Puffin Rock and the New Friends
Cartoon Saloon prove once again, from their Academy-award nomination for Wolfwalkers and now, Puffin Rock and the New Friends, the magnificence of Irish animation. For a children’s film, Puffin Rock doesn’t fail to amuse and educate adults alike regarding the delicate ecosystem of the wild and how climate change affects the animals in question. It may masquerade as a simple cartoon, with vibrant colours and characters winning through the power of friendship, but at its core, it’s a graceful warning and source of encouragement for its young audience to not just take care of nature, but of each other as well.
The story is based on the 2015 Irish kids’ show Puffin Rock and features the narrative voice of Chris O’Dowd. It follows the adventure of Oona and her younger brother Baba, living on Puffin Island – a setting inspired by the Irish coast. In the film, new characters are introduced, such as Isabelle the Tufted Puffin and Marvin the Otter. The conflict surrounds a missing egg and a storm approaching that put the lives of those inhabiting the island in danger. As the search for the egg continues, everyone passes off blame, which strains the newcomers’ efforts to build relationships with the rest of the animals on Puffin Island.
The picture teaches important lessons that everyone of all ages can relate to and understand – from the feeling of isolation, loneliness and wanting to impress, the white little lies that snowball into something bigger, and the divide between self-preservation and honesty. The film uses the universal language of want and need, of friendship and community, and embeds digestible lessons on climate change and the rules of nature, such as the importance of never disrupting a bird’s nest and habitat loss and displacement due to rising temperatures. It creates this wonderful balance of allowing kids to understand basic friendship dynamics while learning more about the environment. The musical numbers paired with the adorable character designs are just the cherry on top.
Visually, the film is stunning. The island is vibrant with watercolours and sketchy backdrops against the solid colour fills of the animals and enhanced by the canvas texture. Lighting and shading are exceptionally utilised in select scenes to create an atmosphere, such as providing lighting in the glimmering cave walls, the rays of sunlight peeking through dark crevices, and the wonderful glistening of the water. It’s proof that 2D animation is still an effective medium for capturing nuanced sceneries.
Puffin Rock and the New Friends is a joyful watch for the family, but one doesn’t need to be a kid or a parent to appreciate the beauty in its story and the marvel of the animation.
Puffin Rock and the New Friends is released in select cinemas on 11th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Puffin Rock and the New Friends here: