Set against a painful period of recession, the 2022 animated film ‘My Father’s Dragon’ is a simple escapist fantasy film which will charm younger viewers. Directed by Nora Twomey, who made the wondrously dreamy ‘Secret of Kells’, the story is based on a book of the same name by Ruth Stiles Gannett.
Protagonist Elmer Elevator helps his mom run a shop, but with a financial crisis engulfing the nation, the two are forced to shut the business and move to a cramped rundown room to make ends meet. After an argument, Elevator runs away from home and finds his way to the mysterious ‘Wild island’ where a fire-breathing dragon is being held captive. Elmer hopes to rescue the beast and get help in return, but Boris the dragon isn’t what the little boy expected at all.
The colourful crayon painting like animation was lovely, those who are familiar with Nora Twomey’s work will be reminded of her older animated creations. The smooth, clean artwork adds a touch of childlike innocence to the tale. However, some of the character designs needed a lot more work. To be more specific, two characters were too basic and looked like a child had hurriedly drawn them – a rhinoceros and its child. The baby rhino looked like an overgrown caterpillar. So, every time those two appeared on screen, they looked jarring and out-of-place in the otherwise cute landscape.
Jacob Trembley of ‘Wonder’ fame voices Elmer with heart. I love how relatable Elmer is as a boy, he is willing to work hard for his mother, but is just too young to understand the complexities of the adult world. Armed with just candies, a broken mirror and some fresh tangerines, the hero thinks he can conquer the world; a delightful representation of the bottomless optimism of the innocent eye. Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin from ‘Stranger Things’) voices the spirited sweet Boris, a chubby baby dragon who immediately takes a shine to Elmer. Ian McShane is the wise old Saiwa, a simian who runs things in the mystery Island and has his own reasons for keeping an innocent dragon captive.
The key theme in the story is about being brave and facing one’s fears, and since it’s not too blatant, kids won’t necessarily get the message. Since this is a dragon themed animated movie, a lot of fans started making comparisons with the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ franchise much before its release. But these two works are a world apart in their story, treatment and animation styles; a comparison doesn’t make much sense. ‘My Father’s Dragon’ is essentially meant for kids and makes for a fun watch.
It’s a 7/10 from me. You can stream it on Netflix.
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