Review by Sean Boelman
Although Fantasia is primarily known as a genre film festival, it also showcases some of the most impressive international animated movies that moviegoers can see that year. The French production Princesse Dragon, directed by Jean-Jacques Denis and Anthony Roux, is one such highlight that audiences will want to keep an eye out for in its release.
The film is a fairytale-like story of a little girl raised by dragons who embarks on a journey into the world of man after she is forced to flee the family cave. It’s a mix of beats from fables we have seen before, and yet the unabashed optimism of the movie allows it to feel refreshingly wholesome.
Clocking in at under eighty minutes, there are certainly portions of the film that feel rushed, but for younger audiences with short attention spans, it’s the perfect length. And unlike a lot of other children’s fantasy movies, it strikes the right balance of being action-packed without being too intense for the little ones.
Of course, as is the case with any great fable, there are wonderful messages in the film. And somehow, it manages to effectively address the topics of the dangers of greed, the importance of family, and accepting one another for who we are, all in its short runtime. While the things the movie has to say about these themes aren’t particularly new, the way in which the message is delivered is admirable.
Perhaps most surprising is how effectively the film gets the audience invested in its characters. What Denis and Roux do with the classic mythological character of the Dragon is fascinating, taking an approach to the figure that is much more empathetic than usual. And as if you could expect any less, the eponymous protagonist is entirely charming and lovable.
Jérémie Covillault’s voice performance as the Dragon is without a doubt one of the voice acting highlights of the year so far. He is building upon a legacy of voice actors who have brought this mythology to life for decades and expands upon it in a nuanced, emotional way. He pulls off both the intimidating and sensitive aspects of the character, and it adds a lot to the movie.
The animation isn’t as consistent as one would like, with some significant ups and downs. For every background that is as gorgeous as can be, there is a secondary character design that is lacking. The style has some elements of realism, fantasy, and cartoonishness, and the three of those don’t always mesh together well.
Princesse Dragon is a simple film in many ways, but it is thoroughly charming nevertheless. Even though its animation is its weakest element, it more than makes up for that in its script and voice acting.
Princesse Dragon screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival, which runs July 14 through August 3.