‘My Father’s Dragon’ Critics Praise Sweet Cartoon Saloon Storybook Adventure

Adapting a beloved children’s book is always a promising plan for an animated feature, but the real magic is in the execution. Embarking on its first such project, Irish studio Cartoon Saloon (Wolfwalkers, The Secret of Kells) landed another critical hit with My Father’s Dragonbrought to the screen by Oscar-nominated director Nora Twomey, who previously helmed the adult animated adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ novel The breadwinner.

Jacob Tremblay and Gaten Matarazzo attend the premiere of ‘My Father’s Dragon’ at the BFI London Film Festival. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix)

After its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, critics are starting to arrive and My Father’s Dragon skyrockets with a prestigious 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, inspired by Ruth Stiles Gannett’s classic trilogy, centers on a boy named Elmer (voiced by Lucas star Jacob Tremblay), struggling with big changes in his life, a young dragon named Boris (Gaten Matarazzo of stranger things) and the friendship that saves them both. The pic is written by Meg LeFauve and produced by Cartoon Saloon and Mockingbird Pictures.

My Father’s Dragon premieres on Netflix streaming November 11th. Learn more about the movie in Animation MagazineThe awards season kick-off issue (Dec. 22), available soon.

Here’s what some reviewers had to say:

My Father’s Dragon (Netflix © 2022)

“The airy rapport established in the dialogue between Tremblay and Matarazzo is as important to the appeal as the cute character designs… The solid voice work and charming character concepts extend to the many animals – friends and foes – that they meet, with echoes of stretching imagery from Miyazaki to Maurice Sendak… The [filmmakers’] a deep fondness for the source material shines through, and the hand-drawn painterly aesthetic is enchanting.

—David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

“The absolute sweetness of My Father’s Dragon is a trademark virtue for Cartoon Saloon… [This film] come back a bit [Wolfwalkers’] mythical complexity, but without costing their usual charm. Expressly targeting very young children, and gentle but never dull in its unhurried narrative and picture book aesthetic, it’s a pleasant corrective to the clever, conceptual frenzy of various Disneys and Pixars – even if it pinches the screenwriter Meg LeFauve (Upside down, The good dinosaur) of their ranks.

—Guy Lodge, Variety

“The relationship between Elmer and Boris forms the emotional backbone of the film, as Elmer grapples with the prospect that dragons aren’t always exactly like the storybook fire-eaters, and uses his wits to get them out of trouble… Like many family stories, the fantasy adventure features characters that echo Elmer’s real life, and there are parallels with the animated films too (there are a 1997 Japanese animation based on the same novel.) But this Netflix version has its own distinctive style and should entertain youngsters who, like Elmer, are both seeking adventure and trying to make sense of the world of adults.

—Anna Smith Deadline

My Father's Dragon (Netflix © 2022)
My Father’s Dragon (Netflix © 2022)

My Father’s Dragon is not afraid to tackle mature themes around responsibility and parent-child relationships. So, it has a lot to offer adults watching it, even if it’s a bit traditional otherwise. There’s a melancholic air to it when it feels like Elmer is a boy growing up too fast, despite his mother’s best efforts, and siblings Jeff and Mychael Danna’s score reinforces it…Twomey and LeFauve have created something special, and this friendly little dragon is sure to delight kids and adults alike for years to come.

—Nicole Ackman, AwardsWatch

“Boris is the antithesis of Toothless. Like an overactive soccer sock that comes to life, or a onesie with wings, this dragon is afraid of fire, will make you laugh at his armpit fart attempt, and makes a great joke. during a scene with a turtle shell. It is emblematic of My Father’s Dragon as a whole, in that it’s colorful and vibrant, but also unwieldy and a bit formulaic… Even if the story doesn’t quite live up to it [Cartoon Saloon’s] unparalleled usual standards, the overt world-building and imagination is sublime.

—Matt Rogers Glittering Myth

My Father’s Dragon is arguably the simplest Cartoon Saloon film to date, though the superb animation hints at their experience and craftsmanship. It’s a straightforward morality story that’s ideally designed and constructed for young viewers, devoid of the more violent and tragic elements present in their other films. It’s not to the detriment of the film by any stretch of the imagination, resembling a moving storybook in the best way.

—Brandon Zachary BCR

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