DVD Shopping Bag: Dragons Lair The Complete Series (Mania.com)
By:Robert T. Trate
Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
In 1983 a Laser Disc Video Game became all the rage. The title, as you have probably guessed, was Dragon’s Lair. Most of you will more likely remember the arcade game that littered boardwalks and shopping malls in the eighties. It was a game completely animated by Don Bluth, an ex-Disney animator, which gave the player a which-way adventure. It was your choice to choose left, choose right, duck, and draw your sword. You were then forced to watch your decision play out in front of you. It was cool to watch, impossible to play, and one of the most unique games of the eighties.
With the excess that defined the eighties, no property was without a tie-in. It was only natural that a cartoon video game would have a cartoon series. In 1984, Dragon’s Lair appeared on ABC’s Saturday Morning cartoon line up. It used to be a Ruby-Spears Production, but is now a part of the Warner Archive Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection. The DVD Shopping Bag was set up with this classic cartoon series and it sparked more than just a few thoughts.
I did the play the game here and there in my lifetime. It was always something that looked cool, but I constantly failed at it. It’s great that the game has endured and is now available on iTunes. I have gotten much further than ever before and love not only the quality of the graphics, but the fact that I can carry it anywhere. After playing the game again, I wanted to see this old cartoon. It wasn’t one I watched and, as a result, I had little to no idea of the show’s premise.
Dragon’s Lair is the adventures of a knight named Dirk the Daring (voiced by Bob Sarlatte). Dirk is in the service of King Ethelred (Fred Travalena) and is constantly trying to impress Princess Daphne (Ellen Gerstell). The Princess, the quests, and even the main villain (Cinge the Dragon) are all part of the game. The addition of Squire Timothy (Michael Mish) gives Dirk some backup, a straight man, and someone else to get into trouble (besides the princess). It’s sad that the cartoon follows into the standard formula of the time. Princess Daphne is tough and smart, but since she is a girl she will forever be the damsel in distress. Squire Timothy is more the brains of the two where Dirk just bumbles through everything. The 13 episodes are fun enough, but this series lacks any lasting appeal.
It did offer a few things that got me thinking though. The first was a great sense of nostalgia. Dragon’s Lair just had that perfect pace for what a Saturday morning cartoon should be. It was light fun and packed with tiny adventures. This wasn’t G.I. Joe or the Transformers, which is obvious, but at the end of each episode I felt as if I saw the comedy for today’s Saturday line up. Next up I wanted a mystery with Mr. T (also available on the Warner Archive) and then some web swinging action with Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends. Dragon’s Lair set the mood for those Saturday morning cartoons of old.
Since I grew up in the eighties, I watched a lot of now classic cartoon series. I love hearing the voices and trying to pick out the different actors. Cinge, in Dragon’s Lair, was clearly the voice of Destro (Arthur Burghardt) from the G.I. Joe cartoon series. However, double checking a few other voices wasn’t so easy. IMDB only lists a few of the actors doing voiceover work in a cartoon series such as this. One episode (the first) is usually the standard. However, when you are trying to find the voice of Lizard King from episode two, you are out of luck. Is this a professional choice by the actor? Or is it just a lack of records and research by IMDB and the studio? Whichever it is, it’s frustrating.
Finally, I thought about sharing this show with my nephews. They are under five so I started to analyze if they could handle it. Dirk’s adventures are silly and not on the scary side at all. Dirk never punches anyone, which is always a key in getting it past their mother, my sister-in-law. However, Dirk wielding a sword to slay monsters is where I might run into trouble. It’s a new way of watching cartoons, thinking about the characters and their repercussions on children. I guess it will come in handy in the future.
Dragon’s Lair is a quick trip down memory lane as it will return you to that Saturday morning mentality. Sadly, it is only Dragon’s Lair that you are getting and the desire to move on to other channels and more serious adventures will prevail. I suggest picking up Dragon’s Lair and a few others from Warner Archive. Why? Well to program your own Saturday morning for you and the kids, of course.
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Robert Trate writes two weekly columns for Mania the DVD Shopping Bag and the Toy Maniac. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.