Region: 1 - North America
Length: 95 minutes
English 2.0 Stereo
A thrilling animated adventure form the age of knights and wizards.
Ever wish you could see a dragon? Or wonder how they fly or why they breathe fire? Journey back to a magical time when the skies were filled with these amazing creatures in The Flight of Dragons, a dazzling feature-length animated version of Peter Dickinson's acclaimed book from Rankin/Bass Studios.
Victor Buono, James Gregory, James Earl Jones, Harry Morgan, John Ritter and Larry Storch provide voices for this wondrous tale set in the Dark Ages. The sinister Red Wizard Ommadon (Jones) threatens to destory nature. The world's hope is a man of science and magic from the future. That man is Peter (Ritter), snatched from the 20th century by the Green Wizard Carolinus (Morgan) to capture Ommadon's empowering Red Crown. With a fire-breathing dragon, an outlaw elf and a noble knight as comrades-in-arms, Peter applies modern-day logic to battling ages-old evil.
Why is an anime site reviewing an American Cartoon? For many anime fans, Flight of Dragons is a landmark title that showed how much depth there can be to animation. There are many watershed titles like this and I'm sure each fan has their own, from Astroboy to Zoids.
Flight of Dragons was produced by Rankin/Bass and animated by the Japanese Studio TopCraft. Rankin/Bass produced ThunderCats, The Hobbit and The Last Unicorn. Studio TopCraft later animated Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and then the core Topcraft staff went on to form our favourite Japanese animation studio: Studio Ghibli. Other TopCraft staff continued producing animation for America as Pacific Animation Corporation and animated ThunderCats and SilverHawks.
For lots of anime fans when you say Flight of Dragons their eyes light up, remembering the time they first discovered this treat from the early 1980's.
"There was a time between the waning age of enchantment and the dawning age of logic when dragons flew the skies, free and unencumbered."
"Look down there Gorbash my friend, on that troubled earth below us confusion and chaos reign. All mankind is facing an epic choice, a world of magic or a world of science, which will it be?"
The film is set in a long forgotten age where magic exists and mythical creatures roam the land. However magic is fading because man is choosing logic over magic. Something must be done as man still needs magic for inspiration. The 4 wise wizards convene to propose a retreat for all magical creatures where they can live in harmony. The evil wizard Ommadon objects and instead proposes a war and curses humanity. The remaining 3 good wizards sponsor a quest to stop evil winning the day. The leader of the quest is selected, it's Peter.
We're then introduced to Peter a man of science from modern times (the early eighties), who daydreams of wizards and dragons and other such fantasies you might find in Dungeon and Dragons. He longs to publish his board game and finish his novel. When he gets sucked into the world of magic we find out whether a man of science can win in the world of magic.
Unlike many other favourites from childhood Flight of Dragons has aged quite well. The first thing many viewers will notice is the animation quality. The backgrounds are detailed and characters move fully, there aren't any noticeable short cuts taken (although there is a one blink and you miss it poor edit). The character designs are distinctive and recognisable, even the Dragons have different characteristics and characters that appear only for a scene are very detailed.
Many will notice is that the dialogue isn't dumbed down. Words like antiquity and devoured make the production feel as if it's from a classic era. When Peter longs for his type writer, it reminds you that it was made in an age before computers.
The dub is a classic example of perfect casting. Harry Morgan's rich voice suits the old wizard Carolinus, John Ritter's enthusiasm as Peter makes the character, while the evil Ommadon is voiced by James Earl Jones. Even the opening theme is recorded by Don McLean.
For years fans have cried out for a DVD release of Flight of Dragons. It was released in the US without any fanfare under the Warner Archive Label on November 2009, many people not even being aware of the release.
The DVD is about as basic as you can get. You can tell it's been done using a template design. There are no subtitles or even a proper scene selection menu. The DVD Menu just tells you to press the back and forward scene buttons to jump 10 minutes. The transfer is clean, although there are minor film scratches that appear now and then, but they're hardly noticeable. The colour and image is quality is good. The DVD has only one stereo audio track.
The DVD has no extras what so ever. It cries out for a decent release, with extras, bonus features and perhaps even Blu-ray, like The Last Unicorn another Rankin/Bass Topcraft production. Still, at least this is an official release.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can turn something average into something great when watched through the rose tinted glasses of the past. For fans of the film it does live up to the fond memories, but people new to the film might not be as excited. If you were around in the eighties when this was first shown and had fond memories of it, Flight of Dragons won't disappoint.
The DVD itself is interesting as it's produced on demand. Amazon just make them when you order one. So it has a purplish DVD-R like underside. As long as the publish on demand system exists, they'll never run out of stock.
Getting information on TopCraft isn't exactly straight forward. If you do a search for them you either get notes that they did work for Rankin/Bass or posts by people wanting to know more about them. The best place to look is on page 665 of The Anime Encyclopedia - Revised & Expanded Edition: A Guide to Japanese Animation Since 1917 by Jonathan Clements & Helen McCarthy.