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"Ugh, department store seersucker, all charred with dragon exhaust."

The Flight of Dragons is a Rankin/Bass Productions animated film, produced in 1982, but not aired until 1986. It is loosely adapted from Gordon R. Dickson's fantasy novel The Dragon and the George,. However, it replaces the main character with Peter Dickinson, the real life author who wrote The Flight of Dragons, an art book that proposes scientific reasons for the prior existence of dragons. Got all that?

The film is a Heroic Fantasy in which a twentieth-century "man of science", named Peter Dickinson, travels back in time to defeat Ommadon, an evil wizard who isn't happy that humans are choosing science over magic. Due to an accident, Peter ends up Sharing a Body with a dragon and he thus has to learn about how Our Dragons Are Different in order to survive. In the end, it turns out that the Powers That Be selected Peter because they needed someone who wouldn't Clap Your Hands If You Believe.

It's Better Than It Sounds — unless you were a fan of both books before you saw it. In particular, the film features a remarkably effective voice cast: the late John Ritter is highly sympathetic as Peter, Harry Morgan an amusingly eccentric Carolinus, Victor Buono a convincingly growly Aragh, James Gregory surprisingly lovable as the elderly dragon Smrgol — and James Earl Jones sonorous and magisterially evil as the Red Wizard Ommadon.

Tropes used in The Flight of Dragons include:
  • The Archer: Danielle.
  • As You Know: When Peter first wakes up sharing Gorbash's body and Melisande calls him "brother," he gets embarrassed and reminds her that they kissed. The kiss did not take place onscreen take place, right before Bryagh knocked Melisande to the ground and grabbed Peter.
  • Big Bad: Ommadon
  • Big Badass Wolf: Aragh, though he lost a lot of his Badassness in the transition from the book.
  • Bowdlerize: Most television broadcasts omit the scene of Peter/Gorbash and Smrgol getting drunk in the inn's basement.
  • Catch Phrase: "_______ is the greatest magic of all!" Imagination? Or is it inevitability? Or perhaps love?
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Shield of Saturn and Flute of the Muses, given to the heroes at the beginning, each come in handy exactly once to overcome an obstacle.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Inverted; Peter Dickinson defeats Ommadon by denying the existence of magic.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: The four brothers each have an assigned color and element. Carolinus — green and earth; Lo Tae Shao — yellow and air; Solarius — blue and water; Ommadon — red and fire.
  • Cyclops: The giant ogre whose castle is the gate to Ommadon's kingdom.
  • Daddy's Girl: Melisande, to Carolinus. It doesn't really become evident until she's in her weird coma, at which point he calls her "my darling, darling child" and weeps copiously. Possibly the most genuinely moving scene in the whole film.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Peter's Flight of Dragons fantasy role-playing game reflects the Dungeons & Dragons boom of the early Eighties.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Peter's specialty, and the whole reason he was chosen to lead the quest.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: Invoked by Ommadon, along with a Title Drop, when sending Bryagh forth to battle the heroes.
  • The Dragon: Bryagh, who is a literal dragon as well.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Sir Orrin does one to Danielle (who's already dead) after slaying Bryagh.
  • Ethnic Magician: The four brothers are oddly diverse. Carolinus is your typical white Merlin-type of wizard, Solarius is a black man, Lo Tae Shao is Asian (and even has an Asian dragon). Ommadon...well, he's sort of a chalky blue...and hobgoblin-ish.
  • Even the Subtitler Is Stumped: The closed captioning regularly confuses a dragon's hoard for a dragon's horn.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Princess Melisande
  • Evil Is Hammy: Ommadon.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Ommadon.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Evil Sounds Like James Earl Jones.
  • The Fair Folk: Giles is an elf, but you'd hardly know it from his appearance and abilities; Ommadon also tries to beckon various monstrous fantasy creatures at the climax. The usual small, pretty, beneficial fairy types are depicted early on, though.
  • Fantastic Nature Reserve: Where all of the magic and magic creatures will go to in order to avoid destruction as man increasingly favors logic over magic.
  • Fantastic Nuke: Ommadon explaining his magic's influence on man naturally leading to the creation of the bomb.
  • Genius Ditz: Carolinus, of all people.
    • Justified, since magic is beginning to fade.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: At Hell's Way Inn (itself a GCPTR incident), as the humans are about to turn in, Danielle mentions that they may not live to see another night. Cue her and Sir Orrin walking out hand-in-hand, and it's never shown whether they were taken from different rooms of the Inn.
  • Hand Wave: Melisande's recovery from her strange pseudo-coma. Carolinus believes it to have been Ommadon's crown which revived her, having been brought to her by Peter after the battle, adding that her revival was foretold by prophecy. Not only was that prophecy never before mentioned, but if he knew that was the case, why was he so upset when she first went into the coma?
    • Practically everything about Melisande was handwaved. Who were her parents, who were murdered when she was a child? She's apparently a princess, so how did Carolinus end up as her guardian? Where exactly is the kingdom she's a princess of, and who is running it? Why does she wear giant seashells on either side of her head?
  • Hair of Gold: Melisande
  • Here There Were Dragons
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Both played straight and averted. There are two heroes, and one ends up with the redhead, and the other gets the blonde.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Smrgol.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Fans of Seventies TV will not only recognize John Ritter (Peter) as Jack Tripper from Three's Company, but also Harry Morgan (Carolinus) as Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H (if not as Joe Friday's partner) and James Gregory (Smrgol) as Inspector Luger from Barney Miller (if not as the Gorilla General from Planet of the Apes). Going back a little farther, Victor Buono (Aragh) was the villainous King Tut on Batman. And need one even mention James Earl Jones?
  • I Fell for Hours: "Actually, it's been more like ten centuries!"
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Melisande's long blonde hair is beautiful...except for the part where it looks like she's wearing gigantic seashells on either side of her head.
  • Kill'Em All: Bryagh slays Aragh, Giles and Danielle, and then Mutual Kills Sir Orrin, leaving Peter alone with Ommadon for the final confrontation. Of course, Death Is Cheap, and they're resurrected when the Magic Realm comes into being.
  • Knight Errant: Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe. Guess "Sir Brian" was too boring of a name...
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Sir Orrin Neville-Smythe.
  • Like Brother and Sister: An inter-species version. Melisande, at one point in the film, addresses Gorbash as "brother," presumably because (as Orrin's narration later indicates) they grew up together in the care of Carolinus.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: The main character has the same name as the author of the original book and, for good measure, he mentions in the film that he's writing a book called The Flight of Dragons. As well, the diagram he draws on the stone to visualize how dragonfire works is found in the book.
  • Love At First Sight: Peter and Melisande, more or less; their first meeting is pretty fraught with chemistry, and they later share a little interlude the night before he leaves on the quest. This is apparently enough to induce her to follow him into the real world at the end.
    • On a more squicky level, Sir Orrin decided to marry Melisande on their first meeting...when she was five. Fortunately, this turned out to be more of a case of the knight deciding that he was supposed to marry the princess when she grew up, rather than one of genuine attraction, and he pretty much forgot the entire idea once he met Danielle.
  • Made of Shiny: The Silver Owls of the Full Moon; the silver acorn Antiquity gives Carolinus. Antiquity itself, arguably.
  • Mage Tower: Each magician lives in one which reflects his elements and personality, except Carolinus, who lives in a farm.
  • The Magic Goes Away: To the "Last Realm of Magic."
  • Magic Misfire: Carolinus has been doing this more and more often lately, and it's what causes Gorbash and Peter to merge.
  • Magic Versus Science: The worlds of science and magic are separate dimensions struggling for dominance, although Carolinus admits that science will ultimately win in the end.
  • Meaningful Name: Sir Orrin explains to Peter that he named the baby dragon Gorbash after the circumstances of his hatching — Orrin had fought with Ommadon's dragon, and it was gory, and he did get bashed up a bit.
  • Missing Mom/Disappeared Dad: Princess Melisande's parents were killed by "the night demons" when she was a small child, resulting in her being Happily Adopted by Carolinus. No explanation is ever offered for what became of the kingdom of which she is a princess.
  • Mordor: Ommadon's kingdom.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: When Ommadon causes Carolinus to lose the ability to track the quest through one magical means, the image of his brother Lo Tae Shao appears and reminds him that Melisande has the previously unmentioned ability to do the exact same thing by entering a trance.
  • Not Quite Dead: Averted with Aragh. He DID die drowning, but was revived by Solarius, in exchange for killing the Sandmurk queen and joining the quest.
  • The Obi-Wan: Smrgol, almost exactly.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: An obvious consequence of the above.
  • Off-Model: There are minor animation flaws throughout — e.g. the dragon-rose, described by Peter/Gorbash as "that small golden flower," is quite clearly deep pink.
  • One-Winged Angel: Ommadon does this for the final confrontation and it ain't pretty.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sir Orrin, who clearly has never been any closer to England than Liverpool — East Liverpool, Ohio, that is.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragon biology is discussed rather in depth, including their need to eat limestone to generate gas, which enables them to fly and breathe fire, as well as their use of soft metal for bedding, as it will not catch fire.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Each member of the group overcomes exactly one obstacle. Also, the shield and flute provided to the party by Solarius and Lo Tae Shao each fulfill exactly one function. (Well, the shield fulfills two if you count Peter selling it to the pawn shop guy at the end.)
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Peter is identified as the Chosen One to Carolinus because he somehow knows what the four magic brothers, Melisande and Gorbash looked like and made them into pieces for his board game.
  • Puff of Logic
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Rule of Three: When Carolinus first decides to inspire the quest to bring about his idealized magic realm, Lo Tae Shao reminds him that there must be three warriors at the start of a quest, because "the laws so command it."
  • Samus Is a Girl: Danielle the archer
  • Science Destroys Magic: The central premise is a sort of Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors in which magical creatures can't exist in a world where science dominates, and civilizations based on science are destroyed by fear and superstition.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Why do humans prefer logic over magic? In the words of Lo Tae Zhao "[because] Logic is so... logical."
  • Sharing a Body: Peter and Gorbash
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: Peter's confrontation with Ommadon is basically one big series of these... Scientifically-themed, of course.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Melisande, for about a third of the film.
  • Small Annoying Creature: The Sandmurks, ratlike animals whose screechy noises will literally drive the listener mad.
  • Sssssnaketalk: Smrgol
    • Thankfully, it's pretty mild. Odds are you won't notice it for a while.
  • Take Our Word for It: The Sandmurks' screeches are so horrible that they will drive any listener mad. The audience never has to hear it, though, as all we hear from the Sandmurks is silence.
  • Taking You with Me: Sir Orrin
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Melisande, during her weird coma, tells Carolinus what's going on with the quest.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Peter defeats the villain by reciting formulae and listing scientific disciplines.
  • Time Travel: "Actually, it's been more like ten centuries!"
  • Title Drop: Not counting the title of the book Peter wrote.

Ommadon: Yes Byraugh, it's your turn now! You and your legions, attack, demolish, devour, burn, grind them to dust... Go forth and death be thy destination! Doom. Doom. A Flight of Dragons! I COMMAND IT... A FLIGHT OF DRAGONS!!

  • Viewers Are Geniuses: If one listens closely, one can hear that the words of the song with which Sir Orrin is attempting to drown out the Sandmurks are those of "Sumer is icumen in" — the oldest secular song preserved in English. (Unfortunately, Sir Orrin does not seem to know the proper tune.)
    • Well, he was being Mind Raped at the time. Peter could barely string four words of "Oh, Susanna" together.
  • Wife Husbandry: As mentioned, when Sir Orrin first met Melisande when she was five and he was a fully grown adult he decided he would marry her... he changed his mind pretty quickly when the (also fully grown adult) Danielle appeared.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Peter towards the Magic Realm throughout the film, and then subverted in the ending. By denying magic, he sacrifices his only chance to remain there.
  • World-Healing Wave: After defeating Ommadon.
  • Wrong Girl First: Sir Orrin's love for Melisande and desire to marry her rather conveniently disappear once Danielle joins the party.
  • The X of Y
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Melisande gives up life in the Magic Realm to live in modern times with Peter.
  • You Killed My Parents: Melisande accuses Carolinus of this during a moment of madness induced by the Sandmurks.