My Father’s Dragon Parent Guide
Beautifully animated, this film gives kids a sweet story about friendship while offering lessons about managing anxiety.
Parent Movie Review
After moving into a big city from the countryside, Elmer (Jacob Tremblay) is having a hard time adjusting to his new life. His mom (Golshifteh Farahani) is struggling just to keep herself and Elmer off the street, which makes her dream of opening a shop seem impossible. During an argument, Elmer runs off and finds himself swept off to the magical Wild Island, where he is tasked with helping a dragon save the island from sinking into the ocean. The dragon (Gaten Matarazzo) is not exactly what Elmer expected, but the two set off to save the island and discover much more as they learn to work together.
One of my biggest problems with modern animated movies is that they all look the same. Generic 3D animation is ubiquitous in the industry, which betrays the artistic potential of the medium. Cartoon Saloon, the production company behind My Father’s Dragon and one of my all-time favorite films, Wolfwalkers, is not afraid to break out of that mold and make stylized, visually rich productions. This movie is stunning. The style, lighting, colors, and designs are all beautifully and intentionally done, with a deep attention to detail and a focus on telling the story. And, as always with Cartoon Saloon, the score is fantastic.
Visuals aside, I don’t think My Father’s Dragon quite lives up to the level of its predecessor, Wolfwalkers. I think that the production team was aiming for a younger audience, which is perfectly fine, just not usually what this company does. The story is simpler, and the themes are more surface level, lacking some of the complexity of previous productions. However, that is not to say that it isn’t well done. Children are sure to enjoy the adventure and colorful characters. There’s just less here for the adults than I was expecting. Again, not a bad thing, just something to note.
The story focuses on themes of self-confidence, overcoming fear, and friendship. I think the dragon, Boris, will resonate with children that struggle with anxiety and fearfulness, as he talks about his fears and how they affect his self-image and choices. With the support of his friend, Boris gains the confidence to do things he’s afraid of, but that doesn’t change who he is as a character. I think anxious children deserve to see that there’s nothing wrong with them and they don’t need to drastically change who they are, they just have a specific struggle that they need to learn to work with as they navigate the world. This movie handles this spectacularly, and I think many children will relate to Boris.
With very little negative content aside from some mild peril, this is a film for people of almost any age. The characters, visuals, music, and adventure all combine into a heartfelt, fun adventure, even if I felt it was a little more juvenile than Cartoon Saloon’s other work. This is sure to become a favorite for many children, and possibly their parents too.Directed by Nora Twomey. Starring Judy Greer, Jacob Tremblay, Whoopi Goldberg. Running time: 99 minutes. Theatrical release November 11, 2022. Updated November 11, 2022
Watch the trailer for My Father’s Dragon
My Father’s Dragon
Rating & Content Info
Why is My Father’s Dragon rated PG? My Father’s Dragon is rated PG by the MPAA for some peril.
Violence: There are some scenes of mild peril.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There is a single term of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.
Page last updated November 11, 2022
My Father’s Dragon Parents' Guide
What are the differences in how Boris and Elmer handle problems? How does Boris learn to be brave and how does Elmer learn to accept help?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This film is based on the children’s story My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Maurice Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are is a classic tale about a boy who runs away in a fit of pique and winds up on an island with “wild things” where he has an adventure.
A young boy wishes he could run away in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.
If your child needs help managing anxiety, there are plenty of books out there tackling the topic. Written by Jayneed Sanders and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, How Big are Your Worries Little Bear? helps kids gain perspective on their fears. Hey Warrior by Karen Young and Norvile Davidonyte teaches youngsters how anxiety operates in their brains, helping them understand their physical responses. Wilma Jean and the Worry Machine takes a humorous tack as author Julia Cook and illustrator Anita Dufalla give kids strategies to manage their anxiety.
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Made by the same studio, Wolfwalkers is the story of a girl in 17th century Ireland who discovers that she can transform into a wolf.
A boy runs away from home and finds himself on an island filled with “wild things” with whom he enjoys a “wild rumpus”. Where the Wild Things Are attempts to adapt the classic picture book by Maurice Sendak.
If you want more animated films featuring dragons there are lots to choose from. Luck introduces a dragon who controls the flow of good and bad luck to the world with the help of leprechauns and swine. In Wish Dragon, a young man meets a wish-granting dragon and discovers that getting what you want is complicated. The How to Train Your Dragon series is a surefire hit with kids with lots of lessons about friendship, loyalty, and the dangers of bigotry and hate. Few sidekicks are as memorable as Mushu, the tiny dragon in Mulan.