Article first published as DVD Review: The Secret of Kells on Blogcritics.
The Secret of Kells tells the story of young Brendan, a child stuck behind the walls of his overprotective uncle’s monastery. Each day Brendan hungers to see what is beyond the gates, but is held back by fear of the unknown and the threat of approaching barbarians. All that changes with arrival of master illuminator Aidan, who brings along a magical book that remains unfinished. Brother Aidan asks Brendan to help, which takes him outside the monastery for the very first time. The lively forest is brimming with magical creatures, including wolf-girl Aisling, who after a trip to the top of a giant tree becomes Brendan’s new friend. As the barbarians close in, it is up to Brendan to finish the book and bring light to the darkness.
This is a gorgeous DVD, which is noticeable right from the disk menu. The colors just spilled across my T.V. and I was instantly taken in with the storybook like scenery, as if the actual Book of Kells in the story had come to life. One would think that there would perhaps be a loss in the transfer to DVD, however this was not the case. Plus, in the age of 3-D, it is nice to see a film that is able create such a brilliant world with thoughtful design and not with any fancy tricks.
The look is very important, especially given the story is focused on harnessing your imagination. The filmmakers took this to heart, and have truly given us a feast for the eyes that enhances the narrative.
I was easily drawn into Brendan’s world, and marveled at just how much care must have gone to creating such a fine demonstration of animation.
I’m not an expert in sound, but I did notice that the soundtrack also created quite an ambiance for the film, particularly in the raids by the Northerners. Aisling’s song to free Brandon was also a truly haunting moment, and the soundtrack created the perfect mood to fit the situation. In my opinion, all the actors were perfectly cast, and I was able to hear every word they said without fail.
Bonus features in the DVD include audio commentary with director Tomm Moore, co-director Nora Twomey, and art director Ross Stewart, recording sessions with the cast; Two Pencil to to Picture scenes, which show some insight on how what came first on paper made it to the screen; a presentation from director Tomm Moore that discusses such topics as the inspiration for the film, and some early concepts; a fun clip of Aisling at the Oscars; and an early concept trailer as well as the US Theatrical version with commentary. The presentation was my favorite part of the extras, especially seeing how different some of the characters could have been. A close second were the pencil to picture drawings, which added to my total amazement with the look of this film.
Would I recommend this DVD? The result is a big yes. This is a truly wondrous film, and anyone who appreciates art and quality animation would definitely want to check it out.
The Secret of Kells is currently available on Blu-Ray and DVD, as well on Video On Demand. Also released is a graphic novel for iPod and iPad, and a free accompanying app that features “Prequel 1: Brendan,” which shares the origin of Brendan and his rescue from barbarian attacks as a young child. The free preview app will also include sample pages from the graphic novel, a link to download the film on iTunes, and four extended video clips from the movie.