Wolfy, the Incredible Secret – movie review by Fred Patten

by kiwiztiger

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Wolfy, the Incredible Secret. Directed by Eric Omond. 82 minutes. December 18, 2013 in France; March 17, 2015 in the U.S. (DVD).

 51j8S0HiH9L._SY300_Loulou, l’Incroyable Secret was the winner of France’s César Award – “the French Oscars” — in 2014 for the Best Animated Feature shown in France during 2013; not just the best French-produced animated feature of 2013. It competed against the American animated features shown in France during 2013, which was probably all of them. It was also shown at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Berlinale’s Crystal Bear, selected by a Children’s Jury as the Best Children’s Film entered in the Festival, animation or live-action.

Loulou, l’Incroyable Secret is based upon the French children’s book series by Grégoire Solotareff, with hand-drawn animation in Solotareff’s art style. Solotareff, born as Gregory El Kayem in Alexandria, Egypt in 1953 of Lebanese parents, has lived in France since 1960 and been an artist of children’s books since 1985. He has written & drawn over 150 children’s books to date, winning ten awards. He began the Loulou books in 1989, about the friendship between Loulou (Wolfy), an orphaned wolf cub, and Tom, a young rabbit, in the Land of the Rabbits. The series has been favorably reviewed for promoting friendship amidst nonconformity. It was first animated in March 2003 as Loulou et Autres Loups … (Wolfy and Other Wolves …), a 29-minute featurette directed by Serge Elissade. Loulou, l’Incroyable Secret is an original story, not based upon a book, with the screenplay, dialogue, and art design by Solotareff (and others).

Wolfy the easygoing wolf cub and Tom the pessimistic rabbit are now adolescents in the Land of Rabbits, with Wolfy adopted into Tom’s family. Cornelia, a mysterious gypsy (the audience sees that she is more than just passing through) tells Wolfy that he is not an orphan as he has always believed! His mother is a princess in Wolfenberg, the Land of Wolves. Wolfy insists on going there to find her. Tom goes along, despite his misgivings. They arrive at the height of Wolfenberg’s Carnifest/Meat-Eaters’ Festival, where everyone assumes that Wolfy has brought the teenaged rabbit to be added to the menu. Wolfy is pressured to give Tom up; and it is doubtful that Wolfy can save Tom even if he wants to. The throne of Wolfenberg has been usurped by the elderly tyrant Lou-Andréa, who does not have an heir so he offers to adopt Wolfy, to both settle the succession and to placate the followers of the overthrown Princess Oympie – if Wolfy, a.k.a. “Prince Ludovic de Wolfenberg”, will accept his carnivorous nature and give up Tom. Amidst this are the mysteries of Miss Scarlett, the vixen chanteuse who may or may not be their only ally; of what has happened to Princess Olympe, Wolfy’s mother; why Wolfy was abandoned at birth; why the masked underground led by “Captain N” is trying to overthrow Lou-Andréa (are they good guys or bad guys?); and what Cornelia’s role in all this is.

arton24897-29c57The French feature, produced in hand-drawn (not computer graphic) animation by Prima Linea Productions and a consortium of other French and Belgian animation studios, is very clever and original. I’m not a fan of Solotareff’s art style, but it has been generally praised by critics. (Solotareff has acknowledged that his influences have been Gauguin, Matisse, van Gogh, Picasso, and French children’s book illustrators Jean de Brunhoff and Tomi Ungerer, among others.) The movie, designed for both children and adults, is a skillful balance of the theme of the pressures on Wolfy’s and Tom’s friendship, with the mysteries of Wolfenberg’s deadly (but not scary) politics amidst which they find themselves. Will Wolfy give up Tom now that he is “home” and a prince? Will Tom abandon Wolfy and return to the Land of Rabbits? Can Wolfy save Tom from the other carnivores? The dialogue is snappy without resorting to self-conscious wit or forced one-line (or toilet) humor.

As usual, what has been an animated hit with, not just French, but European theater-goers has been ignored by the American cinematic industry. Wolfy, the Incredible Secret (dubbed into English) had its U.S. premiere at the 18th annual International Children’s Film Festival in New York (February 27 to March 22, 2015), where it was shown on March 7th and 14th. It was released on March 17th, simultaneously on Time Warner Cable On Demand TV to May 18th, on Digital HD, and as a DVD by Random Media – not theatrically, but at least as a high-class family film, not a kid’s movie. It’s for children, but it’s sophisticated enough that furry fans will not feel it beneath them.

– Fred Patten

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