Animation Features Movies


Director – Kirby Atkins – 2019 – China, New Zealand – 97m


From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

Mosley (voiced by writer-director Kirby Atkins) is a thoriphant who lives on the small holdings farm of his owner Simon (Curt Cloniger) where he and Bera (Lucy Lawless) have a small boy Rue (voiced by director’s daughter Leah Atkins when little and Scarlett Sills in additional dialogue). The backbreaking work Mosley does for Simon is that of a plough horse. Simon is not a particularly bad man, but sees nothing wrong with pushing Mosley as far as he can with the result that Mosley is often completely exhausted by the end of the day.

He then has to contend with the hyperactive Rue leaping on him and demanding he come out and play. One evening, Rue wants dad to come and see his new hiding place and Bera insists it’s important. Rue talks about what he would do if he had hands, which takes Mosley back somewhat since thoriphants have hooved feet like horses or cows. A trip to Rue’s hideout reveals vast, underground cave paintings of thoriphants walking upright. And they have hands. There’s a long tunnel there too.

Mosley patiently explains that the uprights “are not real. It’s just a cruel thing to hope for.” But then when Simon pushes him too far, by ploughing a field that the thoriphant has tried to explain is too stony to be workable. Mosley resolves to leave the farm in search of the uprights. Bemus (John Phillips). the merchant who originally sold Mosley to Simon, sends hunter Warfield (Temuera Morrison) to track down the thoriphan and bring him back.

His trip down the tunnels leads Mosley to abandoned cavern homes where he is astonished to runs into three ageing uprights Warnie (John Rhys-Davies), Deaver (Rhys Darby from Flight Of The Conchords) and Gailin (Stephen Gledhill). The latter appears to be going senile. They agree to take him to the upright civilization, unaware of Warfield’s pursuit. To get there, they must go around rather than through a mysterious orchard, taking a cross-country route…

Much is made of the fact that the uprights possess hands which the hooved Mosley does not. And there is talk of a specific tree in the orchard reversing the corruption that has occurred in the likes of Mosley.

Some of the travelling landscape vistas echo The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003), even though that was live action and this is animation, possibly at least in part because both have come from the minds of New Zealanders. There are also echoes of live action films Planet Of The Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968 plus sequels and reboots) about mankind lording it over the apes and vice versa and Okja (Bong Joon Ho, 2017) about the breeding of sentient supercows (realised on the screen by computer animation) for food production.

Nevertheless, the animated Mosley is very much its own film and a distinctive vision on the part of Kirby. The film has been some 20 years in the making, with Mosley’s son Rue voiced early on by the director’s then infant daughter Leah, not so much acting as just playing the story, which provides a highly spontaneous voice track upon which the animators can develop the character. Moreover, a lot of thought has gone into the script and it pays off. Altogether a highly impressive piece of work.

Mosley plays in the Annecy Animation Festival which is taking place in a special online edition this year right now. Here’s the trailer:



Annecy Animation Festival special online edition:

Monday, June 15th to Tuesday, June 30th.

Festival trailer:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *