The Apple TV+ Movie 'Wolfwalkers' Is an Gorgeous Retelling of an Irish Werewolf Fable

The director of 'The Secret of Kells' and 'Song of the Sea' is back with an exhilarating new animated film.

Cartoon Saloon
Cartoon Saloon
Cartoon Saloon

Ireland was once teeming with wolves. You might not think it, since all the wolves that once roamed within the shores of Ireland are now gone, but Irish folklore and historical accounts are dotted here and there with legends of men who “took wolf-shape,” roaming the countryside and raiding nearby towns. In other words, werewolves. But Irish werewolves are a little different from those we’re familiar with: Instead of transforming by the light of the monthly full moon, their souls depart their bodies in the shape of wolves, leaving their human forms asleep for as long as they’re away “wolfing.” It’s this kind of werewolf that comes to stunning cinematic life in Wolfwalkers, which is now available to stream on Apple TV+

Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneafsey) and her father Bill (Sean Bean, who gets to say “Lord Protector” a lot again) have journeyed to Ireland on appointment for Oliver Cromwell (Simon McBurney), who has tasked Bill, a celebrated hunter, with killing the last of the wolf pack menacing his city. Robyn wants nothing more than to journey with her father outside the city walls, hunting the wolves with her falcon and her crossbow, but one day she discovers more than she bargained for. The wolf pack is led by a pair of wolfwalkers, a wild little girl named Mebh (Eva Whittaker) and her mother Moll (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who is trapped asleep in their den after her wolf body was mysteriously lost. Mebh and Robyn swiftly become friends delighting in the natural beauty outside the city walls, until catastrophe hits, and Robyn faces the fear of becoming the one thing her father may be forced to destroy. With Wolfwalkers, directors Ross Stewart, Tomm Moore, and Moore’s team at Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon have outdone themselves, giving their new movie a special beauty that will make you miss the days when 2D animation was the norm. If you recognize the look of this film, that’s because Moore (who was one of the co-founders) has worked with Cartoon Saloon on two other breathtaking animated movies inspired by Irish legend-The Secret of Kells (2009), about the creation of the famous illuminated manuscript the Book of Kells, and selkie folktale reimagining Song of the Sea (2014), about a little boy who discovers his sister can transform into a seal. 

Wolfwalkers has the look of an animated manuscript as well, with a constant flowing movement to the action of the characters and lines of still-visible background sketches that blur into one another, as if every frame was meant to be its own distinct piece of art. The visuals in the wolf transformations are something particularly special. 

There is a strong sense of metaphor to Wolfwalkers as well, which you can pick up on even if you’re not versed at all in the history of Ireland and its relationship to the rest of Great Britain. Cromwell and his campaign against the wolves is representative of the Norman conquest of Ireland, methodically wiping out the superstitious ways of the natives and replacing them with modernity, industry, and a new religion. Even the accounts of the bands of landless men who took wolf-shape are othering, ascribing a violent, animalistic nature to the native people in order to subdue them. Blonde, blue-eyed Robyn, with her lilting, highborn accent from across the sea, sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of bushy-haired, dirt-streaked Mebh and her wolfy tribe, but both of them possess an untapped ferocity and sense of what is right that makes them much more powerful together. Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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