Netflix owned creations are almost a dime a dozen these days. Some knock it out of the park while others blunder into oblivion. Heralded as a spiritual successor to Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Dragon Prince has finally landed on Netflix.
It’s another animation under the streaming service’s belt, but how does it fare? With lead writer of the first Avatar series, Aaron Ehasz, at the helm and Justin Richmond at his side, legions of fans had a lot of hope… and despite a somewhat stunted start, the series does not disappoint!
Long Ago The Three Races Lived In…
The Dragon Prince tells the story of two human princes and their would-be assassin embroiled in an unexpected quest. An amazing discovery forces the trio to band together to restore balance to their kingdoms and prevent war. Princes Callum and Ezran find a dragon egg once thought destroyed, while evading the Elf assassin Rayla. The group traverse mountainous terrain and rapid river currents all while avoiding the clutches of a Dark Wizard who seeks the egg’s return. Set against the backdrop of a land torn apart by war, racial tensions, and political and social upheaval, the young heroes’ journey is truly epic.
Magic, war, dragons and young would-be heroes! Yeah, you can safely say Ehasz is drawing on Avatar influences.
That All Changed When The Frame Rate Dropped…
If you have been following news or reviews for the series then you’ve probably heard some fairly mixed responses. The Dragon Prince doesn’t scrimp on detail or technique. Visually, it really is something to behold, though there is something a little off at first; something that takes a little bit of time to adjust to. The series features a colourful blend of CGI animation and cel-shading. It also has a lower frame rate. It is a little jarring at first and you’ll find yourself checking your broadband connection to see why it’s being a bit jumpy. I couldn’t understand the choice and at first it was a bit of a turn off, but in scenes where characters engage in flashy moves, combat or are running for their lives, it really works. However, it’s a different matter when the action slows down.
That said, you will get over it. No, you have to. What the series might lack in frame rates, it more than makes up for in story-telling.
I found myself drawn in by the opening in episode one. Ehasz and Richmond know a thing or two about world building the hook! It’s hard not to draw comparison to the opening of the Avatar series here too, though the setting feels like it’s ripped from the pages of an RPG book or epic western fantasy! Natural elements blend into the world, imbuing it with magic.
Of course, one of the three dominant races has to get greedy. And of course it’s got to be the humans who are driven to create a new ‘Dark’ element that has untold power. Their discovery leads to their banishment and divided lands as Elves and Dragons band together to rid the humans from their lands. This story has everything a fantasy fan yearns for!
A 100 Frame Rates Passed And I Discovered A New Love…
Then there is the host of characters and individuals that make up the series. The cast is a melting pot of diversity. Another trait that Ehasz seems to have inherited from Avatar! Mixed-race families, disabled army generals, racial tension and distrust; the series doesn’t hold back from pushing buttons just because of its demographic.
Our trio of heroes – Callum, Ezran and Rayla – struggle to find common ground but learn to rely on each other and develop a bond. Callum, voiced by Jack DeSena (yes, Sokka!) is the leader, lacking confidence and struggling to find his own path in the world. Ezran, the cheerful young prince and lover of all creatures both big and small, is voiced by Sasha Rojen and brings a real innocence to the character. Our elven assassin with something to prove, Rayla, is voiced by Paula Burrows, who captures Rayla’s emotion and ferocity perfectly.
That said, the supporting cast of characters and would-be villains aren’t to be forgotten. Viren, a mysterious dark mage and royal adviser, appears to have more than one or two skeletons in his closet. His two children, Soren and Claudia, are also very interesting as they’re torn by their loyalty to their father and their princes.
The show does more to tug on our emotions and set pulses racing in nine episodes than most long-running animated series out there now. There is real promise here and Ehasz‘ writing and world seems solid.
Although The Avatar Similarities Are Great…
The Dragon Prince is very much its own series. Yes, you can rack up how similar it is in places to Avatar; it’s obvious. But don’t let yourself get caught up in that. You’ll miss out on all that makes the show so unique and wonderful. I found myself utterly captivated by the end and eager to see what happens next. The Dragon Prince is new and finding its feet. The main similarity between the two is the fact that both shows have so much to offer. There is a pay-off with the first season and, while it has a long way to go to catch up to Aang and friends, I believe The Dragon Prince will mark its own place in the hearts of fans worldwide.
Have you watched The Dragon Prince? What did you think? Comment below!
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!
The Dragon Prince; a King in the making
Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will find something familiar and wonderful about this magical Netflix series.