It is no secret that my favorite animation studio has long been Studio Ghibli and I stand in perpetual awe of Hayao Miyazaki’s genius. Ever since the rumors first began of him retiring, I wondered who would take his place as the master of animated magic? Now that Miyazaki has “officially” retired the question has become more immediate. Though Studio Ghibli still releases beautiful and captivating films, I haven’t felt the same stirring in my heart with the last couple of films which I did with all their earlier ones. I begin to think that it may be time for someone else to take up the mantle (not that I’m crossing Studio Ghibli off just yet, but it may be time for something new). I original assumed another Japanese animator would fill the void, but I’m beginning to think differently.
We’re becoming too familiar with anime, brilliant though it may be, it seems to me that a new perspective is needed, a new style. And to my surprise the origin of that new perspective is Ireland.
“Ireland?” you may ask, “Do they make animated movies there?”
Why yes, as a matter of fact in recent years a brilliant new animation studio has emerged by the name of Cartoon Saloon. There’s a good chance you’ve seen their first major hit “The Secret of Kells,” on Netflix.
I adored this film, it’s pure magic, with characters and images that linger in the mind long after the credits have rolled. Instead of competing with technology its creators tells its story in beautiful flat, 2d drawings. It draws on Irish Christian and Pagan legends and creates wonderful atmosphere with irish music, and scenes that could be right out of an illuminated manuscript. I loved the film and so was thrilled when I heard they were coming out with another animation called “Song of the Sea.”
I was curious to see if their second film could hold up to the first one. I was not disappointed, “Song of the Sea,” though set in a more modern Ireland was just as full of wonder and magic as “The Secret of Kells.” It draws on the Irish legend of the Selkie, a seal which can shed its skin and become a human on land. But the film doesn’t loose itself in legend and magic, it keeps us grounded in the characters and their relationships, creating a rich story which I believe surpasses “The Secret of Kells.”
I love American animation, our studios have created masterpieces that will live on in children’s hearts through the years. But I believe that foreign film opens our eyes to new perspectives and new stories, and it’s important for children to have that. We need new stories, or we get stuck in the old tropes our culture has developed, that’s why foreign film is so exciting and I’m glad America has embraced amazing animation studios like Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon, it helps give us the breath of fresh air our stories need. I hope to continue to see foreign countries creating their own unique style of animation and storytelling.
I have high hopes for Cartoon Saloon and can’t wait to see what they come up with next.