Princess Dragon


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Princess Dragon
"A good choice for viewers between the ages of about five and eight, this is a film which delivers on action and attitude without ever losing its innately gentle quality." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

Each year at the Fantasia International Film Festival there’s a section dedicated to children’s films, and it’s wonderful place to discover material which will appeal to young fantasy fans. This particular film has a lot of popular ingredients – princesses, dragons, a castle, a sorceress and a magic spell – but it delivers on them in ways which you might not expect, and its outlook is thoroughly modern.

Once upon a time there was a mighty dragon who wanted nothing more than to become a dad. Being unable or disinclined to deal with this in the traditional way, he visited a frog-headed sorceress in the marshland to ask for her help, and entered into a pact. As a result, he got two handsome young dragon sons, Rock and Zephyr – and a daughter, Bristle, who looked like a human, so that he almost threw her out in disgust, before realising that she could glide on her long green hair and breathe fire.

All that was long ago, and the story picks up when Bristle (or Poil, as she is named in French – the translation of names, and in one case the substitution of a name, is a bit disconcerting to anybody who has a passing familiarity with both the spoken language and that of the subtitles) comes into contact with the human world, meeting a princess called Princesse (slightly less problematic) who is riding in the forest. After Bristle saves Princess from the huge bear Bourya, who styles himself as the most powerful animal in the forest, the two become firm friends. But Bristle is shocked to learn that her father doesn’t like humans, and she encounters similar prejudice against her own strangeness when she visits Princesse’s home. And then the sorceress reappears, to collect her debt.

The remainder of the film follows Bristle’s efforts to adjust to her altered environment and try to prevent the humans from attacking her father, whose suspicion of her renders him an almost Lear-like figure on the margins of the story, though he receives good counsel from his sons. Princesse, meanwhile, is frustrated by the expectations placed on her because of her gender, and share’s her mother’s dislike of the wealth gap in the country. She’s not well matched with her smug fiancé Count Albert, who loathes peasants and loves killing animals (this is not shown directly). Bristle’s wild way of living makes her re-evaluate the options open to her.

The animation used to tell this story is simple but effective, paying a lot of attention to the ways that different characters move. The father dragon looks grand and impressive but the only time he might frighten young viewers is in a scene which sees him angry with Bristle, addressing the conflicts which can occur between parents and children, and this is ultimately resolved. There are strong themes around the importance of friendship and girls (and adult women) sticking together, whilst the bad guys get what they deserve, whilst animals who are merely aggressive due to their nature receive a bit more sympathy.

A good choice for viewers between the ages of about five and eight, this is a film which delivers on action and attitude without ever losing its innately gentle quality, and it will leave families with plenty to talk about together afterwards.

Reviewed on: 17 Jul 2022
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A dragon’s adopted daughter befriends a human princess, and must contend with a frog-witch’s curse.

Director: Jean-Jacques Denis, Anthony Roux

Writer: Jean-Jacques DenisAnthony Roux

Starring: Lila Lacombe, Kaycie Chase, Jérémie Covillault, Colette Venard, Michel Bompoil

Year: 2021

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: France


Fantasia 2022

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