Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Flight of Dragons (1982)

I recently asked my good friend, Jonathan Balog, which movie he thinks more people should watch.  He suggested the delightful animated epic, The Flight of Dragons.  

Running Time: 96 Minutes (of 80's fantasy awsomeness)

Directed by: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.

Voice Cast: Jon Ritter
James Gregory
James Earl Jones

Plot: "A young Boston writer goes back in time into an era where wizards and dragon reign and science is just barely known." - IMDB

I was unable to find the original preview, but here is the opening sequence.  

How I Discovered It: I had never heard of this movie until Jon mentioned it after a certain South Park episode premiered.

This is kind of ironic because Flight of Dragons would have been right up my alley when I was a kid.  It falls into that notorious genre of 1980's children's fantasy films that are much darker than most kid's movies today.  Think The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn and The Dark Crystal (through which Jim Henson fulfilled his lifelong ambition of traumatizing every child on the planet).

Jon goes into more detail regarding this genre below.    

My Memorable Moment: Two dragons shake down a bunch of dwarfs for gemstones and then discuss the scientific basis of dragon flight and fire.


Jon is a fantastic storyteller himself.  You can check out what he has written on his Amazon page

Jon's Thoughts: One of the things I love about the fantasy films I grew up with in the early '80s was that they didn't talk down to their audience. Watching them as an adult I realize they were full of philosophical themes that must have gone right over my five-year-old head, yet I don't remember ever feeling like they were too much for me to handle. That's what gives them such great shelf value—you can have fun with them as a kid, yet they still have things to teach you as an adult. Also, I appreciate that they never tried to sanitize the horrific moments, like the old witch being eaten alive by the harpy in The Last Unicorn, the death of the Skeksi emperor in The Dark Crystal, Atreyeu's confrontation with the Gmork in The Neverending Story, or Gollum's howl of rage in the animated version of The Hobbit (which, I'm sorry, is ten times scarier than any performance by Andy Serkis.) Sure, they might have given us a few years of nightmares, but I can't help but think that we're stronger for it. 

Flight of Dragons seems to be one of the less-remembered movies from that era, which is a crying shame because it's pretty damn good. Like other Rankin/Bass films, it features a pervasive sense of melancholy stemming from the fact that the world is transitioning from an age of magic into an era that will be dominated by man and guided by science and reason. The open-ended question is: what will be the role (if any) of magic in the coming Age of Logic? Will magic (read: fantasy? faith?) by necessity dissipate in a scientific culture, or is there room for coexistence? 

I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that it ends on an optimistic note. Mankind moves into the scientific era, bringing untold wonders into the world. The realm of magic is forced underground, yet remains, and (we're promised) can still be accessed by those in the know. Flight of Dragons does something I really love: it tells a great story while celebrating the act (and necessity) of storytelling itself. Check it out. 

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