Traditional hand-drawn animation is still around thanks to Irish director Tom Moore and his Cartoon Saloon concern. Both of their first two full-length features The Secret of Kells(2009) and Song of the Sea were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Like its predecessor, Song of the Sea takes much of its inspiration from folklore as well as keeping 2D animation as up to date as possible. The plot revolves around 2 siblings trying to find their way home only to have to confront a legendary witch in order to save each other.
At the beginning, we are introduced to Ben, a young Irish boy who lives with his parents Connor and Bronagh in a Lighthouse on a small island. Bronagh is heavily pregnant with her 2nd child and Ben is looking forward to becoming a big brother. However, Bronagh mysteriously disappears while giving birth.
Six years later, Ben has become bitter and distances himself from his mute younger sister Saoirse (pronounced Sear-sha), their only friend is the family dog Cu. To make matters worse, Connor is barely coping as a single parent and his well-meaning but over-bearing mother insists the children will be safer living with her.
One night, Saoirse discovers a mysterious coat which turns her into a seal when she enters the water, revealing her to be a selkie. When Saoirse is discovered with the coat, Connor’s mother takes Ben and Saoirse to the City. Soon enough, Ben and Saoirse run away, intending to go home but their journey is soon impeded by the Owl Witch Macha who is after them.
It is often said that too many cooks spoil the broth but Song of the Sea actually benefits from the collaboration of film-makers from Ireland, France, Belgium, Denmark and Luxembourg as well taking inspiration from classic Disney movies and Japanese Anime. The film is definitely Irish though, right down to its setting, the folklore references, even the cast which includes Brendon Gleeson, Fionnula Flannagan, Lisa Hannigan and David Rawle. It is clear that as long as people like Tom Moore continue to create masterpieces like this, there will always be a place for hand-drawn animation.