Not Rated Dir: Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. | Warner (Archive) | 1h 36min
Plot: What’s it about?
I grew up in the Eighties and early Nineties. In my formative years, I was a big fan of shows like G.I.Joe, M.A.S.K., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and many other cartoons. What all of these cartoons had in common was a reliance on quickly done cel drawn animations. Over time, the industry relied more and more on computer generated graphics and computer animation. It was cheaper, faster, and more efficient. It did not allow for as much human error in the drawings because they could use several animations over and over again without much variance by artists. This has led to animation now feeling a little bit soulless (in my opinion) because the art has been removed from the artist. This does not mean that I do not like Pixar movies – I do like them- it just means that I miss the way animated shows and movies looked in my adolescence. Therefore , I was intrigued when Warner Archive released the animated movie The Flight of Dragons on Blu-ray.
The plot is a bit convoluted.
In the time of wizards and dragons, Magic is being destroyed by man’s obsession with science. A wizard named Carolinus (Harry Morgan) gathers the other three magical leaders to try to build a safe place for magic and dragons. Unfortunately, an evil wizard named Ommadon (James Earl Jones) would rather the world fall into his hands so that his black magic can lead man closer to nuclear war and rampant commercialism. To help preserve the balance they enlist the help of a twentieth century man named Peter Dickenson (John Ritter.) With his help they plan to steal the crown of Ommadon and restore the balance to the land. Along the way, Peter has his consciousness combined with the body of a dragon named Smrgol.
Warner Archive makes some interesting choices in what they decide to release. For better or worse they have focused their attention on films that would not receive an HD upgrade without a studio that was as dedicated to giving film collectors what they want. In this case, I did not grow up watching this film as a child so I do not have any attached sentiment to it. I appreciate the idea of bringing back some of these hand-drawn films on Blu-ray because there was a real artistry to the drawings and paintings on the cels that shines through with the uptick in detail that Blu-ray provides. In this case, I am not sure that this would have been the film I would have chosen. For example, Warner owns the rights to the original animated version of The Hobbit that would be a great animated film to highlight. It currently has no release date. Instead, they focused on a film that was released on VHS for a few years before it premiered in theaters. This is an odd choice, but not necessarily one that I don’t respect.
The problem with this choice is that this film is just not that great. Despite an intriguing opening and my enjoyment of the cell-drawn animation, the plot for this film does not hold up particularly well. I found the plot a bit ridiculous and had trouble caring about anything that occurred onscreen, but my two boys seemed to enjoy it just fine. At the end of the day, I am thirty two years old and the film was not designed for me. It was designed for kids and there are far worse films to watch with your kids. I prefer to watch these types of films that light up kids imaginations over the clean and sanitized computer generated entertainment that is mass-produced now. Fans of the film will enjoy the new transfer of the film that presents it in widescreen for the first time, while people that have never heard of the film will probably shrug it off. While not great, it is not truly bad either. I would recommend checking out some of Warner Archive’s other releases over this one.
Video: How’s it look?
This is a little bit harder to judge than a normal release. This film definitely looks the best that it ever has due to its widescreen presentation of a new HD master of the film. That said, this type of animation sometimes looks a bit clunky. If you want to see the difference between the standard definition film and the version presented here, just watch the standard version that is attached in the extras. The differences are very obvious. While this is the best that this film has ever looked, the film itself is not as impressive visually as some of the other animated films of that time. I would give this an A for effort, and a B for content.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Warner Archive have provided a good enough, though in no way special, audio transfer in DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono. As expected with an animated film, all of the audio is dubbed and therefore clarity tends to be pretty good. There is one sequence that drive me crazy that anybody watching the film will understand. Overall, Warner have done a capable job of providing the source material in a clear and concise delivery including Don McLean’s ridiculous theme song for the film and Maury Law’s score. While there is nothing too special here, there is nothing for anybody to complain about either.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The Standard Definition Television Version of the film is included – this is interesting only so that nostalgist can see it the way that they remembered watching it on VHS on this Blu-ray. I like that they included this, despite the lack of additional features
The Bottom Line
Flight of the Dragons is a kid’s movie from when kid’s movies had a certain artistry to them. Despite the great painting and drawing, this film’s plot does not hold up well thirty five years later. That said, my kids did not seem to mind. Fans of the film should be excited that Warner has focused their attention on such a minor title, but the rest of us will probably ignore this release. I appreciate Warner’s hard work but only recommend this release if you are a die-hard fan of this film.