By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
GKIDS & Shout! Factory
Available in the USA
Those who haven’t seen Cartoon Saloon‘s Irish mythology trilogy can now see how it all began with The Secret of Kells (2009)! One of the problems was with early home video distribution. It’s limited availability in certain markets made this film generally unavailable in other countries.
This humble re-release to the United States may well pave the way for a box set which will add Song of the Seas and Wolfwalkers to the mix. With Shout! Factory and GKIDS behind this distribution, I hope that they are listening. Hopefully, Universal Studios Home Entertainment rights for Song is soon ending or can be transferred so one distributor can offer a compendium with an art folio to celebrate all three films.
The first film’s artistic design is a work of transcendental magic. We see the hurdles Brendan (Evan McGuire), a young boy living in the Abbey of Kells, has to face as he gets items to help create the fabled book. The demi-gods said to lurk across the mire are not the only creatures he encounters. While the adults are worried about the Viking invasion, another group is trying to finish the contents of this mostly Christian work.
The mix of Christian iconography, Insular art and Celtic knots makes this tome more than just a collection of texts from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There’s also the Breves Causae (Gospel summaries), Argumenta (brief biographies of the Evangelists), and Eusebian canon tables.
The film shows how one far away religion syncretized with local traditions. The Old Gods are okay with this change and thus begins one of three movies where transformation is a key theme.
When the adult Brendan returns to his homeland, the awestruck look speaks for itself. It’s also a work that has to belong in every animation enthusiast’s collection, alongside Fantasia and Spirited Away.