Having reached its $250,000 crowdfunding goal earlier this month, an official Dragon’s Lair movie is now starting production. Animation veterans Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, who have worked together for 44 years on projects like The Land Before Time and The Secret of NIMH, are leading the effort. $250,000 is not the budget for the complete movie, but instead what they need for a short teaser to pitch to studios and other financiers. Making the full movie may end up costing many millions of dollars.
GameSpot recently had the chance to talk to Bluth and Goldman about the Dragon’s Lair movie. In our interview, Bluth and Goldman shed more light on the project (they had ideas for a film more than two decades ago, they say) and talk about why they think it can be successful when so many other game-to-movie projects have come up short.
While official plot details are being kept under wraps for now (they’re working with an “A-list screenwriter,” too), Bluth and Goldman say the movie will provide more backstory for the main characters like Dirk and Daphne. About Daphne specifically, the movie will show that she’s not a “blonde airhead” as she’s depicted in the game. That’s “not the best female characteristic for a hit movie in this day and age,” Bluth says. Not only that, but Daphe’s “sexualized” appearance in the game will be toned down for the movie.
Our full interview with Bluth and Goldman covers a range of other topics, including fan feedback, the current status of the pitch video, and why they canceled the Kickstarter and re-launched on Indiegogo. Check it out below.
Even though the Dragon’s Lair movie has met its initial funding goal, pledges will continue to be accepted on the project’s Indiegogo page for about another month. Overflow money will go towards stretch goals.
What was the original inspiration to make a Dragon’s Lair movie? Why is now the right time?
Bluth: Well actually, the Dragon’s Lair game surprised us. We had produced our first independent feature length animated movie, The Secret of N.I.M.H. in the summer of ’82. Our union had just gone on a 73-day strike. Our financing for our second film had just backed off due to the strike and we were wondering what will we do to get things going again. Out of the blue we get a call from Rick Dyer, who had been developing a laser based interactive game about a dopey knight, Dirk the Daring, who must rescue a beautiful maiden, Princess Daphne, who is held prisoner in an evil wizard’s castle. We didn’t know anything about interactive gaming, nor what Rick was talking about.
He had seen N.I.M.H, and reached out to us to partner on the making of the game. Before he left, we said, ‘Yes, we’re in.’ It was a steep learning curve. We read their script and panicked. And tried to re-approach with more humor. The real challenge was to come up with a flow chart of the multiple choices and how to edit the film-based game which would allow multiple choices for the player. Once we had a bit of what Rick was looking for, we told the crew to just have fun with it. As it turned out it became a super hit. Dragon’s Lair became a household name in 1983. It was on national TV news programs, newspapers, and magazines. Of the three video games, the first Dragon’s Lair did incredible numbers. By mid-1984, we decided that the title was so popular that we should consider making a feature-length animated movie based on the characters and the title of the game.
“By mid-1984, we decided that the title was so popular that we should consider making a feature-length animated movie” — Bluth
Goldman: It was definitely a game changer. It was the first Laser Disc interactive game and the first time ever that the arcade gamers were playing an interactive short movie with classical hand-drawn animation. It drew crowds who just wanted to watch others play the game. Actually, it put our company name, Don Bluth Productions on the map. And in the following year, 1984, we started developing a script and Don began storyboarding the ideas for a feature film.
Video games don’t have the best track record when it comes to making the jump to film, and this has been true for animated or live-action. Why do you think your film will be different?
Bluth: We believe that Dragon’s Lair’s success from its original release created a very solid fandom. It was a major event for most of those who played the game in 1983-84, and who continued to buy just about every interaction of licensed products and eventually App version of the game for the iPhone, iPods, iPads, Android smart phones, PC and Mac computers, many of whom have mailed letters over the first years and even more recently emailing letters begging us to make a movie. The game didn’t really have a story. It was just this clumsy knight entering a wizard’s castle filled with creatures and booby traps, to rescue the fair Princess Daphne (whom seemed to be a blond airhead), not the best female characteristic for a hit movie in this day and age. This movie will be about the main characters’ personalities, who they really are, what they want, how they interact and how their fate is based on their relationship coming together to save themselves and the kingdom.
In crowdfunding, the process is very transparent. You’re inviting fans to come along for the ride, getting a glimpse behind the curtain. How do you balance responding to fan feedback and sticking to your guns, so to speak? You have the movie-making experience, after all.
Goldman: The contributors are sending in their comments now. The majority of which is very positive and trusting that we will bring them a fun, entertaining motion picture, but also knowing from our previous films, that we can be a bit ‘dark’ and sometimes frightening–not necessarily for the five to seven year-olds. We build the film in layers of intellect to satisfy the adults as well as the teens and children. So far, their have been comments about not making Princess Daphne as sexually described as in the game. We’ve let them know that the original game in 1983 was targeted to 14 year-old boys and that we have no intention to make Daphne like she was portrayed in the game. As we move forward, the contributors will learn more and more about Dirk and Daphne’s back-stories and we’re pretty sure they will not be disappointed.
You’ve raised the target $250,000, and there’s still about a month to go in the campaign. What are your plans for the overflow funds that come in?
Bluth: I think we have some pretty affective stretch goals, which were just posted, and we are creating more special hand-drawn and colored perks that I will be drawing. We will post every few days throughout the balance of the 45 days. We will continue to do updates and new videos to hopefully keep the folks and attract new contributors to the Indiegogo campaign of Dragon’s Lair Returns. We’re listening closely to the comments, especially for those who are looking for something special in the new perks we post.
Obviously, people are excited about the prospect of a Dragon’s Lair movie, as evidenced in the funding. But what other pieces of feedback have you received from fans so far?
Goldman: They ask about what will be incorporated from the game into the movie, the story, will Dirk talk, and want to know more about the characters. Most of which we will reveal to the contributors as we move forward; but not to the general public.
You’ve both been in the animation and film business for a long time, working together and collaborating for decades; what’s been the glue that’s kept you together?
Bluth: Very true, Gary recently informed me that come this next February we will have been working together for 44 years. I think the glue or secret to the long relationship is that we have learned to dance together over the years. We have different skills at which we excel. He does what I can’t do, and I do what he can’t. Some of which we both can do well. So, we have divided responsibilities to avoid stepping on each other’s toes, while we do this dance. I do the broad-strokes. He does the details.
“As we have heard throughout our careers, story is king” — Bluth
Do you have a wish list of voice actors you’d like to work with for Dirk, Daphne, and other characters?
Gary: We do, but we cannot post the wish list at this time, as we haven’t approached any of them [yet]. We need to have the major financing in place, for the actual movie, before we start approaching their agents. We will announce these updates soon!
What’s the status of the pitch video now? How is it coming along?
Bluth: Well, we’re mainly working on structuring the story with bullet points to be ready when we bring in an A-list screenwriter to collaborate. It’s all about the story. And will always be about the story. As we have heard throughout our careers, story is king.
Going back a bit–why did you cancel the Kickstarter campaign and shift to Indiegogo?
Goldman: We learned from the pledge comments that our reward structure wasn’t really working for the fans and they gave us examples why. One of the first issues was the amount we were asking for, $550,000. They mostly said we should be at half of what we asked for, or even lower, and making it lower would help get to the goal faster, and when successfully reaching the goal, others would then step up and pledge even more–knowing that its success would secure their rewards. We knew by day 20 of the 30 day event that we were not going to make the goal. We were approached by Indiegogo about halfway through the Kickstarter campaign, suggesting that they felt that they had a special team for film and gaming crowdfunding and that they could guide us through potholes and thorns of funding a sucessful campaign. So, after many discussions among ourselves, we agreed to shut down the campaign before the last day.
Dragon’s Lair first debuted in the 1980s, and a lot of your most famous films were from later that decade and into the ‘90s. So how do you go about making a movie that appeals to fans of your work, but also one that can appeal to everyone, if that is indeed your goal?
Bluth: That is the challenge. And, that is the goal. However, probably not ‘everyone’ will attend the movie’s release. We keep being told that many parents today, who grew up on our films from the eighties and nineties now have children of their own and are asking us to make a comeback with a great story using traditional, hand-drawn animation. We both think that Dragon’s Lair: The Movie is the right title for those who were fans of the game and for those who like dinosaurs and/or dragons. Regardless of the title, in the end, we both agree that the most important element is STORY.