Produced and Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr.
August 17, 1982 (United Kingdom) / August 20, 1982 (USA)
- Aragh-Victor Buono
- Smrgol and Bryagh-James Gregory
- Ommadon-James Earl Jones
- Carolinus-Harry Morgan
- Peter Dickinson-John Ritter
- The Pawnbroker-Larry Storch
- Lo Tae Zhao and Giles the Elf-Don Messick
- Gorbash and Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe-Bob McFadden
- Princess Milisande-Alexandra Stoddart
- Danielle-Nellie Bellflower
- Solarius the Blue Wizard and Antiquity-Paul Frees
A man from present day Boston is swept into a magical battle of good versus evil.
The Flight of Dragons is a somewhat obscure animated film from the early 80s. It has a pretty good story, and the animation by Topcraft is not too bad for early 80s television animation. We have some cool effects which were uncommon in animation at the time. The film is a combination of two books: The Flight of Dragons which is a speculative natural history book by Peter Dickinson and the novel The Dragon and the Georgeby Gordon R. Dickson. As you can see they give the main character the same name as the author of the speculative fiction book. The movie was released direct to video in the UK on August 17, 1982. I did not know that was a thing that long ago. I first saw it when it was on ABC’s “Saturday Night Movie“ on August 2, 1986.
The Flight of Dragons treads pretty family friendly ground. There is nothing edgy or dark in this film. The evil Red Wizard Ommadon is as close to threatening as we get. He is the master of black magic and just general evil and is one of four great wizards who are also brothers…maybe. It is a little unclear if they are actual brothers or brothers in magic.
There is also the Blue Wizard Solarius, whose magic holds sway over the heavens and seas and the Golden Wizard Lo Tae Zhao who is charge of light and air. The quest that is at the center of the film is initiated by the fourth brother the Green Wizard Carolinus who presides over nature. Early in the film he sees that magic is fading as humanity embraces logic and science and worries because man needs the hope of magic to improve and be creative. His idea is to create one protected magic realm but Ommadon scoffs and decides to use his evil magic to corrupt and conquer.
Peter is brought to this quest. He is a struggling author and game creator who is a direct descendant of the person that domesticated dragons and taught them to talk. The character can be a little bit too “Gee whiz” at times and when he expounds on how things work or just are the narrative slows down. During the course of the story Peter is accidentally merged with the young dragon Gorbash and fumbles about as he adjusts to the new body.
Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe is the one character I really dislike. He is a knight on the quest that I find a little creepy. Even when I first saw this movie as a kid it bothered me. Why you might ask? Because in the story he reveals he met Princess Milisande when she was a little girl (that is underage folks) and made a vow that he would fall in love with her when she was grown up. Really? You would force yourself to fall in love with someone? And waiting around for her to become the right age is as creepy as all those people that had a countdown clock or were just generally keeping track of when Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were legal. That was a thing for a while, and it was disturbing. Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe would have joined in with them. Holy pedophile, Batman!
And then Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe meets the archer Danielle. His abrupt love for her does nothing to rehab his general creepiness in the preceding story. It is a demonstration of how fickle his personality is. Princess Milisande is in love with Peter and some strange woman Sir Orrin has no idea about shows up and he is head over heels with her. That shows some serious psychological issues on his part.
In a world of magic versus science they give a very plausible sounding explanation of why magical dragons can function in the real world. I personally think they should have skipped it and let it be a magical mystery, but I guess they felt a strong need to do it. It is not so much that I was against an explanation but that it was exposition by the Peter character that always slowed the story.
An adult viewing this might have some problems with the story but for a kid watching it is perfect. It is simple. The story is streamlined, and they do not make it overly complex. We have shallow characters that are easy for children to understand. By early 80s standards the animation is better than most that does not have the Disney name attached.
The resolution to the story is telegraphed from the beginning. You know it will focus on Peter’s knowledge of science against Ommadon’s knowledge of magic. Maybe this was an homage/parody but there was a series called Alf Tales, inspired by the series Alf, which were stories with humorous twists on fairytales. In the finale of one episode, I recall the central character using random facts to fight the villain’s magic. As an adult I am reminded of that episode while watching the closing scenes.
The title song, also called “The Flight of Dragons”, was written and composed by Jules Bass and Maury Laws, and performed by Don McLean of “American Pie” fame.
The Flight of Dragons is not a bad film. It’s fun and family-friendly. You can sit down and enjoy it with your kids as long as you do not think too hard. Watch it!