drawn animation was basically dead, except in Japan. It's a mad year to be in the Oscars. Basically we're all in the shadow of "Up," which I think is a great movie. We kind of won big just by getting this nomination. We never thought that could happen.
"The Secret of Kells" opens March 5 at the IFC Center in New York, with other cities to follow.