Coming in at number three during this week of blogging frenzy is the oldest film on the list, the obscure 1982 gem The Flight of Dragons. Don’t worry, the film is much better than that picture makes it out to be. Apparently the artist who was commissioned had only the minimum understanding of the film’s plot and interpreted it as “creepy old wizard takes a young boy on a ride on his big retarded dragon”.
The Flight of Dragons is probably one of the first animated films I can remember watching, and after getting by on memories for years, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy on DVD a couple of weeks ago. The reason for Flight’s inclusion on this list is the same as Titan AE’s; I’m aware that when it boils down to it, the film isn’t exactly great, but the nostalgia factor for me is a massive contributor, and that combined with some memorable scenes and dialogues that have stuck with me since I was a little squirt guarantees Flight’s high position in the list.
Flight starts off with the green wizard Carolinus discovering that magic is on the decline as humanity embraces science. He summons his conveniently colour-coded brothers and proposes that the last of the world’s magic is preserved within the “Last Realm of Magic” where all magical beings can live forever, hidden from the rest of the world. However, Ommadon the red wizard has other ideas.
Ommadon instead threatens to take over the world and destroy humanity. Carolinus and his other two brothers make the decision to capture Ommadon’s crown, the source of all his dark power. However the wizard brothers are forbidden from directly waging war against one another, so Carolinus forms a group of adventurers that includes his dragon friend Gorbash, the knight Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe (who looks like John Cleese), and Peter Dickinson, a scientist who is obsessed with fantasy and magic and who Carolinus brings in from the human world.
Ommadon sends his dragon Bryagh to capture Peter. In the scuffle, Carolinus casts a spell intended to save Peter, but ends up transplanting Peter’s mind into Gorbash’s body. Smrgol, an older dragon, takes Peter-as-Gorbash under his wing (ooooh lolololol) and teaches him how to fly, how to breathe fire, etc. As the two dragons and Sir Orrin continue on their quest, they also recruit the talking wolf Aragh, an elf named Giles, and Danielle the archer. This is some proper old-school D&D shit here.
Sir Orrin and Danielle are captured by an ogre at one point, and Smrgol sacrifices himself to kill the ogre and save them. Upon entering Ommadon’s realm, the evil red wizard sends an army of dragons against the heroes. The heroes use a magical flute given to them by one of Carolinus’s brothers to send all the dragons to sleep, all except Bryagh, the greatest of them, who seems unstoppable until Sir Orrin kills him.
That, my friends, is some seriously hardcore shit for a kid’s film.
With the heroes seemingly dead and the dragons asleep, Ommadon appears and gloats that he is victorious. Peter manages to separate himself from Gorbash and confronts Ommadon, eventually defeating the red wizard with SCIENCE.
Yes, he really did make that dark demon-wizard disintegrate by shouting about areas of scientific study. Yes, it is a bit silly. Yes, it is still fucking awesome.
Upon Ommadon’s death, everyone is restored to life, and Carolinus creates the Last Realm of Magic. However, as Peter has denied magic in favour of science in order to defeat Ommadon, he is forced to return to his own time. But it’s okay, because Carolinus’s hot daughter goes with him and they sell Ommadon’s crown at a pawnshop for millions. Everyone’s a winner!
Although the animation on Flight shows its age, it doesn’t make it any less a great film. The key theme throughout is the conflict of fantasy versus fact, and finding a way that the two can co-exist, rather than one stamping out the other. For example, when Peter-as-Gorbash is learning to be a dragon, Smrgol explains flight and fire-breathing in vague, magical terms, while Peter rationalises them with SCIENCE.
Both methods work and ultimately have the same result. Carolinus also states that mankind needs magic, for without tales of heroism or stories of mythical beasts, man will never have the inspiration to invent or imagine or innovate. It’s certainly a touching little message, and one that obviously resonated strongly with chibi-me. Flight, in my opinion, is a grossly-overlooked gem from the 80s, and I strongly urge any fans of classic fantasy stories to track down a copy.
We’re in the home stretch now! Tomorrow is the runner up for my favourite animated film, and oh boy is it a doozy.