Apple buys rights to ‘Wolfwalkers’ film from Irish studio Cartoon Saloon

11 Sep 2018

Promotional poster for the film ‘Wolfwalkers’. Image: Cartoon Saloon

Watch out Netflix, Apple is accelerating its drive into original content.

Tech giant Apple has confirmed a deal with Kilkenny animation studio Cartoon Saloon for the rights to a movie in the works called Wolfwalkers.

In June, we reported that the Kilkenny company was close to a deal with Apple to produce a movie. Wolfwalkers, which will star Sean Bean, is scheduled for release in 2020.

The plot summary of Wolfwalkers, as described by IMDb, is: “In a time of superstition and magic, when wolves are seen as demonic and nature an evil to be tamed, a young apprentice hunter, Robyn, comes to Ireland with her father to wipe out the last pack. But when Robyn saves a wild native girl, Mebh, their friendship leads her to discover the world of the Wolfwalkers and transform her into the very thing her father is tasked to destroy.”

Apple is also understood to have acquired the rights to a nature documentary called The Elephant Queen that will be narrated by Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Apple has a war chest of $1bn to develop its own content to compete with online players such as Netflix and Amazon. It has already made a foray into its own content with two TV shows, Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke.

The secret from Kilkenny

Kilkenny-based Cartoon Saloon is a celebrated animation studio formed by Paul Young, Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey in 1999.

In 2010, the studio’s first feature film, The Secret of Kells, was nominated for an Academy Award; in 2015, follow-up feature Song of the Sea garnered a second nomination while The Breadwinner was nominated earlier this year.

The company’s Emmy-nominated pre-school series, Puffin Rock, is streamed in 25 languages on Netflix and has been viewed nearly 100m times in China on Tencent Holdings’ streaming platform.

Last year, it emerged that Cartoon Saloon would generate 140 new jobs as part of a collaboration called Lighthouse Studios with Canada’s Mercury Filmworks. The project hinges on the development of an all-new 2D- and 3D-focused animation studio as part of the joint venture.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years