Finding a wish-granting dragon in a teapot seems a lot easier than summoning a wish-granting dragon by collecting seven Dragon Balls. Or so it seems in Wish Dragon, a new animated movie from Netflix about a young man who stumbles upon his own extremely genie-esque dragon.
Wish Dragon is the first film for the newly formed Base Animation studio, located in Xiamen, China, and Jackie Chan’s Sparkle Roll Media. Interestingly, Chan will voice the dragon in Long in the Mandarin release of the movie, while the U.S. version has Star Trek’s John Cho in the role. The film also stars Jimmy Wong, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Constance Wu, and Will Yun Lee. Take a look:
I’ve spent the last hour researching whether there’s any mythological basis for the film’s conceit that Chinese dragons grant wishes and/or live in teapots, and all I can find is that in Buddhism, some dragons can have pearls under their chins that can grant a wish if they’re obtained. But there seem to be no dragons that run around giving out wishes willy-nilly, let alone hang out in teapots. So Wish Dragon does seem to take the “dragons grant wishes” premise of the long-running action anime Dragon Ball and then stuffs it deep in Disney’s 1992 hit animated musical Aladdin.
The titular Wish Dragon turns from bombastic to wacky at the drop of a dime, much like Robin Williams’ Genie in Aladdin; Netflix’s movie also uses Aladdin’s “phenomenal cosmic power, itty bitty living space” gag when the Wish Dragon returns to his teapot, complete with a high-pitched voice. And the movie is basically about a poor young man desperate to connect with a young, rich, upper-class woman, and uses at least one of his wishes to pretend to be important and wealthy, just like Aladdin.
Where the movie differs, of course, is that it’s set in modern-day Shanghai, where Din (Jimmy Wong) longs to reconnect with his childhood best friend Lina (Natasha Liu Bordizzo), who became a famous actress or model or something. The trailer makes it appear that Din’s only in it for friendship, but if it turns out he has romantic feelings for Lina, it’s going to be even more Aladdin-y. None of this is necessarily a bad thing, of course, and given that Netflix’s last animated movie was the phenomenal The Mitchells Vs. the Machines, it’s worth giving Wish Dragon the benefit of the doubt.
Also, the movie was written and directed by Christopher Applehans, who was an illustrator on the equally phenomenal Coraline and a winner of a Children’s Choice Book Award, so that’s more points in the film’s favour.
Wish Dragon premieres on Netflix on June 11.