“The Dragon Prince,” an animated series on Netflix, may be a family friendly show with some goofy humor, but adult fans of fantasy can also enjoy its detailed world, well-developed characters and sophisticated story. The computer animation by Bardel Entertainment is gorgeous and fluid, with the feel of traditional animation in a way that I haven’t seen before. The many action scenes are impressively choreographed and there is fantastic attention to detail in the character/creature design and costumes, especially for the elves, so it’s no surprise that a related video game is in production. Like the awesome She-Ra reboot, “She-Ra and The Princesses of Power,” and even “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance,” the show also features diverse and inclusive characters in an admirably casual way.
Set in a world divided between the human kingdoms and the magical realm of Xadia, the story follows two young human princes, Callum and Ezran, who escape an attack against their father by elves trying to avenge his assassination of the dragon king and his egg. Facing off with a reluctant elf warrior named Rayla (who has a charming Scottish accent), the princes discover that the egg was never destroyed, but simply stolen and hidden in the castle. In the world of “The Dragon Prince,” humans can only use magic by taking primal magic from creatures of Xadia, destroying them in the process, which is what the king’s greedy mage Viren planned to do with the dragon egg. This kind of usurped power is called Dark Magic.
But Rayla and the princes agree that peace needs to be restored between Xadia and the human kingdoms, so they join up together to travel to Xadia and return the egg. At Viren’s command, they are pursued by his son and daughter, one a dim-witted but likeable knight and the other a burgeoning Dark Magician herself; the latter is also Callum’s crush and very pretty, so it’s unexpected and funny that the writers decided to give her the corniest sense of humor and the worst jokes. Claudia is a hot nerd, basically, with daddy issues.
On the way to Xadia, Rayla and the princes learn about each other and run into interesting characters and obstacles, while Viren back at home tries to take the throne and lead the other kingdoms into war against Xadia. (So he can steal more power from the creatures there.) From flashbacks and stories, we learn why King Harrow killed the Dragon King, how the queen died, and meet the different kinds of elves other than Rayla’s Moonshadow clan. The Sunfire elves who show up later are even cooler. We also discover that the primal magic of Xadia might not be impossible for humans to learn after all.
Like “She-Ra,” there are plenty of good, subtle lessons for kids and teens throughout, involving parent-child relationships, distrust and prejudices, and the dangerous lust for power. The way these are woven into the continuously engaging story is truly impressive. High notes are the absolute CUTEST baby dragon you’ve ever seen, the princes’ badass aunt General Amaya, who happens to be deaf and use sign language, and the chaste little romantic subplot that I didn’t see coming. Highly recommended for fantasy lovers young and old.