100% Wolf Review – A Howling Great Time of an Aussie Animation Treat

From Photon Creative’s fauna-focused series, Tales from Sanctuary City, to the iconic Emmy award winning series Bluey, there’s been a steady increase in the amount of Australian animated films on offer. Yet, one of the most enduring legacies of Australian animation culture has been the Flying Bark Productions studio, established way back in 1967 by animation icon Yoram Gross and partner Sandra Gross. With the iconic Dot and Blinky Bill series to their name, and the emerging Maya the Bee series, Flying Bark have comfortably established themselves as one of the animation powerhouses in Australian cinema. All of which makes the arrival of the absolutely entertaining 100% Wolf all the more enjoyable.

Freddy Lupin (Ilai Swindells) is a hopeful werewolf-in-waiting, sneaking out of the house at night to follow his father, Flashheart (Jai Courtney), and his pack slink around the local town, protecting and saving its citizens from imminent danger. Freddy, stuck in his human form til he’s ready for first transformation, is forced to rely on a magical Moonstone to keep track of Flashheart and the pack as they bound across rooftops throughout the night. Leaping into burning buildings and rescuing distressed folks is their aim, avoiding and attacking dogs is their game. In an escalating debacle, Freddy is discovered to be tracking the pack, inadvertently alerting a bonkers ice-cream truck owner, Foxwell Cripp (Rhys Darby), to the werewolves existence, and causing the accidental death of Flashheart.

Cut forward six years and Freddy’s ready to be confirmed as the leader of the pack in the ‘High Howling’; an event that initiates new werewolves and ushers in their transformation under the gleam of the moonlight. Excited and a little nervous, ready to follow in his fathers footsteps, the slender, muscle-free Freddy steps into the light, only to find himself transformed into a poodle. In this world, dogs are the sworn enemies of werewolves, leading to the two groups to be at constant loggerheads. Shamed by the pack, Freddy is then challenged to prove his werewolf-worthiness by moonrise the next day, or be permanently shunned from the group.

Out on the streets and in search of some heroics, Freddy is suddenly awakened to the world of canines and quickly becomes friends with Batty (Samara Weaving), a Yorkshire Terrier-esque pup known to the dog catchers as ‘Houndini’. Together, they embark on an adventure that exposes hidden truths and changes how Freddy sees the world as he moves on his path to become 100% Wolf.

With bright and brilliant animation and a funky soundtrack that keeps the enjoyment consistent, this utterly delightful family friendly flick wears its inspirations on its sleeves, all the while crafting a character driven narrative that is high on laughs and exciting action. Ilai Swindells high-energy performance as Freddy cements the film together, with a voice cast that frenetically bounces off each other, with Swindells interactions with Samara Weaving being a particular delight. Other notable voice work includes Loren Gray, Rupert Degas, Akmal Saleh, Jane Lynch, and Magda Szubanski, all of whom make the most out of their cartoonish roles.

Given the production of 100% Wolf was made by Siamese Pty Ltd, a Perth based production company, it was an absolute delight to notice the Fremantle-inspired architecture and setting throughout the film. The streets feel distinctly Freo-esque, so much so that watching the werewolves race across the rooftops under the night sky immediately put me on the footpath of High Street, heading towards the Roundhouse. Additionally, moments where iconic structures like the lit up Skyview Wheel and the shipping container-laden docks made me immediately nostalgic for a city I regularly visit.

While the Freo-centric iconography may not be the first thing across every viewers mind, the localised jokes and vernacular will ensure you notice the Aussie-infused charm of 100% Wolf, helping make the distinctly non-Australian story feel comfortably ocker. Director Alexs Stadermann continues their storied success as an animation director, pulling from their history on Disney shows and filling 100% Wolf with frequent comedic beats that’ll keep kids of all ages entertained. Fin Edquist’s script is tightly written and keenly aware of genre-tropes, employing them to notable effect throughout the film. While there are precious few surprises, the ones that do appear are more than welcome, making the expected narrative stops feel less tired than they might do otherwise.

Given the legacy of Flying Bark’s previous series, one can’t help but hope that this is not the first in the series of 100% Wolf films that we get to see. It feels like a unique entity in the Australian film canon, but realistically, with over four decades worth of animation from Flying Bark, we shouldn’t be surprised. This may have slipped under the radar of some viewers early in 2020, but don’t let it slip into obscurity. Show it to your kids, your nieces, your nephews, and get them hooked on a dog bone-afide Aussie animation treat.

Director: Alexs Stadermann

Cast: Ilai Swindells, Samara Weaving, Jai Courtney

Writer: Fin Edquist, (with story contribution by Ranald Allan, David Breen, Stephanie Zehnal, and head of story Alexs Stadermann)

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