The Flight of Dragons

The Flight of Dragons

US DVD cover
Directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Jules Bass
Produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Jules Bass
Written by Romeo Muller (Screenplay)
Peter Dickinson (Novel)
Gordon R. Dickson (Novel)
Starring John Ritter
Bob McFadden
Don Messick
James Earl Jones
Music by Maury Laws
Don McLean
Distributed by ABC
Lorimar Television
Release dates
  • August 17, 1982 (1982-08-17) (U.S.)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Flight of Dragons is a 1982 animated film produced by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. and loosely combining the speculative natural history book of the same name (1979) by Peter Dickinson with the novel The Dragon and the George (1976) by Gordon R. Dickson. The film centers upon a quest undertaken to stop an evil wizard who plans to rule the world by dark magic. A major theme within the story is the question of whether science and magic can co-exist. This is told mostly through the experience of character Peter Dickinson, drawn from the 20th century into the magical realm.

Released direct to video on August 17, 1982, it was aired as an ABC "Saturday Night Movie" on August 2, 1986, and released by Warner Brothers as a made-to-order DVD in the US on 17 November 2009 as part of the "Warner Archive Collection".[1][2]

The opening song is sung by Don McLean.


The "Green Wizard" Carolinus (Harry Morgan) discovers magic failing as humanity embraces science, and summons his brothers Lo Tae Zhao the Yellow Wizard (Don Messick); Solarius the Blue Wizard (Paul Frees); and Ommadon the Red Wizard (voiced by James Earl Jones), accompanied by their dragons Shen Tsu, Lunarian, and Bryagh (James Gregory), before whom he resolves to create a "Last Realm of Magic" hidden from the rest of the world. Lo Tae Zhao and Solarius consent, but Ommadon instead proposes to take control of the world himself; whereupon the other wizards decide to seize Ommadon's crown, the source of his powers. Because the wizards are forbidden to fight among themselves, they volunteer Carolinus's dragon Gorbash (Bob McFadden when not Ritter-as-Peter) and the knight Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe (Bob McFadden), to do so, with Solarius giving a shield to deflect dark magic and Lo Tae Zhao giving a flute to lull dragons to sleep. Requiring a third protagonist, Carolinus summons Peter Dickinson (John Ritter), a board-game creator and polymath scientist. Having arrived in the magical world, Peter becomes enamored of Princess Milisande (Alexandra Stoddart), Carolinus's ward.

Ommadon, learning the others' plan, sends his dragon Bryagh to capture Peter; whereupon Carolinus casts a spell to save him, which mistakenly combines Peter's mind with the body of Gorbash. Knowing nothing about being a dragon or about magic, Peter is mentored by an older dragon named Smrgol (James Gregory). During their journey they are joined by the wolf Aragh (Victor Buono), a woodland elf named Giles, and the archer Danielle of the Woodlands (Nellie Bellflower). The dichotomy of magic and science appears when Smrgol teaches Peter in magical terms, whilst Peter explains them with principles of science; and in later approaches of each character to similar subjects. In Carolinus's home Princess Milisande falls into a trance and views the protagonists magically from afar. At an inn near Ommadon's realm, an Ogre captures Sir Orrin and Danielle. Smrgol teaches Peter how to defeat the Ogre, but defeats the Ogre himself after Peter is subdued. Smrgol then dies of his injuries. In the Red Wizard's realm, the heroes face the Worm of Sligoff, a giant worm that excretes sulfuric acid (ignited by Peter), followed by an evil spell designed to induce hopelessness, which Peter repels by Solarius' shield. When Ommadon sends an army of dragons against the heroes, Giles plays the flute given by Lo Tae Zhao, which puts them all to sleep except Bryagh, who seems to kill Giles, Aragh, and Danielle but is slain by Sir Orrin, who dies soon after. When Ommadon appears on the battlefield, Peter separates himself from Gorbash, and confronts him. Here, Peter's explanations of science against Ommadon's declarations of magic destroy Ommadon; whereupon the others are restored to life and the "Last Realm of Magic" takes shape. Peter, having "denied" magic to overcome Ommadon, returns to his own world, taking the flute and shield, which he sells to pay his debts. He is then joined by Princess Milisande, who comes bearing Ommadon's crown, and the two embrace.



Producers Arthur Rankin Jr., Jules Bass
Associate producers Masaki Iizuka, Lee Dannacher
Screenplay by Romeo Muller
Based on The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson
Additional story material from The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson
Design by Wayne Anderson
Original score by Maury Laws
Title song by Jules Bass, Maury Laws
Title song performed by Don McLean
Additional material written by Jeffrey Walker
Animation coordinator Toru Hara
Storyboard and Animation directors Katsuhisa Yamada, Fumihiko Takayama

Reception said of the film, "Animated fantasy films geared for family viewing just aren’t made like this anymore... The voice acting in this movie is excellent, to say the least... Though the animation might seem a bit 'dated', it remains beautiful by 1982 standards".[3] "The dialogue is surprisingly intelligent and may confuse some children but it is nice to see an animated film that will stimulate adult minds a little... The voice cast are all great and I can’t find a single fault with any of them", said[4] The Unknown Movies said "There may not be a strong constant thread in The Flight of Dragons, but all its moments of warmth, imagination, and interest combine to make magic."[5]

Other reviews were less positive: "I'm sure fans of The Flight of Dragons, sick of looking at crappy downloads or worn VHS copies, will be satisfied with what's here, but if you didn't grow up with this one, it's best left alone."[6]


Various VHS editions of the film have been released since its debut in 1982. There was also a LaserDisc release from which some VHS copies were produced. The LaserDisc release was made by PolyGram Video, there was also a Betamax release. A DVD was released (available only in the U.S.) under the Warner Archive brand on November 17, 2009.


The original score was composed by Maury Laws. The film's theme song, also entitled "The Flight of Dragons", was written and composed by Jules Bass and Maury Laws, and performed by Don McLean. An official soundtrack was never released. However, multi Emmy Award-winning film and television composer Carl Johnson did recreate several tracks from the animation for the live-action adaptation. Though the film was put on hiatus, 3 of the completed tracks were released online.

Live-action adaptation

In September 2012, an official live action film was announced. Now canceled, a production team was set to work on the project for a 2015 release date, including contributions from Maury Laws, Chris Achilleos, and Wayne Anderson. The film was loosely based on The Dragon Knight by Gordon R. Dickson. Presently, all efforts have been diverted to a new film project, The Dragon Prince, directed by Jesse Stipek and written by The Last Unicorn producer Michael Chase Walker.

See also


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