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Main Article: Draco
Standing in the doorway, illuminated by the shivering flames in Lupin’s hand, was a cloaked figure that towered to the ceiling. Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood. Harry’s eyes darted downward, and what he saw made his stomach contract. There was a hand protruding from the cloak and it was glistening, grayish, slimy-looking, and scabbed, like something dead that had decayed in water…
But it was visible only for a split second. As though the creature beneath the cloak sensed Harry’s gaze, the hand was suddenly with-drawn into the folds of its black cloak.
-J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
In the late 80s, Raffaella de Laurentiis began proposing to various Studio Executives her pet project — a fantasy film set in the 10th century, about the unlikely alliance between a Dragon and a Knight. Written by Charles Edward Pogue and based on a story by Pogue and Patrick Read Johnson, Dragonheart was a project that for many years was unable to be realized, due to the complexity of its main character — a talking Dragon. Named Draco (after the latin term draco, in turn derived from the ancient greek word δράκων), the creature demanded an unprecedented special effects complexity — mainly due to the human range of expression he should be able to display.
Despite all the issues the crew met with the full-size models, the biggest challenge for Dragonslayer would be animation. “We knew the dragon had a lot more importance to this film than some of the incidental things that appeared in only a few shots in Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back,” Johnson said. “The dragon had to be presented in a way that the audience would be absolutely stunned.” Since the beginning, Barwood and Robbins were convinced that the technique that should be used was dimensional animation.
Paramount struck a co-production deal with Walt Disney Productions; as such, full-scale models of the dragon were commissioned to Disney’s special effects company — headed by Danny Lee. Tippett’s final dragon maquette was shipped to the Disney shop — where construction of the full-size models began. “They have a fantastic facility there, with a mill, and a mold shop and a metal-working shop,” Barwood said to Fangoria. “They’d had long practice building dinosaurs for the various Disney parks, so they were fully prepared for the job.” Read the rest of this entry
By the early 80s, spanning from The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad to The Brothers Lionheart, there was an ostensible lack of iconic dragon villains in motion pictures. Audiences had yet to see a fire-breathing beast that would terrify them — and this was the objective Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins set for themselves: they wanted to create a memorable, formidable dragon using the most advanced among the available technologies.
The duo thus embarked in what would become a quest to bring to the silver screen a monster audiences would never forget.