In Kilkenny back in 1999 illustrators Tomm Moore and Paul Young founded Cartoon Saloon, a little known animation company that has been quietly working away at some of the most beautiful animation on the planet ever since. In 2009 Moore released his first feature film- The Secret of Skells, steeped in Celtic folklore with voicework from Brendan Gleeson the film put the studio on the map earning itself a nomination for best animated feature at the Academy Awards.
The studio’s fourth feature film, and Moore’s second animated movie Song of the Sea may well have not just levelled it up with some of their contemporaries but they may well have surpassed them, certainly in the animation department. Traditionally animated the film is a beauty to behold from the opening scene to the last, the visual splendour of the movie wraps you in a warm blanket, taking you back to childhood tales of magic, mystery and fantasy.
The story begins with Ben, the son of a lighthouse keeper, Conor and his wife Bronagh awaiting the birth of the family’s second child. Bronagh has an almost heavenly presence, and it turns out her time on earth is short- once the second child, Saoirse is born Bronagh disappears leaving Ben and Conor to deal with their loss and also raise her young daughter.
Six years later and Conor is still a broken man, unable to deal with the disappearance of his wife, whilst Ben has grown resentful of his little sister, who has yet to talk despite being six years old. One day Saoirse strolls into the sea and transforms into a beautiful white whale, only to be brought back to shore by her brother. When her father discovers what has happened he packs both the children off to live with their grandmother in the city.
Saiorse it transpires is, like her mother, a Selkie. Selkies are mythological creatures from Scottish and Irish folklore that are seals when in water but humans on land. Saiorse soon discovers she is on a mission to save not her species but also various other creatures, most notably that of the Faeries.
Song of the Sea is a wondrous tale, one full of magic, myth and legend but it is also a tragic tale of loss and grief, the film, for all its splendour and imagination deals with some very real human issues and despite being full of fantasy at times manages to ground its emotional core firmly in reality.
Song of the Sea, which was nominated for an Academy Award already at last years ceremony is one of the most beautiful and imaginative animated films of recent years, one that will likely stay with you for a long time after viewing.