“My Father’s Dragon,” which is based on the 1948 best-selling children’s book by Ruth Stiles Gannett, is made for kids, but the five-time Oscar-nominated Irish studio made it so beautifully that even adults won’t be able to stay away.
The story is easy to tell. When Elmer and his mother have to move from the country to Nevergreen City because of money problems, Elmer is so unhappy that one day he just takes off.
Sitting on a dock near the river, he meets a talking cat who sends him on a quest to Wild Island, where a young dragon is waiting to be saved. The talking cat tells Elmer that if he takes him back to Nevergreen City and shows him off, the money he makes will solve his mother’s money problems for good.
You won’t be able to stay away as these little kids try to figure out what’s going on in the scary big adult world. The point of the movie “My Father’s Dragon” is to tell you not to panic, because panic makes bad things happen and can make you mean.
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The one-hour-39-minute movie that comes next is mostly a quiet success for Cartoon Saloon. Even though the story isn’t very long, it’s easy to understand. However, the trade-off is that it doesn’t deal with big emotions or experiences. Instead, it’s more like the stories that are popular now (including the now de rigueur breaking wind jokes).
With movies like “The Secret of Kells” and “Wolfwalkers” that left people in awe, the County Kilkenny studio started by Paul Young, Tomm Moore, and Nora Twomey is becoming known as a kind of Irish Studio Ghibli, with style and focus that are influenced by Ireland.
Cartoon Saloon has been working on this story about how kids can help each other through friendship since 2017. Since then, more than 200 artists and technicians have worked on production and project development.
The real monsters in this story are a parent’s financial problems and the uncertainty that comes with them, as well as the realization that your parents are always in charge of everything.
It’s finally here!!! Watch My Father’s Dragon on @netflix from TODAY. Congratulations to @nora877 and ALL the #MyFathersDragon crew, it’s so great to see their hard work being released into the world. https://t.co/skAD8LVNbR pic.twitter.com/iw2ionFYUg
— Cartoon Saloon (@CartoonSaloon) November 11, 2022
You will remember, scene after scene, what makes this Irish studio so special. There’s an emotional directness that keeps the characters from doing self-satisfied things, which is a huge plus.
There is a range of colors and tones that makes you want to stop the movie and just look at it. One god’s-eye view of Nevergreen City in the rain, for example, was so beautiful that it almost sang. At the moment, I can’t think of any big American animation studio that is making similar, heart-warming things.
The story and what happens are like a fever dream that sometimes feels like an acid trip. Stoners may take this movie as one of their own.
But the same is true for kids trying to figure out how to live in a world made by adults whose main goal seems to be to take your joy away. “My Father’s Dragon” works because it focuses on its goal: helping Elmer and his dragon friend Boris find their feet through friendship and mutual support.
You won’t be able to stay away from the happy ending or the love between friends that is at the heart of this simple but moving movie. This year, it won the Special Jury Prize at the Animation Is Film awards, which makes it more likely that it will be nominated for the next Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
No matter how it does during awards season, there’s no doubt that this studio’s rise has been impressive and is now unstoppable, which is great because the results are so beautiful.
On Friday, November 11, “My Father’s Dragon” will be available on Netflix.