ByGreg Butler, writer at

Song of the Sea is an Irish animated film created by Cartoon Saloon based in Kilkenny. It was famously nominated for best animated film at the 87th Academy Awards ahead of the Lego Movie. The story is about two children from Donegal and they are brought to "the city" (Dublin) by their grandmother. The plot follows their journey back to their home as they pass through multiple tales of Irish folklore and discover that the stories that their mother told them before her death were true.

As an Irish person, I was extremely impressed with the portrayal of the Irish landscape and, in fact, the entire style of animation in general. In an age where CGI Animation films are a dime a dozen, it is refreshing to see an alternative form of animation being explored. It is such a unique and recognizable style that would give the Japanese a run for their money. Every frame feels like a work of art that you could hang on a wall. There was some really strong and memorable imagery in the shape of the islands and the seals popping their heads out of the water.

On the topic of memorability, the soundtrack was a really important aspect for this film (considering the name). The title track is a motif that runs throughout and I caught myself humming it long after the film had ended. In a film that is aimed at children and families, memorable songs are really important for the success of it, so it's great to see that they have hit the mark on this front.

Since its inception, animation has been utilised for telling old childrens' stories in new ways. Old Irish folk tales have fallen behind in this regard as Japan and America have led the animating industry, although America have been telling European stories due to the lack of their own stories to tell. The Americans can't be trusted with anything Irish (because it would be riddled with leprechauns and shamrocks) so it's wonderful to see these Irish tales come to life from an Irish animated film. Mac Lir the Giant, faeries, selkies and Seanachaí feature in Song of the Sea, and this will hopefully bring relevance to these stories once again.

The film ticks all the boxes in terms of artwork, soundtrack and story, but the issue might be that the story is too complex for children to follow. It is aimed at children, and while I enjoyed it, it will probably be more difficult to engage with for the younger audience. They would be more likely to opt for Minions or Pixar's Inside Out, but Cartoon Saloon would have had to sacrifice some of its unique style to make it more enticing to that audience.

On the overall, the film was massively enjoyable and deserved its Oscar nomination. I hope this film brings more success to Cartoon Saloon and allows them to create more feature films in the future.


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