Review by Dan Skip Allen
Over the years, there have been many different animation styles. Hand-drawn animation was the style for decades before computer animation took over the last twenty-five years. Along the way, stop-motion animation caught on. Although the Disney-Pixar style may have become dominant, several filmmakers are still pushing the conventions of animation. My Father's Dragon has one of those different styles from an animation studio called Cartoon Saloon. They are popular for films such as The Breadwinner, Wolfwalkers Song of the Sea, and Secret of the Kells.
Elmer Elevator (Jacob Tremblay) is a little boy growing up in Nevergreen with his mother, Della (Golshifteh). They are supposed to start a store together in their new home, but this doesn't happen due to financial struggles. He gets frustrated with his mother, so he embarks on a trip to a secret wild island with the help of a cat, voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, and a ride from a whale, voiced by Judy Greer. While there, he meets a new friend, a dragon named Boris (Gaten Matarazzo). They go on an adventure to save this island full of creatures.
This island is full of amazing creatures, as well as some normal animals such as a gorilla (Ian McShane) with ulterior motives, a rhino mom (Diane Wiest) and her cub, a crocodile (Alan Cumming), and a monkey (Chris O'Dowd), along with a couple of tigers. The island has so much mystery, and the movie lets the main characters and viewers uncover that on their own.
This story is fanciful with all its fantasy and mystery elements and the beasts. The main focus is this little boy and his relationship with this dimwitted dragon, but along the way, they develop a connection that makes this story worthwhile for kids and adults alike. These two have a quirky friendship, sometimes getting on each other's nerves, but they rely on each other more as this story unfolds. They both have qualities the other needs to do what they need to do to save the day. It is a pretty cool relationship between the two. The actors do a great job portraying these roles. They are great together in this film.
Cartoon Saloon has made a meteoric rise in the animation game over the last few years. Their films have garnered a lot of critical acclaim, along with a pretty good fan following. Their animation varies from film to film, but with each movie, the stories dictate the various styles in which they are told. For instance, The Breadwinner is entirely different from the Irish trilogy, and those films are different from this one. In a way, it helps distinguish this studio from other animation studios. With the help of local governments, this studio will hopefully continue to succeed in doing great work for years to come.
My Father's Dragon has a very engaging story with good voice-over work from its entire cast. The financial struggles of the boy and his mom hit home for me. Although different from the other Irish trilogy and The Breadwinner, the animation style is consistent with how this studio does business. It changes the animation for who is paying to make the movie. It's a very good financial strategy. Netflix is on board this time, and hopefully, families will find this charming little film to watch over the next few weeks and during the holiday season.
My Father's Dragon hits theaters on November 4 and streams on Netflix beginning November 11.