While searching through Netflix’s catalog, I discovered they have Cartoon Saloon’s film, My Father’s Dragon. I’ve seen Wolfwalkers before and quite enjoyed it, so I was very excited to watch another one of their films. I really enjoy their animation style, as it’s very different from what I see in the United States, as well as the different story-telling and lore that many of Cartoon Saloon’s films are based upon. Many times I cannot watch films made in other countries, as either they’re not available, or they’re in a different language without Audio Description, so, even more than usual, I cannot enjoy the films. However, since the film is in English and has an Audio Description, I could experience it as well as I could, and I’m glad I did.

My Father’s Dragon is similar to Pixar’s Coco in that the titular character is not the main character. However, unlike Coco, the titular character is a main character, just not the main character. That title belongs to Elmer, played by Jacob Tremblay. Elmer’s family, he and his mother, are going through a hard time. Though the movie doesn’t take place in our world, it is clear that there is some sort of economic depression going on. This leads to the family business being foreclosed on and the mother and son having to move from the countryside to the city, with very little to their name. As a child, Elmer doesn’t fully understand the hardships his mother is going through, trying to find a job to eventually, hopefully, at another store across the street. So, after they get into an argument, he runs off and ends up on a life-changing adventure. On this adventure, he meets the titular dragon, who, he learns, is named Boris.

Boris was the reason I waited to watch the movie with my mom. While listening to the trailer, I realized (and later confirmed) that Gaten Matarazzo, of Stranger Things fame, played Boris. My mom and I spent weeks catching up with Stranger Things, and Dustin was one of our favorite characters, so we LOVE Gaten. Thankfully, not only do we already love Gaten, but we ended up quite enjoying his character as well. Boris’s goal in the story is to lift Wild Island so that he can become an After Dragon, like the rest of his family. However, how she should go about doing it is the problem. Weet through context that this is a coming-of-age test for dragons, so none of Boris’ family have told him how to lift the island, and it’s been 100 since Boris’ arrived there. Although we don’t know how long it took his family members to lift it, we can assume from the islanders’ reaction that it’s been much longer than normal. This has led the head of the islanders, Saiwa (Ian McShane), to try to get Boris to lift the island his way, but with no permanent success. More sustained the island for a while, but considering more’s not permanent and is not leading to Boris becoming an After Dragon, Boris knows it’s not the right way to go about lifting the island, but since it’s better than nothing, he goes along with it until Emler rescues him and, while on their adventures, they discover how it’s supposed to be done though, not without issues, which leads us into the main themes of the film.

The internal issue that every character faces in the film, thus the lesson the audience is meant to learn, is the inability to admit that they don’t know what will happen and that they are afraid. While many, if not all, of the characters could fall into this theme, including the main antagonist. However, the most important, in my opinion, is Elmer’s mother, who is afraid she will not be able to provide for her son, Boris, who is afraid he will not be able to become an After Dragon, and Elmer, who is afraid he will not be able to control everything around him. Not only is this the lesson that everyone learns by the end, but it is the lack of having learned this lesson already that causes Elmer to run away, jumpstarting the events of the film. There are also lessons about confidence and believing in one’s abilities, but I’d say admitting you’re afraid and don’t know what the future holds is the film’s biggest theme. It’s done very well regarding the character described above, but the other characters, not so much.

I liked the movie as a whole. All the characters look great, with distinct angular designs, much more interesting than the usual stuff I see from the likes of Disney and Pixar. They are also very well acted, which I expect with the likes of Gaten Matarazzo and Whoopi Goldberg (the cat) in the cast. However, unlike Elmer, his mother, and Boris, they don’t get any development. They exist for Elmer and Boris to meet and help on their journey around the island. Because we only see them for a short time, it isn’t that big of a deal, but as the tension of the film relies on caring about these people because their home is sinking, it does make it hard to care to an extent. I mainly cared because I wanted Boris to become an After Dragon and for Elmer to go home, but I did not really care for their characters very much. In fact, I feel there are too many of them. I think This part of the film could have been cut down a bit. I think there were too many character meet-ups that didn’t really lead to anything. They don’t ruin the film, but ≃k it could have been improved by less characters. This is my biggest issue with the movie. I completely understand that the film’s point is more the journey than the characters, more about the lessons learned, but the characters still affect the film as a whole, and, in this case, they don’t all do a good job of it.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the film. It’s not one of my favorites, but I’m still glad I watched it, and I will be looking for more Cartoon Ploon films in the future. They are always very interesting to see, being very different from what I normally have access to, and watching with others. I like the different story-telling methods, the various animation, the voice actors, and pretty much everything about it. Even the parts I don’t like, I can still appreciate the differences between the chosen film and my usual films and shows. I like exposing myself to different cultures and their media, and while they’re not always accessible, if they are, I’ll at least take a look and give it a shot, especially animation. So, if you feel the same way and haven’t seen My Father’s Dragon, I highly recommend it.