In this way, the storyline is a little “have your cake and eat it too”: “Wish Dragon” portrays Din as a clean, true person — someone who can teach Long a thing or two about life’s values — but also as a “peasant” to Li Na’s “princess.” As a result, we’d anticipate him to be a little more greedy in order to compensate for his deficiencies. However, Appelhans’ aesthetic — both the rapid, intelligent animation style (a zippy pose-to-pose approach that echoes traditional martial-arts movies) and all-around openness to Chinese culture, old and contemporary — is enjoyable in and of itself. The exaggerated squash-and-stretch approach (reminiscent of the “Despicable Me” and “Madagascar” films) elevates the overall look. IMDB
This Sony Pictures Animation-produced selection, even more than last year’s Netflix original “Over the Moon,” appears to know and respect the Eastern culture in which it’s situated, though with an appreciation for outsider’s interest. Granted, most viewers would be unfamiliar with Appelhans (a talented concept artist who has worked on films like “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Monster House”) or his background, but I was pleased to see his name on the film. I’ve always admired his watercolor pictures, which depict imaginative settings with children and floppy sloths, rusted robots, and deformed unicorns, and can see how such depictions of unlikely pals, both real and imagined, may translate to a tee.