Puffin Rock And The New Friends

  • 26 Aug - 01 Sep, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Puffin Rock existed before Bluey rose to the top of children's cartoon shows that adults secretly adore as well. The series, produced by Northern Irish band Dog Ears and award-winning Kilkenny-based animation studio Cartoon Saloon (My Father's Dragon, Wolfwalkers), follows little puffin Oona, her younger brother Baba, and their animal friends as they discover and learn more about their wild Irish island home. It's hard to believe it's taken seven years for the globally popular series to get the big screen treatment with its beautiful picture-book animation, soothing narration from an Attenborough-esque Chris O'Dowd, and keen sense of comedy. Puffin Rock And The New Friends by Jeremy Purcell, which is completely endearing, unexpectedly current, and conveyed with such gentleness, shows that the wait was worthwhile.

Children may learn about the world around them in the original TV show's bite-sized, seven-minute episodes in a way that never feels too much like homework. For example, one episode might explain how hermit crabs change their shells, while another might explain how caterpillars transform into butterflies. However, the teams at Cartoon Saloon and Dog Ears have used the expansion of a big-screen excursion as an occasion to consider Ireland's acceptance of Ukrainian refugees escaping the Russia conflict as well as the urgent environmental challenges of our generation.

The way Sara Daddy's deftly managed screenplay takes the established framework and organically expands its scope to teach greater lessons – about climate change, about the plight of refugees – without losing the lightness of touch that defines Puffin Rock, is one of its greatest accomplishments.

Therefore, every effort is made to reduce these big ideas to their most basic forms as Oona, Baba, and their friends meet Isabelle, a homesick tufted puffin, and her tenacious golden pheasant friend Phoenix (a loving nod to the series' enormous Chinese fanbase). They learn that they are refugees from an island devastated by the climate crisis. Even when the movie's major issues are addressed more directly, like in the breathtakingly animated scene where Isabelle remembers the storm that drove her and her family away from their own island paradise, there is an intimacy and a gentleness to the direction that prevents things from becoming too much.

A pre-school-friendly discussion of the benefits of cooperating, of empathy, and of realising that our differences and variety should be appreciated, not feared, is nicely set up by the plot's driving dramas – a missing puffling egg and an impending storm. It is remarkable that such uplifting lessons can all be contained in a 79-minute excursion that is both engaging for young children and profound for parents and grandparents. The fact that the movie is a biodiverse visual fantasy with lush slopes, sparkling underwater tunnels, and squealing-cute animals and creatures is just a joy for everyone. This time around, the new golden age of animation has given us yet another beautiful dawn on Puffin Rock.

Cartoon Saloon, who have been nicknamed the Irish Studio Ghibli for quite some time, may have created their own My Neighbour Totoro, a simple, sweet, and adorably adorable cartoon adventure suitable for the whole family.