Animated series The Dragon Prince launched on Netflix last Friday on Sept. 14. Before the show came out, it was greatly anticipated since the team members behind it have worked on highly acclaimed series in the past.
Aaron Ehasz was a head writer for Avatar: The Last Airbender. Justin Richmond is a video game developer that worked on Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and directed Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. The two, along with Justin Santistevan, came together last year to create the production studio Wonderstorm. The Dragon Prince is the first work released by the company.
The starting moments in the first episode sets the backdrop for the story moving forward. The setting is the land of Xadia that use to house humans, elves, dragons and other magical beings. They all use to live together in harmony until a human mage discovered dark magic and used it for his own gain. The elves and dragons were horrified by this development and thus separated the land of Xadia in two.
Humans formed their own kingdoms in the west and the elves and dragons remained in the east. The king of dragons himself acted as a guard for the eastern side of the continent for centuries until he was killed using incredibly forbidden and dark magic. To make matters worse, the king dragon’s egg was destroyed. The hostility between these two sides are still present and shape the series in very interesting ways.
The focus of The Dragon Prince then sets on two human princes – Callum (Jack De Sena, the voice of Avatar’s Sokka) and his brother Ezran (Sasha Rojen). They cross paths with a moonshadow elf assassin, Rayla (Paula Burrows), whose goal is to eliminate Ezran who is next in line for the throne as well as his father, the King Harrow (Luc Roderique). Despite all odds, these three end developing a friendship through their struggles to try and stop all out war between the east and west. Their relationship starts out rocky due to all the preconceived notions they have about each other.
Humans believe elves to be bloodthirsty and vicious. To elves, humans are untrustworthy and lowly. While Callum, Ezran and Rayla become more open to actually getting to know one another, the people around them are not so considerate. This sets up great tensions throughout the season – a tension that will definitely have a huge impact later on in the series.
Even with all this seriousness, The Dragon Prince exhibits heartwarming moments of silliness and friendship building. The advancement of the trust between the main three kids seems natural as they all learn more about each other and put past prejudices aside. There are many instances of Rayla showing great understanding to young Ezran as well as Callum putting aside his skepticism towards Rayla.
The season as a whole is a good mix of high fantasy with some modernity slipped in. The speech isn’t needlessly formal as it sometimes is in similarly themed series. There are some pretty hilarious bits and allusions that the audience can pick up on (King Harrow saying “Winter is coming” will always be funny).
A primary concern about the show was the animation style. It’s computer animated and the comment section on the trailer for the show featured a lot of dissatisfaction with this style choice. There are many complaints about the series looking “choppy” or “off” in some areas. However, the animation isn’t hard to get use to as the series progresses. There are definitely very beautiful moments in the show and the animation doesn’t necessarily take away from that.
The Dragon Prince has shown itself to be quite inclusive as well. King Harrow and Ezran are black and with Callum being Ezran’s step-sibling, we have a mixed family in the center of the series. We also have a character who is deaf and uses sign language continuously while still being presented as a strong and capable character. The elves also aren’t used as a stand in for people of color in the series. Richmond noted that he didn’t want the elves to be the “others.”
Ehasz also said that diversity is something that is crucial to their storytelling and that they’re actively working on inclusion of different races, gender, sexuality, disability and many other avenues within The Dragon Prince. It’s a refreshing take on what high fantasy can be.
All in all, while the first season the show was short, it was a good start to what is looking to be a great series. The animation may take some getting use to but it isn’t so distracting as to take away from the quality of the show as a whole. It’s a solid base for whichever direction the series chooses to go and it’s definitely worth checking out!
Featured image credit: Netflix