Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
An Absolute Treasure of French Animation
Written and directed by Jean-Jacques Denis and Anthony Roux, Princesse Dragon (also known as Dragon Princess) is a French animated fantasy film. A dragon named Dragon that lives in a cave away from the humans that he hates surrounded by the treasure that he loves is yet somehow still sad. He has always wanted children, but has no means of reproducing. Dragon makes a deal with a frog sorceress (called a frogceress or sorcerog). He’s given three seeds and is asked to sit with them for three months. After he dreams three times, he will have the children he has always wanted. Sure enough, after three months and after he had dreamed three times, he was gifted with three dragon babies.
The catch is the frogceress, without warning, will eventually come for the thing that Dragon cherishes second most. Bristle, Dragon’s youngest child, has the body of a human but the heart and fire of a dragon. After Bristle befriends a human girl named Princess she brings her back to Dragon’s cave. Fearing the worst, Dragon offers Bristle to the frogceress as payment. Bristle then embarks on a journey to learn the benefits and shortcomings of what it is to be human and what it’s like to have a friend.
Princesse Dragon is made by Ankama; an animation studio that is also responsible for 2017’s MFKZ. The animation is unusual especially if you’re used to anime or American animation. Like Ernest & Celestine, the animation looks to either be hand drawn or is done in a computer program to look like traditional animation. Most of the human characters and animals seem to be purposely simple in appearance. They have their basic black outline and primary colors, but shading and depth are saved for when the environment calls for it (like walking down stairs with a torch). The backgrounds are what are loaded with intricate details.
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Forests are overflowing with greenery, bug life, and sun shining through the shades of the trees and Dragon’s treasure is this shiny and beautiful mountain of gold. Dragon himself is a various blend of traditional and 3D animation. He is the only noticeable CGI element in the film and yet it’s extremely subtle; an element you only fully realize is different when Dragon is moving.
An Extravagant Fable with Unforgettable Characters
The film is a beautiful fairy tale that also juggles several life lessons over its all too short 70 minute duration. Bristle is judged based on her appearance while all humans are lumped together for terrible acts only a certain few have ever performed. Seen as a freak at first, Bristle is actually what bridges Princess’s world to Dragon’s. Princess’s father is blinded by greed and only wants more riches despite already being a rich man himself.
Bristle has a green apple skin color with a slightly darker shade of green for her hair. She can spit fire and can glide with her hair in the air, but not fly. She is able to speak to animals and has the protective ability of regressing back into her egg shell when she feels sad or threatened. Bristle also matures from a baby to an adult over the course of the film. Bristle is obviously pretty powerful, but Princesse Dragon actually empowers the female characters. Princess’s mother, despite being imprisoned, is incredibly knowledgeable. Her best friend, Mimi, can cook, outsmart any of the guards, and is surprisingly strong. Even Princess is able to beat up Albert; the tiny, redheaded hunter who her father is trying to force her to marry.
Princesse Dragon has such a magnificently engrossing animation style. You fall in love with all of the characters and its short length makes it feel like a perfect bedtime story that people of all ages can enjoy. Princesse Dragon is a delightful treasure of animation loaded with rich details and a story that you deeply connect with.
© 2022 Chris Sawin