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  Flight of Dragons, The Magic KingdomBuy this film here.
Year: 1982
Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr
Stars: Victor Buono, James Gregory, James Earl Jones, Harry Morgan, John Ritter, Larry Storch, Don Messick, Bob McFadden, Ed Peck, Jack Lester, Alexandra Stoddart, Nellie Bellflower
Genre: Animated, Fantasy, Adventure
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: It was a time of magic and dragons, but the wizard Carolinus (voiced by Harry Morgan) was feeling that his kind were growing ever more obsolete. He would fly with his dragon Gorbash over the landscape, and alight where he saw fit, but today his spirits were lowered when he stopped near a water mill and saw a swan being dragged under the wheel along with a few fairies. He managed to revive them all, but then a group of men emerged from the building to ridicule Carolinus and his faith in spell casting, a faith that was handicapped when his spell to break the wheel failed miserably....

There must be something to reawaken the powers of magic! If you believe in sorcery, then clap your hands together - no, wait, that's Peter Pan, this is The Flight of Dragons, a project carried out by the venerable duo of animation directors Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin who utilised a team of Japanese animators to bring this tale of fantasy to (somewhat limited) life. It was based on novels by Peter Dickinson and Gordon R. Dickson, and funnily enough Dickinson is a character in the film, brought into his world of magic by a board game he has invented around the concept.

Precisely how this comes about is somewhat confused, but it's something to do with finding participants for a quest, because you cannot have a fantasy movie like this without some kind of journey, can you? And it has to be both physical and emotional to boot. It's all to do with Carolinus's attempt to find a place in the world for both science and the mystical which he represents, so he assembles his three brothers and they have a conference to discuss what's to be done. The end result of this is that the evil brother, Ommadon (James Earl Jones finding himself typecast) decides to wage war on the rational.

Which means taking over the dragons that populate the skies and terrorising the land with them. Peter (John Ritter) is brought to this realm by Carolinus to vanquish Ommadon thanks to "Antiquity", a vague supernatural overseeing force that the wizard feels compelled to reference every other sentence, and for reasons too complicated to go into, the board game designer becomes a dragon himself. He is delighted at this, as now he can work out the science of dragons - he's very big on science, is Peter, as is the script which has a plucky try at making the biology of mythological creatures convincing, not that they succeed, but it's an interesting attempt.

After we have all that sorted out, we can go on the quest, where Peter picks up various characters familiar from the average round of Dungeons and Dragons to assist him. The film resembles an educational item for something that doesn't exist, and its struggle between the world of science and the world of magic results in a rather lumpen intellectual exercise that comes across as more futile than anything else. However, you can ignore all that and simply watch it on an entertainment level, as quite a few people recall doing from their childhoods - it's surprising how many enjoyed The Flight of Dragons when they were younger - although there's an earnest quality to the presentation that prevents the story from, er, taking off and flying. Chances are if you like to read doorstep-sized books about this kind of thing, you'll appreciate this more than most. Music by Maury Laws.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Jules Bass  (1935 - )

American animator and producer who, after a career in advertising, set up a company with Arthur Rankin to create animated specials for television, such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. From the sixties onwards, they created a few films for cinema, such as Daydreamer, Mad Monster Party?, Flight of Dragons and The Last Unicorn. Also a composer of songs.

 
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