Dragons in Film and Television: Part One
Dragons in film and television have for the most part followed the path of dragons in literature. See that post here. The fun thing about dragons in film is that we get to see them instead of imagining them. So I tried to find some of the dragons that have graced the screens over the years.
The earliest dragon that I found was an unnamed one in Die Nibelungen filmed in 1924. In this film, the dragon was an evil beast inspired by Fafnir. To portray him the filmmaker created a big puppet that took seventeen men to operate. Needless to say, the beast was a little awkward.
So now we jump forward to 1958 and the dragon in the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Again we encounter an evil dragon that must be destroyed by the hero Sinbad and his gang.
Our next installment is an animated dragon from 1959 named Maleficent. Maleficent was an evil queen that turns into a dragon for the final battle with a prince, who of course destroys her. Maleficent seems to have a staying power, as she appeared in a couple of more movies over the years.
In 1978 and 79 dragons become more benevolent as seen in Puff the Magic Dragon and Eliot in Pete’s Dragon. These two dragons are animated although Elliott will later go on to star in an animated/ real life picture made by Disney. Elliott and Puff are less lethal and friendlier. Both dragons befriend young boys and help them deal with issues in their lives. Elliot breathes fire and can turn invisible. We also see the advent of talking dragons.
Now we move into the 80’s. I’ll start with Vermithrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer. This is another Disney film with great effects guys. This is one of your hero stories, where virgins are sacrificed to keep the dragon happy and a young hero who smashes an amulet to save the virgin and the world.
The early 80’s brought us Dungeons & Dragons. The animated show featured the five-headed dragon Tiamet. Each of his five heads makes a different sound and breathes or spews different things. He is a frightening but benign dragon the fights the evil enemy.
Also brought to us in the early 80’s was Quetzalcaotl in Q: The Winged Serpent. Here we saw an Aztec deity ravaging Manhattan after being prayed into resurrection.
Children’s programming had their contributions in 1981 with Spike and Whimsey Weatherbe from My Little Pony. Both were friendly, cute dragons that helped children navigate through life with some serious life lessons.
That brings us 1984 and Falkor in The Never Ending Story. Falkor is a luck dragon that combines a dragon and a dog. He breathes blue fire and swims through the air. He is one friendly and fierce dragon. He is modeled after a Chinese dragon.
The next one I found was released in 1991. The film and the dragon were named Ghidora. Ghidora was a three-headed dragon from outer space that breathed gravity beams instead of fire. He was Godzilla’s biggest nemesis, coming from Earth’s Cretaceous period and then spending 130 million years in space before returning to terrorize Earth.
We can’t leave the 1900’s without taking a look at Draco from Dragonheart. Released in 1996, Draco was a talking dragon that interacted with humans for good. He was depicted as a wise, ancient race as opposed to a mindless monster.
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