When does one become a legend? It is when one has made a huge impact and a big difference to a large group of people. It is also when one probably existed in one point of time like dragons perhaps or the animated film, The Flight of Dragons. Yes, only people in my generation in the age of around middle 30s and up have seen this back in our TV screens in 1982 and, it has etched and occupied itself in our fondest memories and in our hearts. It is one of the best animated films ever. Why do I say that this has become legend? Well, it is because of the fact that it is that good but not on DVD, the standard medium to which people play their movies now. The Flight of Dragons is only on VHS copy and streaming in the internet as torrent files and You-Tube snippets. No one knows why a great animated film like this has not been formatted and packaged in DVD with all the marketing glory trimmings like what the Disney animations and Pixar Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) movies have. It has stayed in the annals of whoever owns its rights now, gathering dust but still in the memories of those who have seen it. The pictures I took of my PC screen below are scenes from the Flight of Dragons as shown in my Windows Media Player.
Good Versus Evil and Science Against Magic
It is a great animated movie. Ask those in my generation and others who have watched it, and you will see their eyes gleaming, and they will suddenly talk about the artwork, parts of the story and the dialogue even. The Flight of Dragons is about a quest to save man from evil’s conquest of the realm of magic and the realm of science. Seeing the need to separate the two worlds, Carolinus, the green wizard of nature, recommends his plan to his brothers Solarius, blue wizard of space and sea, Lo Tae Shao, gold wizard of the air and solemnity and Ommadon, red wizard of evil and dark magic. Being the embodiment of evil and greed, Ommadon does not agree to the plan and intends to use magic to inspire man to use science to make creations that will inevitably lead to his destruction. To stop Ommadon, one has to capture his red crown, the source of all his power.
With the quest and eventual battle being staged on land, the territory of Carolinus, the green wizard chooses his dragon Gorbash and friend Sir Orin Neville Smythe, a knight. For the leader and third member of the quest, Carolinus asks Antiquity for assistance to make the selection. Antiquity chooses Peter Dickinson, a 20th century man of science upon the puzzlement of Carolinus. From there, Peter is brought to the realm of magic from 20th century Boston and in an accident is merged with Gorbash before the quests even begins. Sir Orin, Gorbash/Peter and Smrgol, the dragon uncle of Gorbash proceeds to Ommadon’s territory and gathers allies along the way such as Arak, canine friend of Gorbash, Danielle, a female archer and Giles of the Treetops, the elvin outlaw. Together they face dangers such as the Ogre of Gormly Keep, the giant worm that secretes highly corrosive acid and Ommadon’s horde of dragons under his dark spell. Peter and Ommadon eventually battle in the end as science against magic, respectively.
Seven Reasons Why The Flight of Dragons is a Great Animated Film
In the story, Peter Dickinson is the ancestor of Great Peter, the dragon master, the one who tamed dragons and taught them how to speak. The two are separated by 777 generations. With this, I present the seven reasons why The Flight of Dragons is one of the best animated films ever.
1. It is About a Quest
Ah, yes. A quest is a buddy, road trip and David versus Goliath movie rolled into one. It brings a small band of main characters with various backgrounds together in an adventure. Along the way, they get close and face insurmountable odds. This formula has been appealing in movies whether they are animated or live-action.
2. It Has Creatures and Characters of Magic and Fantasy
Dragons, wizards, knights, archers, ogres and fairies feed the imagination of the audience. Movies take the audience away from reality to the world of fiction and even fantasy. Aside from the said traditional magical creatures and characters, The Flight of Dragons also has its unique creatures such as the giant worm and the horde of sandmerks. Forgive me for the spelling if it is wrong, but there are no subtitles because the movie is not on DVD yet. Individually, they are just like rats that stand on hind legs and around two feet tall, but collectively, they can drive one mad with their mind-maddening chattering.
3. It Has Great Dialogue
“You… complete me.” “Hasta la vista baby.” “You can’t handle the truth!” Great movies have great and memorable dialogue, and The Flight of Dragons has a lot of it from the humorous to the wise to the gallant such as the following.
Dialogue One: Gorbash with Carolinus at night looking over a pond of water
Gorbash (doubtful and sarcastic): “Are you certain this is a limpid pool of time?”
Carolinus: “My dear young fellow, I am one of the four magic brothers. I should know a limpid pool of time when I see one.”
Dialogue Two: Melisande with Carolinus discussing the meeting of the four magical brothers
Melisande: “But why does Antiquity force you to include something so abominable?”
Carolinus: “As evil is a part of all things, evil is a part of our world of magic. And the irony of all existence is that good would be totally impotent without the contrast of evil.”
Dialogue Three: Sir Orin standing by the bodies of his comrades with sword held by praying hands and facing Breog, the devil dragon.
Sir Orin: “Giles, my darling Danielle and Arak too!”
(calm and filled with courage): “Blade with whom I have lived,
Blade with whom I now die,
Serve right and justice one last time.” (flash of Giles’ body)
“Seek one last heart of evil.” (flash of Arak’s body)
“Still one last life of pain.”
“Cut well old friend… (flash of Danielle’s body)
That third dialogue is actually etched inside me and has resonated in my mind since 1982. It is a knight’s code of servitude and sacrifice and his last living act to rid one last creature of evil. Those who have seen The Flight of Dragons quip dialogues like these three I mentioned to one another.
4. It Has Effective Celebrity Voice-over
This is one of the movies that effectively used celebrity voice-overs in animated films before it somewhat became an industry standard after Pixar’s Toy Story featuring the voices of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen. Remember that The Flight of Dragons came from 1982, and it was voiced over by actors of that time. Harry Morgan, the white-haired actor and one of the leads in the movie and TV show MASH, is the voice of Carolinus. He has a firm grandfatherly voice that is perfect for the green wizard. John Ritter, who was the lead in the hit TV sitcom Three’s Company, is the voice of Peter Dickinson. John Ritter fills this character’s wonder of dragons and modesty very well. Finally, when one remembers The Flight of Dragons, one remembers James Earl Jones as the voice of red wizard Ommadon. This is probably the best voice-over of his career topping Mufasa of The Lion King and tying, if not edging Darth Vader. That speech wherein he orders Breog to lead the dragon army against Peter and his comrades is brought to life with his booming and reverberating voice. It tops off with a crazed shout of, “a flight… of dragons!”, and ending with the words “doom, doom, doom”. It just grabs you and tightens your chest. Aside from being a great actor, James Earl Jones is the ultimate talent for voice-overs.
5. It is a Product of 80s Anime, Anime Taken to a Higher Level
The Flight of Dragons comes from the era after mecha ruled TV anime in the 70s. The movie is a Rankin-Bass production, but the Illustrators are Japanese. Toru Hama is the animation coordinator, and the storyboard and animation direction are by Katsuhisa Yamada and Flimihiko Takayama. Anime transcended to something intricate, elaborate and beautiful in The Flight of Dragons after the box-type cartoonish characters in the mecha anime of the 70s, which I actually like also. There is detail, for example, in Smrgol’s curled horns and lips, and the film has interesting designs such as Sir Orin’s long trident instead of a mere lance and Lo Tae Shao’s unique serpentine dragon unlike the other blimp-like bodied dragons. The artwork here is very impressive.
6. It Has Beautiful Music
Don McLean highlights the music of The Flight of Dragons with his singing of the theme song written by Jules Bass and Maury Laws. Below are its lyrics which I got from www.lyrics007.com.
The Flight of Dragons Theme Song Lyrics
Flight of dragons soar in the purple light
In the sky or in my mind
Flight of dragons sail past reality
Leave illusion behind
Is it the past I see
When I look up to the heavens
Believing in the magic
That I know could never be
I want to go where they are going
Into the world they’ve been
Can I open up my mind enough to see
Flight of dragons, heavenly argosies
Catch the wind, rise out of sight
Flight of dragons, pilots of fantasy
In the sky or in my mind
Flight of dragons
Flight of dragons
Don McLean is the singer of the classic songs Vincent and American Pie, and the Flight of Dragons song and music in the movie has a dreamy quality to it.
7. It has a Unique Element: Giving Scientific Explanations to Magic and Creatures of Fantasy
Finally, what makes The Flight of Dragons unique is the presence of scientific explanations in a fantasy movie. This is embodied in the scene where Gorbash/Peter explains how dragons fly with the assistance of Smrgol. It turns out that dragons are like blimps or hot-air balloons lifted by hydrogen derived from the mix of stomach acids and calcium. Dragons get the calcium from the limestone that they regularly eat. An electrical spark in the roof of the dragon’s mouth ignites the hydrogen, and being lighter than air, lifts the dragon to flight. The dragon propels himself with his wings and blows out hydrogen in the form of flame or “dragon fire” in order to descend. It’s a pretty crafty explanation and catchy story element mixing science into magic.
The Flight of Dragons Live-Action Movie
From an animated film, The Flight of Dragons can be elevated into a great live-action film. We’re now in the age of CGI in cinema where in this age, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was made into Oscar-winning movies, Harry Potter was successfully brought out from book to film and various superheroes fly about, stretch and swing from building to building. After the Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia came out and there are even plans to make The Hobbit into a live action movie. The fantasy genre is still alive and kicking the box office, and The Flight of Dragons can be a blockbuster.
Personally, I prefer Chris Columbus to direct The Flight of Dragons if it becomes a movie. I like that enchantment and magic of discovery present in the first Harry Potter film that he made. I also prefer Weta, the company behind the special effects of The Lord of the Rings, to participate in making the movie. To take this idea of turning The Flight of Dragons into a live-action movie further into flight, let’s play casting director for a while and choose possible actors for the key characters. Below are my choices.
Casting Suggestions for a Flight of Dragons Live Action Movie
Green Wizard Carolinus – Ben Kingsley (Oscar winning actor with voice close to Harry Morgan’s; put a skull cap on him, long nose and a beard and he’s Carolinus!)
Red Wizard Ommadon – James Earl Jones (The man voiced him; he should play him! They have the same body mass as well!)
Lady Archer Danielle -Saffron Burrows (Her age is like Danielle’s, and she’s fit too.)
Elvin Outlaw Giles – Billy Boyd (He was Pippen, one of the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings. Might as well be elvin outlaw Giles too!)
Gold Wizard Lo Tae Shao – Henry O (Jet Li’s mob boss father in Romeo Must Die; his facial qualities, especially the cheeks, are like Lo Tae Shao’s!)
The Pawnbroker – Judd Hirsch (Jeff Goldblum’s father in Independence Day can smoothly deliver those pawnbroker’s lines. Somehow, he can be Carolinus too!)
Dragon Gorbash – Billy Crystal (Must have comedic angle)
Dragon Smrgol -Robert Loggia (Must have that old, experienced, grandfatherly quality)
Devil Dragon Breog – Michael Ironside (Tough, tough, tough and intimidating. “Puny scum of Carolinus!! Prepare to die!” He can say that well.)
Canine Arak – Brian Cox (Slightly scruffy, nice old voice)
Antiquity – Alan Rickman (Yes, yes, he’s just a tree, who dropped a silver acorn, but we need that commanding authoritative voice)
If you find my choices amusing and, or absurd, please take note that I am not a professional casting director and that I never had any experience whatsoever of casting actors for a movie or a play. Please forgive me. However, I love movies, and I believe there is some amount of sense in my choices. I hope my amateur attempt in casting will somehow spark the production of a live action Flight of Dragons movie. It will not only be a great delight to fans of the original animated film but also to a worldwide audience composed of various age groups and race. It is because the theme of The Flight of Dragons will bind them all.
The Need to Elevate The Flight of Dragons to DVD and Into a Live-Action Movie
I’ve been browsing the Internet for old movies being formatted to DVDs, and I saw this particular kaiju (giant monster) movie Daikyoju Gappa of 1967 having a special DVD in 2008. Believe it or not, this is about a giant mutated lizard/chicken monster that wreaks havoc in Japan. If movies like this cross over to DVD, and a special DVD I may add, why can’t a great animated film like The Flight of Dragons make it? This is somewhat unsettling and absolutely puzzling. It is like having Lebron James on the bench when the team, city and league can be benefitting from his contributions in the basketball court.
I have a dream. I plan to find out who owns the rights to The Flight of Dragons, and tell them about the ideas I have written here. I also call on others who share the same admiration for the film and the desire for it to be on DVD and become a live-action movie as well. I invite them to request for these also. I invite them to share their most memorable scenes, express their appreciation for the movie and even give their own casting suggestions. I will collate all of these comments and add them to my own and write and email the one who holds the rights of the film. I will write and email them every month or even every week my requests and any flowing comments from everyone who loves the film until they finally decide to release this on DVD and hopefully, a live-action film as well.
I hope my plan succeeds with a length of a dream and a flash of an inspiration, the only way one can briefly enter the realm of magic as the green wizard Carolinus said. So help me if you can friends, and let us have this fine masterpiece in DVD and a live-action film. Together, let’s make an impact with the same force The Flight of Dragons has made in each and every one of us.