Thoughts on Netflix’s Dragon’s Lair

By TheCinematicBandicoot

March 30th, 2020

Dragon’s Lair creator, Don Bluth, (Left) with business partner, Gary Goldman (Right).

Netflix announced a live-action adaptation of Don Bluth’s video game, Dragon’s Lair. Ryan Reynolds is attached as the lead knight, Dirk the Daring.

Bluth became associated with some of the best (The Secret of Nimh, An American Tail, The Land Before Time) and worst (Rock-A-Doodle, Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park) animated films of all time. Following the critical acclaim of The Secret of Nimh in 1982, Bluth created Dragon’s Lair, which stood out from the 8-bit style graphics from arcade titles like Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-man. It also cost 50 cents as opposed to a quarter, but it made up for it with graphics from a former Disney animator.

The Secret of Nimh remains Bluth’s most acclaimed opus
See the source image
See the source image
See the source image

Over the years, it’s been re-released on every gaming system imaginable, including the Game-boy Color. Since then, the series spun off into a spiritual successor Space Ace, a less than financially successful sequel in 1991, and a 3D action-platformer in 2002’s Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair.

Space Ace flopped due to the video game crash of 1983 but is available on all consoles today.
Dragon’s Lair 2: Timewarp has its fans but is seen as a lesser sequel by the public.
Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair utilized cel-shading when jumping to 3D but is seen as the least in the series due to its wonky controls.
See the source image

Dragon’s Lair never expanded as a franchise after being ported to every console imaginable. But in 2016, Bluth started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for his Dragon’s Lair movie, hailing it as the comeback for hand-drawn animation. Despite exceeding his initial funding goal of $500,000 with $731,172 donations, updates stopped until Netflix acquired the film rights from Bluth after negotiating for a year. They plan to make a live-action movie rather than an animated feature, potentially starring Ryan Reynolds as Dirk the Daring.

This comes as a shock to backers as Bluth’s animation background makes the live-action plans puzzling. If any platform can inject life into the endangered hand-drawn style, it’s Netflix. They’ve produced a variety of projects over the last couple of years with varying style: Hilda, Green Eggs and Ham, Castlevania, Klaus, The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants, Carmen Sandiego, and the recently concluded Bojack Horseman. Even Guillermo Del Toro is working on a stop-motion adaptation of Pinocchio, which will be nothing like the Disney version. That alone could give theatrical computer animation a run for its money, even when Missing Link bombed at the box-office.

Green Eggs and Ham
The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants
Carmen Sandiego
Bojack Horseman
Stop-motion figures of Gepetto and Pinocchio in Guillermo Del Toro’s more faithful take on Carlo Collodi’s dark book.

It’s been almost 20 years since Bluth’s last movie Titan A.E., before he retired from film making to focus on teaching students about animation.

For his comeback turn into a live-action endeavor seems counter intuitive to his nature.

To be fair, $700,000 isn’t much of a budget in animation, in fact it’s usually considered chump change. And that money was used more for a pitch to Hollywood than actually making the movie. Netflix provided a ton of financial support for Green Eggs and Ham, so why take an animated property and turn it into a live action? This harkens back to the early 2000’s where animated shows jump to the silver screen without their inked roots.

Dragon’s Lair emphasized speed to avoid enemies, which makes the quick-time events mandatory. It keeps you on your toes by testing your reaction skills. That’s part of what makes the death animations entertaining even if you fail. In animation, one can control the speed of everything like a cursed knight trying to behead you, or a snake trying to squeeze the life out of you with its coils.

But in live action that slows down to a snail’s pace, relying on blurry CGI to bring the impossible to life. This does not mesh well unless the technology on par with 2016’s The Jungle Book. It’s been done before in the worst video game adaptations of yesteryear. Some things are best left in the past.

Bluth’s final film Titan A.E., served as the big break for Blue Sky Studios who worked on the computer animated planets.

This is TheCinematicBandicoot and Netflix’s plans for the Dragon’s Lair movie puts a wrench in Don Bluth’s talents. The live-action direction is limited compared to animation, though casting Ryan Reynolds as Dirk the Daring is promising. But it feels like a wasted opportunity to put an animation expert’s work to live-action. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be any other option…unless it’s fitted for a Hulu.

Works Cited

Cartoon Brew – Amid Amidi – Missing Link Bombs at the box-office:

Dragon’s Lair Movie Indiegogo campaign:

Rebel Taxi – NETFLIX Cancels 2D DRAGON’S LAIR Movie For Live Action feet: Ryan Reynold (RebelTaxi):

What do you think of the direction for Dragon’s Lair: The Movie? What’s your favorite Don Bluth media? Whatever your thoughts are, comment and discuss with others.

And if you enjoy reading our content, be sure to like, follow, and share both our articles and website with friends and family. This is TheCinematicBandicoot saying SEE YA NEXT TIME!!!!!!

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