By: Michael Goldtrap
As we celebrate the 35th Birthday of everyone's favorite "unclean beast", Vermithrax Pejorative, LightEars looks back at the 1981 masterpiece, Dragonslayer.
The 1980's was a period of experimentation at the Walt Disney Studios. Over ten years separated from the "What would Walt do?" period after Walt Disney's death, and prior to the purchase of the adult minded Touchstone and Hollywood Studios brands, Disney studios was searching for a way to tap into the teen and young adult markets. It was during this period that Disney scared the heck out of kids with dark fare like The Black Hole, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Watcher in the Woods, and the animated adaptation of The Black Cauldron from The Prydain Chronicles. It was also the decade that the company released Dragonslayer, a dark epic fantasy quest film that was it's most un-Disney release to date. The film contained such "non-Disney" troupes as virgin sacrifice, gore, partial nudity, and dismemberment! Out of the desire to achieve a more diverse audience, and possibly the fear of releasing a film with such dark tones under the Disney label, the film was released as a coproduction with Paramount Studios.
The film, while not performing well in the theaters, has achieved cult status mainly due to its main antagonist, a scary as Hell dragon names Vermithrax Pejorative. The effects genius behind this dragon was ILM alum Phil Tippet who utilized the animation technique called "Go-motion" in order to give the dragon more fluid movements. The film was directed by Mathew Robbins who is reported to be involved in the upcoming Guillermo del Toro Haunted Mansion film. While obviously not a boon for Disney merchandising, the film did result in a Marvel comics adaptation, a novelization, and a board game.