"The Secret of Kells" is a movie that everyone should see-- whether you have an interest in Irish culture, illustration, or well done visual story telling. It's an Irish-French-Belgian animated film made by Cartoon Saloon. It came out in 2009 and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2010.
"The Secret of Kells" is a fictionalized account of how the Book Of Kells was created. A young monk named Brendan lives in the village of Kells, where his uncle, the Abbott, is building a massive wall to protect Kells from the Vikings. One ho-hum day, a famed Illuminator (and current keeper of the Book of Kells) named Aidan seeks sanctuary in Kells. Brendan takes an interest in his work, and Aidan takes him in under his wing as his apprentice. As Brendan learns more about Illumination, he ventures into the woods outside of Kells. There he meets a Forest spirit named Aisling, who shows him around the forest. Brendan's relationship with his uncle becomes strained as he learns more about drawing, and to not to give things away I'll leave it at that.
While the story does sometimes drag, every frame of this movie is so well composed, colored, and animated that it is difficult to fault it for anything. "Kells" embraces not only the Irish culture in it's backgrounds, but in character designs and style as well. Each character looks as if they derive out of the original Book-- there's a strong, well articulated Medieval manuscript style that is spoken throughout the entire movie. Even when characters interact with one another, the look as if they turn into one element-- the cast is so different and yet united in line and style.
Brother Aidan, the master Illuminator, is perhaps one of the most well developed characters of the film. His design is beautifully well done, along with his cat Panger Ban. In one shot, as he hold the cat, the two look as one, rather than separate entities. His characterization bounces between fun having mentor, to serious contemplator. His animation flows into each of these moods flawlessly. Meanwhile, the Abbot, who compared to the cast stands out as a powerful presence, interestingly juxtaposes with Aidan. The tension that builds between these two characters is not only evident within the story, but in their designs as well.