After that great masterpiece that is ‘Wolfwalkers’, there was special expectation for how the first production of the acclaimed Cartoon Saloon studio, five times Oscar nominee, for Netflix was going to be. Adaptation of the 1948 novel by Ruth Stiles Gannett, My Father’s Dragon becomes the most childish proposal in the factory, with an animation and narrative style that could well turn it, metaphorically speaking, into an Irish response to Studio Ghibli’s ‘Ponyo on the Cliff’.
My Father’s Dragon is Cartoon Saloon’s least folkloric production. The factory has stood out with three feature films that were able to portray the spirit of Irish traditions and legends (‘The Secret of the Book of Kells’, ‘The Song of the Sea’ and ‘Wolfwalkers’); in addition to adapting the acclaimed novel by Deborah Ellis about the reality of an Afghan girl under the Taliban regime’s Afghanistan with ‘The Bread of War’, in which she also explored the ancient culture of the Asian country. Hence this production supposes a leap without a network towards a story focused on a plot that could well be located anywhere in the world.
Scripted by Meg LeFauve, a regular Pixar collaborator, she was behind the scripts for ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Arlo’s Journey’, as well as collaborating on the ‘Onward’ story and writing the sequel. from the so-called ‘Inside Out’; My Father’s Dragon has certain overtones similar to ‘The Song of the Sea’, having a protagonist who is forced to move after his family experienced a drama at home. Of course, Nora Twomey’s film differs in that the transfer and the dramatic event are close to the social drama, by narrating how a woman who is raising her son alone, in what appears to be the 40s, must move with her offspring. to the big city to earn a living.
In that difference, Twomey traces a film with a certain spirit of eighties cinema in this version, which breaks with the bucolic character of the original novel (the transfer to the city does not take place, for example). This license allows the creation of a dramatic base for the film, which serves as a metaphor for the protagonist to see the brighter side of the change of residence and to know how to find the good points of living in the big city, called Siempregris. To this is added that the contrast with the irruption of the magical world is much greater, linking My Father’s Dragon with contemporary titles such as ‘The Wonderland’ or ‘The Little Vampire’.
The most familiar and accessible Cartoon Saloon tape
Now, we are dealing with a Cartoon Saloon production, which led to its dramatic background intuiting that film with a social theme that has been mentioned previously, which makes have a certain layer of more complex depth, which makes it evoke other more adult family titles such as ‘A bridge to Terabithia’ or ‘My monster and I’. This is combined with some charismatic protagonists, Elmer, the boy who travels to the Wild Island, has that charisma typical of characters like Hal Scardino had in ‘The Magic Key’ or Macaulay Culkin in ‘The Guardian of Words’.
Of course, who takes the show is Boris, the reckless dragon with a heart that doesn’t fit under his scales. Really, it is he who manages to elevate the film, which is a family proposal with the aroma of a classic adventure film and which, as mentioned at the beginning, turns out to be a case similar to that of ‘Ponyo on the cliff’ within the filmography of both Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. Since, as in the aforementioned film, My Father’s Dragon enjoys exquisite animation, which once again recalls the magic of the traditional style and of which Cartoon Saloon has made a school, by becoming one of the most acclaimed factories in the European industry. Mention also for its wonderful soundtrack, composed by Mychael and Jeff Danna who already collaborated with the studio by being the composers of the music for ‘The Breadwinner‘.
‘Dad’s Dragon’ is a remarkable proposal that demonstrates the versatility of Cartoon Saloon. The lightest film of his filmography, which does not imply losing technical quality or cinematographic care, which once again reminds us that, despite being a production made for a platform, its natural habitat is the big screen. A title that adds to an especially fruitful awards season for the animation industry and that she already aspires to be one of the protagonists of the main awards.
Pros: Its careful animation, in which you can see the handmade detail, its soundtrack.
Cons: It lacks the epic solemnity and intimate touch of the other Cartoon Saloon titles. Unfortunately, it is the weakest title in the factory. Hence, the comparisons with ‘Ponyo on the cliff’.