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Puffin Rock And The New Friends (2023)

 Adapting a television series into a feature film well is a tricky proposition. And it is one at which dozens have failed. Puffin Rock And The New Friends has its work cut out more than most- the original series consists of seven-minute episodes.

The film is based on the Puffin Rock TV series. It's produced by Irish studio Cartoon Saloon, in association with Northern Ireland's Dog Ears and China's Nebula Group. It is directed by Jeremy Purcell and written by Sara Daddy.  It was released initially in Ireland and Northern Ireland on July 14 by Wildcard Distribution and then in the UK on August 11 by Vertigo Releasing.

The plot of the movie kicks off with the arrival of some strangers on Puffin Rock. But joy over new found friends soon turns to anguish when the last little egg of the season mysteriously disappears. Oona and her friends (old and new) find themselves in a race against time to rescue the egg before a big storm hits the island.

One of the challenges in adapting a series into a film is in finding a story that feels big enough for that expanded canvas. It's easy to fall into something that just feels like an extended episode or several episodes awkwardly stuck together. Puffin Rock makes the move from seven minutes to a 90-minute feature with ease.  It does so without any need for an epic plot or a change in location. It manages to craft a plot that is suitable for the extended running time but still small and intimate enough to feel like Puffin Rock. There's no world-in-peril level danger here but the emotional stakes feel appropriate for the audience.

Visually, Puffin Rock is a gorgeous looking film. It's not a huge evolution from the TV series (some assets and backgrounds are reused) but then it was a beautiful looking series to start with. It sticks closely to the Cartoon Saloon house style- look out for the use of their recurring circle motif.

For one notable sequence, the film steps away from the house style, and with great success. Accompanying a flash-back sequence, the animation switches from the regular style and into a Chinese scroll and ink technique. They effectively create a different mood from the rest of the film.

One notable area where the big screen outing differs from its small screen predecessor is its use of songs. It would be pushing it to describe it as a full-blown musical but it has several musical interludes. It does help it feel more cinematic.

Puffin Rock is aimed at a younger audience than previous Cartoon Saloon features. However, it has plenty of charm ensuring it can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. The film also works beautifully as a standalone, no previous knowledge of Puffin Rock is required to watch this.

Puffin Rock And The New Friends is not Wolfwalkers or Song Of The Sea- but then it isn't really trying to be. It swaps their sophistication for a simplicity and purity that should make this perfect for very young audiences. This would be an ideal first (or early) cinema trip for the little one in your life- and it should keep you entertained too.


Beautifully animated and full of charm, it's another corker from Cartoon Saloon