My Father's Dragon is a 2D animated children's fantasy film, the latest from Cartoon Saloon, directed by Nora Twomey. The studio kept an amazingly tight lid on this 99-minute production, with its trailer only becoming available five weeks before the film was released on Netflix. I'm very glad this project didn't get cancelled, what with partially being made during the Covid pandemic.
The main character is a quick-thinking boy named Elmer. After he shows kindness to Whoopi Goldberg-- I mean, to a talking cat, the magical neko tells him there's an island where he can find a dragon. And if Elmer can bring the dragon back, its novelty will save him and his single mom from financial ruin! So off Elmer goes, equipped only with a bunch of random stuff he happens to have in his bag. The situation on the island is difficult, and Elmer isn't the only one who needs the dragon.
How furry is it? Sssort of. Only in the sense of having animals that can talk; none of them are physically anthropomorphic, aside from a few primate species. A diplomatic gorilla is the closest this film gets to having an antagonist. As for the dragon, he has a very... unique design, because he's based on illustrations from a 1948 children's book that inspired this film. Despite getting top billing, the dragon is not especially interesting.
What this film does well is provide a sense of adventure and danger. Drawn in Cartoon Saloon's signature geometric artstyle with excellent use of color, it continues the common theme of their other films, a child protagonist trying to persevere against a situation that looms over them. Story-wise, it's a little uneven. It's primarily for younger children.
I wouldn't call it a must-see, unless you're a fan of Cartoon Saloon's work; personally I would much more highly recommend Wolfwalkers (exclusively on Apple TV+). My Father's Dragon scores 87% with critics and 77% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm with the audience, although I'd give it a 68% "Enh, maybe". Check it out if you're interested though!
As for being a book adaptation... That's something to rant about. Major spoilers ahead.
The Sparkle Dragons is a new full-color graphic novel written by Emma Carlson Berne and illustrated by Luke Flowers. “Meet the Sparkle Dragons: The spunkiest crew in all of Princess Puff’s queendom! Trixie is fierce with brains and beauty. Rue is tough as nails with a heart of shimmering gold. And, last but not least, Glinda, who often has her head in the clouds, but her out-of-the-box problem-solving can be her strongest asset. With their unique powers combined, they are an unstoppable force! And let’s be honest: Fighting off bad guys with glitter beams can be pretty hilarious . . . and sticky!” Do tell. It’s available now in hardcover or trade paperback from Harper-Collins.
The story follows Sam, an extremely unlucky 18-year-old. After years in an orphanage and never being adopted, she moves into her first apartment. When she encounters a black cat, her luck suddenly changes, becoming good - and when it reverts to her previous bad luck, she follows the cat into the magical Land of Luck, the source of all luck in our world (both good and bad).
Most of the film revolves around Sam trying to regain luck - not for herself, but to help a younger girl at the orphanage - while a series of evasions and accidents escalate into circumstances that threaten the Land of Luck itself.
It's an ok film, with a really nice magical world, although the story has tons of holes if you think about it too much. Furry-wise, besides the cat, most of the characters are leprechauns. Here and there are some cartoony bunnies and pigs, plus a couple of other background creatures that you don't often see anthropomorphized (goats and root vegetables). And a large, pink, six-limbed dragoness, in charge of good luck. She's not in too many scenes, but she's definitely one of the highlights!
Interestingly, this film lacks a clear antagonist; most of the conflict is situational in nature. I wouldn't say this movie is a must-see, but it's fine to pass the time with, and I think it shows a lot of potential for what Skydance could make in the future, if they polish up their writing a bit.
(Spoilers and griping under this cut.)
More interesting reads we came across at this year’s L.A. Time Festival of Books. The Glitter Dragons — Dragon Girls is a new fantasy series for young readers, written by Maddy Mara. The first book is Azima the Gold Glitter Dragon. “Azmina, Willa, and Naomi are thrilled to learn they’re Glitter Dragon Girls. Summoned to the Magic Forest by its magnificent ruler, the Tree Queen, the girls quickly find out their dragon-selves have unbelievable abilities. They can soar above the treetops, breathe glitter-y bursts of fire, and roar loud enough to shake the ground.With this newfound magic comes a big responsibility, however. As Dragon Girls, they are sworn protectors of the forest and must help keep it safe from the troublesome Shadow Sprites, who are determined to take the forest’s magic for their own.” All this and more are available now in trade paperback from Scholastic. Roar!
Another book series we came across: Dragon Mountain by Katie Tsang and Kevin Tsang. “When 12-year-old Billy Chan finds out his parents are sending him to a summer camp in middle-of-nowhere China, he doesn’t know what to expect. There he meets fellow campers Dylan, Charlotte, and Ling-Fei, and together they stumble upon an age-old secret: Four powerful warrior dragons, hidden deep within the mountain behind the camp. They have been trapped since an epic battle with the Dragon of Death and need the children’s help to set them free before terrible evil is unleashed on the earth. Billy and his friends must set off on a dangerous adventure that will take them to the heart of the Dragon Realm. But can they save the dragon and human worlds from destruction?” Several titles in the series are out now, available in hardcover and paperback.
ASIFA-Hollywood just announced the nominations for the 2021 Annie Awards — known far and wide as “the Oscars of animation”. As has increasingly been the case the last few years, more and more anthropomorphic stuff has made its way to the top of the animation list! And 2021 was no exception. No less than three anthro films are up for Best Animated Feature, including Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and the recently released Sing 2. In fact Raya is one of the most honored films of the year, with nominations in Character Animation, Character Design, Effects Animation, Voice Acting, Music, Production Design, Storyboarding, Writing, and Editing also (whew!). Luca is not far behind, with nominations in Character Animation, Character Design, Music, Voice Acting, Writing, Editing, and Directing. Vivo has five nominations in various categories, while Wish Dragon and Spirit Untamed have one each (for Character Animation and Storyboarding, respectively). Over in the TV and Streaming categories, it’s more of a mixed bag. Best TV Show For Preschool includes Odo, Stillwater, and Muppet Babies (which is also up for Writing). Amphibia is up for Best TV Show For Children (as well as for Directing and Editing), while Tuca and Bertie is nominated for Best General Audience TV Show (and also for Writing). Arlo the Alligator Boy scored noms for Production Design, Voice Acting, and Editing, and Centaur World has one nomination for Voice Acting. In Sponsored Production (the new way of saying Best Commercial) there’s Featherweight (the music video by Fleet Foxes) and Tiptoe and the Flying Machine (from Macy’s).
Sometimes you really just gotta love the titles of Japanese media creations. Reincarnated As A Dragon Hatchling. You’re going to remember that one, yes? And it perfectly describes this new black & white manga written by Nekoko and Naji and illustrated by Rio. “If you woke up as a sentient egg in some random forest, I bet you’d be confused, too. That’s exactly what happened to me in the oddest turn of events…Being reborn as a little egg has its challenges, but luckily, with all these monsters out to eat me, I’m gaining experience quick. Once I bust out of this shell, a cool new form better await me–that is, if I survive long enough!” And that’s just the first volume. You’ll find even more from Seven Seas.
Exciting news from the world of streaming. “DreamWorks Animation has shared a teaser trailer for the all-new CG animated series Dragons: The Nine Realms. Inspired by the hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon movie franchise, the show premieres on Hulu and Peacock December 23. Set 1,300 years after the events of How to Train Your Dragon, dragons are now just a legend to the modern world. When a geological anomaly opens an immense, miles-deep fissure in the Earth’s surface, scientists from all over the world gather at a new research facility to study the mysterious phenomenon. Soon a group of misfit kids, brought to the site by their parents, uncover the truth about dragons and where they’ve been hiding — a secret they must keep to themselves to protect what they’ve discovered.” Find out more and see the teaser trailer over at AWN.
Do feline puns make you cat-atonic or drive you to hiss-teria? Then this game is not for you and you can move on. However if you can’t get enough of the purrfect punny feline punchlines, and like going on a dungeon crawling adventure with action RPG mechanics then carry on.
Cat Quest is a very streamlined and slick action RPG with a catty protagonist. Or at least their spirit companion is, as for the hero themselves they are traditionally silent. However, the other Non-Playable Cats (hereby refurred to as NPCs) are loaded with charm, purrsonality, and the aforementioned cat puns.
Well, here's one for dronon's list.
Capcom's Monster Hunter franchise has been around since 2004, and the title is self-explanatory. There are monsters. The player hunts them. These monsters aren't particularly anthropomorphic, but feature nice creature design, which furs appreciate, if the popularity of franchises like Pokémon and How to Train Your Dragon are anything to judge by.
And in Monster Hunter Rise, released in March for the Nintendo Switch, there are anthropomorphic animals in the form of the player's companions and helpers on the hunt, Palicoes and Palamutes. The former are cats who perform a variety of roles; while the latter are dogs, not anthro in form but probably sentient - though they are, well, mute. Together, they fight monsters!
Wish Dragon (trailer) is a computer-animated film from the Sony Pictures Animation International Initiative, a fancy way of saying "international co-production", in this case between Sony and several studios in China. Concept art made the rounds in 2018, and they hoped to finish it in 2019. For whatever reason, it didn't get released until January 15, 2021 - in China - so this review is of the Chinese dub with English subtitles.
A little backstory. When Kung Fu Panda came out in 2008, it had so much artistic attention to cultural detail that China kicked their animation industry into high gear. In the twelve years since then, they've become a powerhouse of animation. Recently, there's been a slow-growing effort to make their films more exportable. Some efforts have fallen flat, like the sadly-overlooked Rock Dog; but with Mosley and Wish Dragon I'm optimistic that there'll be more co-productions to come!
Before we start talking about the movie, due to the pretty unusual circumstances still happening in the world right now, we need to discuss what options are available to watch it. (With apologies to our non-North American readers, for whom none of this may apply.)
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, streaming has been the obvious or only way to watch movies reviewed by Flayrah. Raya and the Last Dragon, however, isn't free to stream right now. You'll have to pay Disney+'s $29.99 'Premier Access' fee, or buy a ticket at a theater.
Currently, this reviewer recommends the Premier Access route. It's more expensive, but factoring in the ability to re-watch it, group watching, and ongoing pandemic concerns, it feels a safer bet.
Anyway, Raya and the Last Dragon is from Walt Disney Animation Studios; directed by Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, it stars Kelly Marie Tran as Raya and Awkwafina as Sisu, the titular last dragon.
Dragon Rider (trailer) is a 2020 computer-animated children's film, a German production (Drachenreiter) whose UK English dub was recently released online. Adapted from a best-selling children's book by Cornelia Funke, it's the story of a young dragon in the modern-day world, searching for a refuge where dragons can stay safe from mankind. Short version: You can skip this one.
The film was directed by Tomer Eshed (Flamingo Pride) who doesn't seem to have worked on anything this big before. The production company, Constantin Film, appears to have outsourced the animation to several studios, so it's not clear if there was a unified vision. The screenplay was adapted by... John R. Smith? Who, according to IMDB and its scoring system, is the genius behind Gnomeo & Juliet (5.9 out of 10), Sherlock Gnomes (5.2), and The Queen's Corgi (4.8).
Disney has posted a trailer (now two) for its next animated movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, which will have a release date of March 5, making it officially Walt Disney Animation Studio's first movie of this exciting new decade. It has a talking Eastern-style dragon in it, so that's furry.
Raya and the Last Dragon will release theatrically, but as actually going to movie theaters is still not really recommended at this point, it'll also be released on the Disney+ streaming service the same day, though with an additional "Premier Access" charge of $29.99 in the US.
The movie features Kelly Marie Tran as the titular Raya, with Awkwafina as the titular last dragon (meanwhile, Disney animation regular voice actor Alan Tudyk will once again be "voicing" a non-anthropomorphic animal; this time, the giant pillbug / armadillo creature Tuk Tuk). The movie is set in the fictional fantasy world of Kumandra.