My Father’s Dragon (2022)
Adapted from the 1948 children’s book by Ruth Stiles Gannett, My Father’s Dragon has an unbelievable voice cast including Jacob Tremblay, Gaten Matarazzo, Golshifteh Farahani, Dianne Wiest, Rita Moreno, Chris O’Dowd, Judy Greer, Alan Cumming, Yara Shahidi, Jackie Earle Haley, Mary Kay Place, Leighton Meester, Spence Moore II, Adam Brody, Charlyne Yi, Maggie Lincoln, Jack Smith, Whoopi Goldberg and Ian McShane. Struggling to cope after a move to the city with his mother, Elmer (Tremblay) runs away in search of Wild Island and a young dragon (Matarazzo) who waits to be rescued. Elmer’s adventures introduce him to ferocious beasts, a mysterious island and the friendship of a lifetime.
Working for Nora Twomey and Cartoon Saloon has been a joy for Mychael and I. We were thrilled with the opportunity to reconnect with Nora after our collaboration with her on The Breadwinner, and the experience of My Father’s Dragon proved no less fruitful. Elmer’s journey in the film – both geographic and otherwise – provided many occasions for colourful and exotic Musical Side Roads, and Nora’s love of a strong central tune played directly to our strengths as composers. Her desire to have a song that grew directly from the score itself, yielded our song “Lift Your Wings”, brilliantly and expressively sung by the singular Anohni.
Nora Twomey, director:
“I had worked with Mychael and Jeff Danna on The Breadwinner. That film was very different in terms of budget and circumstances. They were often working with musicians who were recording in Kabul and so they tried to grab whoever they could. I knew from working with them that they’re egoless composers. They lose themselves completely in what the film needs to be. Their first pass was always to fully investigate what’s going on in the film at a particular time; what Elmer needs, what’s being expressed, what are they holding back. They build a score from a very emotional place, all the time thinking about the film holistically.
“They’re not bombarding you with the score everywhere, they know that there’s strength in silence and the quiet moments as well as the big, epic moments,” Nora insists. “Working with Netflix meant that we could do things like work with the best orchestra in the world in Abbey Road, and use a magnificent choir who also leaned into the idea of a voice soaring above the entirety of the soundscape. You have the extremes of what the human voice is capable of expressing in the film, but it was absolutely magical. Our head of story, Giovanna Ferrari, managed to travel over to Abbey Road when the orchestra was being recorded and she said she just burst into tears the instant they started up. It was such an emotional moment.”