Animated Shorts #595: Secret of Kells

Animated Shorts #595: Secret of Kells


Every so often, a film comes out of the blue that is just pure magic. It comes out of no where and its mix of animation, story, music; everything leaves you stunned by its originality, audacity and pure artistry.

Such a film is The Secret of Kells, which made its domestic debut at this year’s New York International Children’s Film Fest and is soon slated to be distributed throughout this county.

“It’s a beautiful f***ing film,” NYICFF founder and director Eric Beckman says about the movie. “I think that says it all!!!”

Initially released overseas last February, the film made its American debut last July. The studios behind the project should be familiar to those with some more in depth animation knowledge. The lead studio was Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon, who already made an impression over here with the Cartoon Network TV series Skunk Fu. On the French side of the production is Les Armeteurs, who in the last decade have created quite an august rep with films like Michel Ocelot’s Kirikou & The Sorceress and Sylvain Chomet’s The Triplets of Belleville. Co-directed by Saloon’s Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, informed sources say Chomet helped in the production of the film.

The story in and of itself is the kind of stuff you would love your kids to get into. It tells the tale of a very young, apparently orphaned monk, Brendan (Evan McGuire), being raised by his “uncle” Cellach (Brendan Gleason), the Abbott of the town of Kells. Set in the heart of the dark ages, Cellach is dead set in protecting his people from “the north men,” aka Viking raiders destroying village after village up and down the medieval Irish coat.

Yet Brendan has an amazing gift. He has all the skills to be a master “illuminator,” the artist who puts all the stunning graphics into a Dark Ages book. Yet Cellach literally has no such time for “such nonsense.” He is obsessed with building the wall he will feel will protect his flock from the brutal heathens who will come.

Yet, aided and abetted by another monk Aiden (Mick Lally), another acknowledged master illustrator, Brendan works up the courage to defy his uncle and go beyond the gates. There he encounters Aisling (Christen Mooney), a were-girl whose powers are a lot, lot more than they initially seem.

Then the magic really starts to happen.

Graphically, the film is stunning. Forget Skunk Fu’s more simplistic stylings. This film is a step up on the style Genndy Tartakovsky extrapolated from early UPA and Hanna-Barbera and applied to Samurai Jack and his Clone Wars miniseries.

It works, considering the time period Kells is based in, giving the film a feel similar to iconic art of the Celts with some Byzantium flavorings for seasoning. Yes, the proportions of the characters and backdrops may seem somewhat off, but it’s more than compensated by expressiveness.

Even more fabulous is the movie’s use of color. The palette is vivid, rich and exceedingly pleasing to the eye. When Brendan goes up against a demon, it goes to extremes and is violently effective. The inevitable confrontation with the Norsemen is stunning in its use of deep reds, ochre, oranges and other violent hues. When Brendan and Aisling have their fun scenes out in the woods, the color shifts will make you want to rewind a number of sequences just to wonder how the art director managed to pull them off.

Yet at its core, what’s truly impressive about Kells is the total package. It’s a magnificent right-of-passage movie with some highly original ideas and deft execution. It’s apparently picking up its share of awards internationally, and DVDs are already starting to pop up in Europe.

According to the NYICFF, the film has been picked up by the Empire Film Group domestically. ABSOLUTELY keep your eyes out for this film, or throw any credibility you have as an animation fan out the window.

For more info on The Secret of Kells, check out the websites: or at the NYICFFs site,

Expect a lot more on this movie as the season progresses.


Pay no attention to the handsome and ageless rock star hiding behind the curtains, but…

Cartoon Network has put up its first preview of the fourth season of The Venture Brothers. Even if they pull off one half of what the preview offers, the season looks like it will go down as one of the greatest cases of psychoses perpetrated by animators in the history of the process.

Oh yeah…the URL is right here.

And just who is the new bodyguard at the Venture compound and what does Hitler have to do with all of it?


Vic Mignola has landed what sounds like another great gig after his turn as Edward in Full Metal Alchemist. He’s now one of the principle cast members in another FUNimation project, Soul Eater.

The series tells the tale of living weapons that help humans hunt down demons. It apparently is unapologetically surreal and totally action packed. Other cast members will include: Todd Haberkomm as Death the Kid, Jamie Marchi as Liz, Cherami Leigh as Patty and Mignola as something called The Death Scythe.

Expect this project around 2010.

NEXT COLUMN: We talk animation with a fresh point of view with up-and-coming super-creator Tom McGillis.

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