Berkreviews Princess Dragon (2021) at Fantasia Fest 2022

My favorite animated film of 2020 was Wolfwalkers – a movie that is on AppleTV+ and not enough people talk about – and I was excited to find that Princess Dragon (2021) is similar in many ways. The film is currently at Fantasia International Film Festival, and if you get a chance to see it, I’d highly recommend it. It features a unique animation look…but what really drew me in were the characters, their relationship, and the story connecting it all together. 

Bristle is the third child of a great Dragon; only she more resembles a human. Princess is the daughter of a greedy king. When Bristle and Princess meet in the woods, it’s clear they are from two very different worlds that somehow have a lot in common. The dragon’s fear of humans and the danger they present force his hand, and he offers the Frogceres (who made his children possible) to Bristle as payment. Bristle then runs from her home and embarks on a journey to discover the world of men.

Princess’s mother, the queen, has been locked into a tower for attempting to distribute the king’s wealth to his people who are in need. There is quite a bit of talk in the film about the struggles of the people, and the many associated class struggles. Princess, who is quite young, has already been promised to Albert, a pompous royal who loves being in the royal world, and she desperately needs a friend like Bristle. It is the core relationship of these two girls from very different yet strikingly similar worlds that connects it to Wolfwalkers. It’s refreshing to continue getting movies where the princess or the lead female characters aren’t concerned with finding their prince to save them. Instead, they are determined to reshape the world for the better, and taking care of those in need. 

Jean-Jacques Denis and Anthony Roux, who wrote and directed the film, did an excellent job crafting a compelling story with a familiar fantasy skin that has enough originality to it to make it feel fresh. The art design isn’t my favorite, but it grew on me as the film went on, and I found myself falling deeper into the story. I thought Bristle’s design was the most unique – but I was reminded of commercials I saw as a kid for Muzzy. Not sure if that was intentional or not, but I feel like there is definitely a similar look. 

Princess Dragon is one of those animated movies that feels special and unique. It doesn’t feel like one of those mass-produced cartoons looking to act as a babysitter for a young child. Instead, it is using the medium to show a story of the substance that would be quite hard or expensive to do in live action. It’s a great example of how animation allows the exploration of one’s imagination in ways that sometimes can’t easily be done otherwise. Princess Dragon earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.

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