“Playing With Fire Cartoon” Saloon’s upcoming animated feature
My Father’s Dragon

B.J. Quinn

To mark World Book Day, which took place this past April 23rd, Netflix unveiled a sneak peek at Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon’s upcoming animation, My Father’s Dragon. Based out of Kilkenny and founded in 1999, the five-time Oscar nominated production house has garnered worldwide recognition over the last two decades thanks to their enchanting Irish Folklore Trilogy: The Book of Kells (2009), Song of the Sea (2014) and Wolfwalkers (2020). Each film draws children into natural wonderlands of myth and magic, into tales about protecting and healing rather than fighting.

However, on paper, My Father’s Dragon seems to have more in common with Cartoon Saloon’s outlier: the 2018 feature The Breadwinner, which tones down the signature bright colour palette and dials back the fairies and magic in order to deliver a thoughtful rendering of Kabul under Taliban rule. For one, it has the same director: Academy Award nominee and Cartoon Saloon co-founder Nora Twomey. And like The Breadwinner, My Father’s Dragon is adapted – inspired by the Newbery honoured book of the same title by Ruth Stiles Gannett.

The story follows Elmer, a young boy struggling to cope after a move to the city with his mother. He runs away from home in search of Wild Island and a young dragon who waits to be rescued. Elmer’s adventures see him cross paths with ferocious beasts, a mysterious island, and the friendship of a lifetime.

A press release from Netflix, in the company’s first-time partnership with the animation powerhouse, listed a star-studded cast of familiar names. Lending his voice to

Elmer is Jacob Tremblay,
best known for his star-making turn in Room (2016), directed by Dubliner Lenny Abrahamson, no less. Joining the young actor is an impressive ensemble cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Ian McShane, Chris O’Dowd, Rita Moreno, Alan Cumming, Judy Greer, Yara Shahidi, Jackie Earle Haley, Mary Kay Place, and Dianne Wiest.

“Our actors, animators, and artists at Cartoon Saloon have worked together to craft this film, inspired by Ruth Stiles Gannett’s amazing book. We were drawn together by a desire to tell a very special tale of friendship, adventure, and true bravery,” said Twomey. “I fell in love with storytelling as a child and Netflix excels at celebrating all kinds of stories, through different styles and distinct voices,” the director added. “This has given me the opportunity to look through a beautiful lens and I am excited to share what I see with our audience around the world.”

Disney fans will be happy to hear that the film’s screenplay is penned by Academy Award nominee Meg LeFauve of Inside Out fame. Elsewhere behind the scenes, the film will be produced by Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn of Mockingbird Pictures (best known for producing the Dublin-set drama Albert Knobbs in 2011) and Paul Young of Cartoon Saloon. Meg LeFauve and John Morgan, Tomm Moore and Gerry Shirren of Cartoon Saloon, and Alan Moloney and Ruth Coady of Parallel Films will executive produce the movie.

Fans of Cartoon Saloon’s wise and wonderful creations won’t have to venture out to the cinema this time around; My Father’s Dragon is set to be released via Netflix. This is no surprise considering the streaming giant’s growing obsession with animated films. Just in the past few years they’ve put out a raft of original animated features which includes Academy Award nominated The Mitchell’s vs the Machines, Robin Robin, the new Christmas classic Klaus, Kris Pearn’s The Willoughbys; as well as more adult focused content like Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood and the French existential adventure I Lost My Body. As for My Father’s Dragon, an official release date has yet to be announced by Netflix. What is certain, however, is that this is one to keep your eye on.

Images: courtesy Cartoon Saloon