“Wish Dragon” is one of the numerous animated featured films on Netflix. Photo courtesy of Netflix

Whitney Walmer
Associate Arts and Culture Editor

“Wish Dragon,” an animated film released in China on January 15, 2021, teaches many lessons including friendship and the true meaning of life. However, the film, produced by Sony Pictures Animation and directed by Chris Appelhans, was not released internationally until June 11, 2021. It portrays a fun plot with Chinese culture and a unique twist, the film is often compared to, “Aladdin.”

The film has the audience follow a young boy named Din, who seeks to rekindle a friendship that he had in his childhood with a young girl named Li Na after years of her moving away. Actor Jimmy Wong, known for his appearance in “Mulan” (2020), is the voice of Din. Actress Natasha Liu Bordizzo, known for her appearance in the action film “Guns Akimbo “(2020), voice of Li Na.

Din comes across a teapot given to him as a gift from a stranger for payment that it is not just any ordinary lamp. Instead, the teapot has a magical dragon named Long that lives inside, who allows the master to receive three wishes. I know what you are thinking: three wishes to get you anything you want, a magical object, mystical creature, and a young boy looking to accomplish a goal involving a girl.

But there are distinct differences in this film compared to Aladdin, like the influence of modern culture and, most importantly, the backstory of how Long became a wishing dragon.

Long is to serve ten masters and grant the wishes requested before he can be left into the spirit world. Where Genie’s objective is not transparent, other than granting the three wishes as it is Aladdin who grants Genie his freedom.

Long has more significance than what meets the eye; he is named after the C in Chinese culture and is known for its symbolism in good fortunes and wisdom. There is also a story of the Yellow Emperor, who is turned into a dragon in the later years in life as a dragon of the element of Earth.

In a way, it is as if Long is granting wishes for individuals that are, in turn, making a difference in people’s lives on Earth. The irony is that time has changed since he was living during the Ch’ing dynasty, where values and customs had been different. As time has changed, even Long learns through the obstacles that he and Din experience together.

At the start of the film, the movie seemed to be another interpretation of Aladdin. However the animation, humor, plot, and many other cinematic characteristics had appeared strong by the end. Animation featured bright color and realistic textures of the surroundings and architecture. It was almost as if the audience could be there with the characters along on their journey. With the use of modern living and modern-day necessity, there is humor because what we consider to be normal.

Long has to learn for himself through lost time. In regards to the plot there is a young man seeking to reach a goal of friendship and happiness involving a female like Aladdin but there is more as they shared a bond when they were younger. Aladdin discovers Jasmine in the streets dressed as a normal citizens when she is in trouble. Where Din meets Li Na as a young girl in elementary school and they spend time together because of their parents both being single and usually working late. They spent many years of their childhood together and were best friends until they were separated when Li Na had to move away with her father.

The antagonist is neither a man like Aladdin’s Jafar, a man seeking to take away a kingdom from a Sultan with a magic staff with his talking parrot or anything crazy. But rather men who are seeking to take away the teapot for their own selfish gain. One of the men only fought and did things with his feet throughout the movie having his hands tucked in his pockets. Through the presentation as a whole, the film is unique in comparison to others in animation history.

“Wish Dragon” is a 9/10.