The work of Cartoon Saloon, an animation studio based in Kilkenny, Ireland, is commendable, because it combines a recognizable aesthetic taste – thanks to a particular character design – with the use of well-finished and perfectly integrated backgrounds not only in the visual dimension but in the story itself. But also for his persistence with what, for some production studios, would seem to be an obsolete choice, namely that of creating 2D animation.
It is now available on Netflix My father’s dragon (in original My Father’s Dragon), a new work by Cartoon Saloon and yet another confirmation of how much this study is to be counted among the most important on the contemporary scene. It’s the story of Elmerwho, following the closure of his mother’s shop due to the economic recession, is forced to leave the place where he grew up to move to the grey, rainy and chaotic city of Nevergreen (nomen omen).
Here he realizes the tragic economic situation of his mother and, in a moment of despair, runs away, helped by a talking cat. He will find himself, despite him, on the island called Selvaggia, which is sinking. It is here that he will get acquainted with Boris, a clumsy dragon destined to change his life.
Directed by Nora Twomey – former director, also for Cartoon Saloon, of the candidate for the Academy Award The Tales of Parvana – The Breadwinner (2017) – My father’s dragon is based on the children’s literature classic of the same name written by Ruth Stiles Gannett, from which, however, it takes the necessary distances. The choice to set the story in a present where the economic crisis is tragically present brings the level of My father’s dragon on a socio-political level that perhaps was missing from the original book. But it is precisely this ability to move across distant territories without ever losing an iota of coherence, narrative compactness and poetic and dramatic tension that makes Twomey’s film such an excellent work.
My father’s dragon it’s a film that’s clearly aimed at the little ones. Nonetheless, he manages to dialogue even with the older ones and not be heavy or excessively sloping on a dramatic level, working on a screenplay that alternates touching sequences, poetry and funny moments.
The film is perhaps an all too obvious metaphor for taking control of one’s existence despite the difficulties. The idea of the sinking island can only be linked to the dramatic situation experienced by many in the world but which in the economy of history refers to the specific case of Elmer, who will have to find the courage to react, accept the gray of life and instead enhance the colorful moments. Because life is made up of emotional alternation, difficult moments and other unforgettable ones, and it is up to the individual to find the strength to react to adversity.
On the visual level, My father’s dragon excels by virtue of the choice of a classic, two-dimensional animation, which explodes in a flood of colors and highly poetic and emotional sequences, restoring to the eye a typical beauty of Cartoon Saloon’s work, but which is also the confirmation of how much 2D animation still has an unbeatable charm. And this reflection emerges at a time when, on the contrary, 3D animation strongly veers towards an ever more precise and extraordinary photorealism, but which takes away the poetry from the image and, perhaps, from the very meaning of animation.
The approach of Cartoon Saloon, son above all of the idea of stories and animation of Tomm Moore (the director of the trilogy of Irish folklore composed by The Secret of Kells, The song of the sea And Wolfwolkers), is linked in its own way to that of Studio Ghibli: both studios generate stories in perfect balance between visual poetry and emotional involvement, with a deep tension towards the educational system. Works such as are therefore welcome My father’s dragon. Welcome to the poetic and charming work of Cartoon Saloon.
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“My Father’s Dragon” and the great charm of 2D animation
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