- Actors: Robby Benson, Michael Horton, Noelle North, Alan Oppenheimer, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
- Writers: David J. Corbett, Hal Foster
- Format: Box set, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Import
- Language: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Number of discs: 5
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Bci / Eclipse
- Release Date: July 4 2006
- Run Time: 22 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B000FFJ8GW
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The Legend of Prince Valiant: The Complete Series, Vol. 1 [Import]
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The 1990s cartoon series THE LEGEND OF PRINCE VALIANT animated Arthurian lore with a fun blend of action drama and fantasy. The series followed the mythic adventures of the eponymous prince (voiced by '70s heartthrob Robby Benson) as he journeyed to Camelot to train as a knight at King Arthur's fabled Round Table. Vibrantly animated and creatively told the series also boasted the vocal talents of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Samantha Eggar and Tim Curry. This collection presents the first volume of episodes. Brand new out of print item that is hard to find in sealed condition. There is a black sticker on the front that is covering the original store selling price sticker which does not affect the condition of the DVD. There may have the seller's item label sticker placed on the item.
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Borrowed liberally from the Hal Foster comic strip (first started way back in the 1930s), the show is nevertheless true to its central themes of fighting the good fight, the establishment of reason, justice and order over ignorance and oppression, and the growth of its central protagonist from a boy to a man.
After his father's kingdom is defeated by enemy soldiers, Prince Valiant of Thule decides to leave his exiled family in order to seek out the city of Camelot and pursue his goal to become one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. Joined on the way by a shy and unassuming huntsman called Arn and a feisty blacksmith's daughter called Rowanne, the three friends search for the golden city and strive toward their common goal of knighthood. On the way, Valiant and his friends often squabble with each other, make mistakes or trust the wrong people, face challenges that they don't always succeed in, and are required to either obey or reject orders depending on circumstances, obligations, and their own sense of right and wrong. Not all the decisions they face are easy ones (or if they are, then following through on those decisions can be difficult). Corruption can be found within the walls of Camelot itself, and though there are wise authority figures to be found in Merlin, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, even they are fallible at times.
In its time the show won several awards, such as the Humanitas Award and three Silver Angel Awards for its social/ethical values. This means of course that there are several "lessons" to be learn in certain episodes, dealing with racism, sexism, and (of all things) child abuse. It can get a little bit preachy, but not obnoxiously so, and thankfully the "very special episodes" don't permeate the entire show.
This particular box set contains thirty-three episodes of the sixty-five that were made. The first twenty-six make up the first season of the show, and encompass the story-arc of Valiant striving to discover Camelot and become one of its Knights. The following seven episodes (which make up the first segment of the second season) deal with the newfound responsibilities he faces as Knight and his continual growth into manhood. The rest of the show is contained in the second volume, though you can also chose to invest in the complete 65 episode box-set here.
The show is serialized, which was (and still is) unusual for an animated series, with reoccurring characters, steady development for the three leads, and very little filler. Each episode builds on the next, increasing its cast of characters and its world-building, until there is a very clear picture of Camelot, its ideals, its past and its inhabitants. Likewise, it's extremely good with keeping track of its continuity. Often characters will hark back to events of previous episodes, and the writers never forget basic characteristics of their characters (ie, Arn cannot read, Rowanne is a gifted archer, etc).
During its production, the network had requested from its writers a show that was not just for kids, but accessible to a family audience, giving them leave to explore adult themes and situations. As such, the battle scenes depicted throughout the show can be surprising to watch, as the animators were not required to shy away from showing impact, injury, and blood on-screen. When characters sustain wounds, they are depicted with bandages or crutches afterwards. When they are hit by arrows, they die. Though it's never gratuitous, dead bodies are shown and there is no censure on using words like "death", "kill," or "murder." There is also a definite sense of religion at work in this world: characters are depicted praying, and often swear by God or offer a "bless you."
Maintaining this grounding in reality, there is very little in the way of magic or mysticism. The abilities of Merlin and Morgana are based in knowledge of potions and alchemy rather than any supernatural power, and often stories of monsters and enchantment end up having rational explanations. Though it adheres to an idealized medieval world of chivalry and courtly love, the show definitely leans more toward fact than fantasy (though don't ask me to explain why Valiant and Arn get attacked by a dinosaur in the second episode).
Has it dated? Yeah a little bit, especially in its animation. To be frank, it looks terrible by today's standards - especially compared to the likes of Avatar The Last Airbender and Justice League and other contemporary shows. At one point Valiant lassos a creature with his belt, throws them both in to the water, and has his belt back on in the very next frame. Rowanne's dress can change from white and red to pale blue from shot-to-shot. Arthur and Guinevere teleport from a forest road to an open meadow. At one point someone forgets to draw in Arthur's shoulders during a close-up, making him look like a floating head. Movement is rather stilted, and sometimes characters carry on conversations with people who aren't even in the same room. In this the show is simply a product of its time, though in several ways the show was quite innovative: the characters get to wear more than one outfit, the backgrounds were always beautifully rendered, and the show was never afraid to use lengthy wordless montages.
Also noteworthy is the voice talent involved. Actors included Robby Benson as Valiant, Tim Curry as Sir Gawain, Efrem Zimbalist as King Arthur and Alan Oppenheimer as Merlin (perhaps better known as Skeletor from He-Man). Viewers may also recognize the voices of James Avery (Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Samantha Eggar (who voiced Hera in Disney's Hercules) and long-time voice actor Jeff Bennett (if it's animated, he's probably been in it). Even Tony Jay pops in for a few cameos!
The special features in this set include interviews with David Corbett (creator/co-producer) and Brook Watchel (writer) and along with Noelle North (the voice of Rowanne) they provide episode commentaries for two episodes. There is also an interview with an "archival collections publisher" of the original Valiant comic strip, a storyboard for "The Flute", (for which it won the Humanitas Award) a conceptual art gallery, downloadable scripts in PDF format, and a full-color booklet with episode synopsis. Altogether, it's a pretty nice package.
Finally, a tip for buyers: be very, very careful when removing the discs from their casing: they are very hard to get out and after nearly snapping one in half, I quickly relocated all of them to a safer DVD holder.
Enter The Legend of Prince Valiant; an animated series from the early 1990s inspired by the long-standing Hal Foster comic strip of the same name. Interestingly enough, when the show was originally created it was broadcast in a prime time slot on the Family Channel (a network not known to offer animation). As a result, many potential viewers (myself included) knew nothing of the show's existence. As much of an embarrassment as it is to admit this, my first knowledge of the program wasn't until a few weeks ago when browsing BCI's other collections on Amazon.com. I purchased both Volume One and Volume Two with absolutely no prior expectations save for an occasional glance in the Sunday paper comics many years ago. Was it a wise investment worthy of the BCI label? Read on to find out.
For those unaware, the story centers on the exploits of an unlikely trio of teenagers striving to reach the fabled Camelot. Led by young Valiant, a prince disgusted with his father's fall from glory, the remaining members of the party are the nomadic orphan Arn and brave bow-wielding daughter of a blacksmith, Rowanne. The story literally begins at the very beginning as we witness Valiant's father's castle come under siege by the evil King Cynan then follow the survivors of the onslaught as they relocate into the marshes of barbarian owned territory. The pacing is brisk and efficient, wasting no moments on unnecessary detail and the character development is absolutely wonderful. By the end of the first disc, it is nearly impossible not to find yourself immersed in the tapestry of each character's personality and ambitions.
The set itself is a bit unique, even for a company with a long roster of similar releases. The five disc set is made up of four double sided DVDs, each containing 4 episodes per side. The fifth and final disc contains the 33rd episode of the show and a whole host of bonus material as assembled and produced by the ever-enthusiastic Andy Mangles.
Before delving into the intricacies of the set itself, allow me to first focus on the material itself. To begin I was literally astonished with the animation style, which, although dated when compared to today's era of computer rendering, surpasses the detail in nearly every other animated work up until then. The backgrounds are simply spectacular, having been designed after original renaissance masterpieces. The character textures, colors, and lighting are all spot on and truly a marvel of skill considering that cells were still hand drawn and painted at the time. Also noteworthy is the fact that the cast (lead characters especially) are endlessly drawn in different clothing and hair styles which further pushes away the viewer's attention to the fact that this is a cartoon.
Then there are the stories themselves; simply masterpieces in every sense of the word. Bear in mind that this was prime time cable television programming and with that came the ability to tackle issues never even imagined in children's specific animation such as death, revenge, slavery, and hunting for nourishment. Leery parents relax, never is this done though violent imagery or adult-specific tone, rather it's more accurate to think of how Disney handles these themes in their animated motion pictures. To summarize the experience in a single word, tasteful would have to be the one. The themes are used much like those appearing in classic literature and offer up a feeling of timelessness in their presentation that will mesmerize viewers of all age groups. Also interesting is the fact that the stories are designed as stand alones for newcomers to the series but actually link together very lineally to form one massive quest. It is very refreshing to note that Hearst Entertainment, the company behind the series, didn't resort to the standard "villain attempts to destroy hero unsuccessfully" archetype. Rather, here we find an interweaving tapestry of characters taken directly from legend (King Arthur, Merlin, Sir Gawain) whose stories gradually deepen throughout the series.
Also present here are a voice ensemble that rivals the best of live-acted programs of the time including Beauty & The Beast's Robby Benson, James Avery (Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), the spunky Noelle North (The Smurfs, Jem, Disney's Gummi Bears), Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and old Skeletor himself (Alan Oppenheimer) as Merlin just to name a few. The actors lend an impeccable degree of realism to the experience all throughout.
That now famous attention to detail I mentioned above in BCI's works is present here as well with two full episode commentaries, interviews with the show's creators, story board gallery, slideshow of the character paintings and background work, and as always, a full color book that simply puts all other DVD slip card inserts to shame. The set is bound in a hard plastic multi-disc case with an outer cardboard sleeve loaded with excellent artwork.
The Legend of Prince Valiant has won a Humanitas Award and three Silver Angel awards honoring its excellence as an animated series with social and ethical values, stirring storylines, and sumptuous visuals, and after having enjoyed this DVD compilation, I can attest that it was with good reason. This is the type of universally appealing story telling that makes films like Braveheart, Gladiator, and King Arthur timeless classics. My only regret is that I did not discover this gem earlier.
My only 2 complaints are one, the DVDs are sort of tough pull out of the festeners w/out possible snappage of the disc. And two, the DVD collector's case itself. I don't want to sound too petty, but the way the DVDs are racked up seem to be so tight together. The DVDs being 2-sided. Therefore dvd # 3 and 4 are due to an unavoidable scratch due to constant touching from the hinged DVD case rack of # 1 and 2 everytime you open the case. Some times you may notice how they cling themselvs to the rack when opening. (Definate scrtch there). If you get this collection, (don't get me wrong, it's worth every penny.) see about using a seperate CD case to contain these DVDs. Not urgent, just a suggestion.
I LOVE the barley noticeable "The Family Channel" logo after the credits of each episode. YEP IT'S THERE. ya gata look. LOL. Its about the only show production logo you'll see.
Those who don't know, that was the network before it was FOX family now turned to ABC family. A little history lesson to fellow retro-junkies.