Best submission in this round hands down. The art (especially the BG art), animation, and story was all done masterfully. It's so rare for me to say "damn" or "holy shit" while watching an animation on Newgrounds but it happened twice here, once during the water splash animation (you nailed that perfectly), and again when the dragon popped out (great character design and full body animation). And you didn't half ass anything, it was all frame by frame animation, no shortcuts. Even all the "little" things that alot of people don't tend to notice or care about, like the rope animation that responded realistically to his weight and movements, and the water ripples when he was swimming. And the story was great and made me genuinely smile. Most of the time when people try to do "serious" and "touching" animations it's either too sappy and makes me groan or too experimental for me to give a shit. This was just perfect, a wonderful story of innocence.
One little thing though, the audio could of been alot louder. I didn't even know there was music and SFX at first until I heard the dragon roar quitly play through my speakers. So yeah, I had to rewatch with my volume blasted to near max. But that isn't a big enough deal to mark you down for.
Anyways, this was very impressive and I look forward to any future submissions from you. I thought Dave had a sure win with his submission but this is gonna put up one hell of a fight. I don't know where the judges can mark you down on the score cards, this is essentially flawless under all the categories. Good job and good luck in the contest!