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7 Reasons My Father’s Dragon Should Be Your Next Family Movie

Director Nora Twomey and stars Jacob Tremblay (Room) and Gaten Matarazzo (Stranger Things) let us pick their brains about the new Netflix film.

'My Father's Dragon' is the newest animated family film to hit Netflix.
Netflix

It’s a familiar scene for any parent: You’ve got the popcorn ready, the couch is calling, and the family is assembled. Movie night is about to go down, and then… chaos. No one can agree on what to watch. It turns into a downright battle, with everyone drawing lines in the proverbial sand and picking sides. It’s enough to make you dread the very idea of trying it again. But this weekend, you have the perfect excuse to give family movie night another shot: My Father’s Dragon on Netflix.

Based on the 1948 children’s book of the same name by Ruth Stiles Gannett, the animated movie has a little something for everyone: tons of adventure, stunning visuals, a best friend story, and big lessons about big feelings. It follows a boy named Elmer struggling to cope after moving to the city with his mom. He runs away, finding himself on a truly fantastical journey in a fascinating land called Wild Island.

Need more reasons to watch? Scary Mommy spoke with some of the talent behind the film — director Nora Twomey, Gaten Matarazzo (Stranger Things), and Jacob Tremblay (Room) — to bring you seven reasons to make this your next pick for family movie night.

01

It is stunning.

Yes, this is an animated movie — but it’s unlike your average animated fare in that it’s 2D animation created by the five-time Academy Award-nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon. If you’ve ever seen The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, or Wolfwalkers, you’re familiar with their work. (If not, you should add them to your queue, too!) The entire film feels like watching a beautiful storybook jump off the pages and come to life.

02

It’s an epic journey in every sense of the word.

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In addition to watching the two main characters, Elmer and Boris, have adventure after adventure, making the film in itself proved to be a pretty grand journey. “This was about five years from the initial starting of the screenplay all the way through to the final mix, so it was incredible. But then, of course, we produced it during a pandemic,” director Nora Twomey tells Scary Mommy. “A lot of our team didn’t get to meet ever. So, it does feel great that we managed to pull it together … I’m really proud of everybody’s work in this film.”

03

You get to see a real mom.

Animated movies don’t always depict mothers in the most nuanced light. They tend to fall into one of two camps: impossibly perfect or an evil queen. In My Father’s Dragon, you see a great mom — but she’s tired, she’s stressed, she gets frustrated. It’s a refreshing duality.

“Meg LaFauve, our writer on My Father’s Dragon, really wanted to bring a real person,” Twomey tells us. “We were used to moms being perfect in films, and especially in family films, moms aren’t allowed to have flaws. Speaking as somebody who knows some moms with flaws (laughs), I also really wanted to get that up on the screen — but in a very loving and in a very understanding way.”

04

There are some big lessons on big feelings.

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Your kids are going to love this movie because it’s bright and colorful and features a ton of wild animals as characters. On the flip side, you’ll appreciate that the film speaks to deeper feelings, too. And drawing courage from the people around you is something stars Gaten Matarazzo (who plays Boris) and Jacob Tremblay (who plays Elmer) can both relate to.

“What always comes up today is that courage is not necessarily about a lack of fear, but a drive to persevere through that fear, and that’s always something to remind yourself,” Matarazzo tells us, adding, “You can only really do that with the people in your life … I think that’s what they both learn.”

Agrees Tremblay, “It’s just really important to have those kinds of relationships, especially with someone who’s been through the same hard times that you had, which is what I think Elmer and Boris have in common — they both need something from each other; they just don’t know it at the beginning. But I think it’s very special how they help each other out and actually truly care for each other.”

05

It’s going to tug on your heartstrings.

Listen, anytime you watch a movie that deals with big feelings, it’s going to stir up stuff — and this movie will make you feel all the things. Even the most stoic person in your household might be surprised at what bubbles up to the surface.

Just ask Twomey, who calls the scenes between Elmer and his mom some of the most “affecting” scenes of the film. “Our sound designer, when we were mixing the sound, he kind of admitted that he had to go to the bathroom sometimes just to have a bit of a cry because he was getting so affected by listening to the performances because they’re so powerful,” Twomey shares.

06

It says a lot about selflessness.

Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that Elmer and Boris both come through for each other with no expectation of anything in return. That selflessness really resonates with Matarazzo and Tremblay.

“I think if you have the right people in your life, they’re doing something selfless for you on a regular basis. I think that’s essentially in keeping people close and truly loving people and learning how to be good, and that usually comes from your family and your friends that you develop from a young age — that selfless acts need to be a part of your daily life. And, of course, there are moments that come back from when you’re quite young,” explains Matarazzo.

For him, those early defining memories of selflessness come courtesy of his mom: “I think my mother, for the most part, dropping so much of her time and her life and devoting it to me developing my craft and getting to do what I love at a young age was just… it never registered as much as it does now, as I get older.” Her willingness to drop everything and read lines with him or shuttle him to auditions? “That will stay with me forever,” Matarazzo reveals.

Tremblay admires his parents’ selflessness, too. “They truly care for my future and really want what’s best for me.” One instance really stands out for him — a time in his life when he was doing online schooling and feeling lonely. When he shared that with his mom, “she stepped up. She called the school principal, and she got me in school right away (laughs). That was very, very special to me.”

07

It could just be the beginning.

Netflix

The book by Ruth Stiles Gannett that My Father’s Dragon is based on is part of a trilogy. And when asked if it’s too early to hope that we’ll see more of Elmer and Boris, well, no one entirely shut the idea down.

“I think we had an extraordinary opportunity with Netflix to make My Father’s Dragon,” Twomey tells us. “It certainly is a world that there’s a lot going on in, and there’s a lot of scope there — but I certainly need to sleep for a long time.”

Plus, a lot can happen in five more years. Jokes Tremblay of his voice, laughing, “It’s gotten very puberty-ish.”