The Secret of Kells

A slight but magnificently-designed independent animated film which was up for an Oscar last year, but lost to… Up. Refreshingly, Kells looks nothing like a Disney, Ghibli or Pixar film. The style of this rare 2D film seems influenced both by the famous Book of Kells and the post-UPA Productions limited animation style repopularised by Samurai Jack and The Powerpuff Girls. There’s no attempt at realistic perspective, background elements are heavily stylised and the characters are only minimally shaded, but it looks great because it draws upon a rich Celtic tradition of ornamentation and symbolism. It makes that ankle tattoo you got in the ’90s look like a load of old rubbish.

The story of a young monk who defies his abbot uncle’s wishes to help craft the Book of Kells (despite the imminent risk of Viking invasion) has an odd and unsatisfactory structure, which I thought was because it was based on a specific Irish legend, but apparently not – they just spent a lot more time on the excellent animation than getting the story perfect. Once the only female character (an engaging forest spirit called Aisling) turns into a white wolf, that’s the last we hear from her! Still, there’s only one musical number, and that’s mostly in Gaelic, so it could’ve been much worse.

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