Flash Gordon blasts off to the planet Mongo with girlfriend Dale Arden and scientist Hans Zarkov to prevent evil dictator Ming the Merciless from dominating the universe. In attempting to put an end to Ming's villainy, Flash receives the aid (and often the hindrance) of Prince Barin of Arboria, the Hawk Men led by King Vultan, Queen Fria of the ice-covered land of Frigia, Thun the Lion Man and Ming's sexy, scantily-clad daughter Aura, who has a powerful attraction for Flash. Written by
Marty McKee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dino De Laurentiis became a "ghost" producer on the series when Filmation developed monetary problems completing the animation involving the use of computers to create the spaceship animation, one of the first uses of computers in traditional animation. Since DeLaurentis was seeking the rights for the use of the Flash Gordon property for a live action film, and Filmation held the rights for all filmed media for the Flash Gordon characters, Filmation and DeLaurentis came to a deal. In exchange for the funding to complete the animation on the series, DeLaurentis would get the live action film rights to Flash Gordon while Filmation would retain the rights to animated projects featuring Flash Gordon. See more »
Blasting off on a desperate mission to save Earth from the evil plottings of the tyrannical space lord Ming the Merciless, Dr. Hans Zarkov and Dale Arden have joined me, Flash Gordon, on a fantastic journey into worlds where peril and adventure await us.
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Filmation's Flash Gordon is a richly realized, beautifully animated serial, a highpoint for television animation. Few animated series have even managed to approach its grace. Prior to it, perhaps The New Adventures of Huck Finn comes to mind, and after, IMO, it's only challengers have been Bravestarr (latter-day Filmation work), Don Bluth's The Pirates of Darkwater, and Batman: The Animated Series.
This version of Flash Gordon is unmatched, by either the wonderful 30s serial, or the camped up but fun Dino Delaurentis version, released the same year.
Filmation captured perfectly the splendor and spirit of Alex Raymond's strip, utilizing (for 1979) the best technology could offer: Body rotoscope, fx animation, moiré patterns, rotoscoping over motion control shots of model ships. The end result? A 16 chapter serial, which, while flawed with repetitive (at times) animation, delivered non-stop action, breathtaking animation and artistry with a truly "full" look and feel to it. Filmation managed this with their earlier Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, basing it partly on the work of comics artist Burne Hogarth.
The first 8 chapters are virtually flawless, if you can put aside the repetition. The best among them are: "A Planet in Peril", "The Beast Men's Prey", "Vultan, King of the Hawkemen", and "To Save Earth". The serial blazes away in epic proportions: There are fighter ship battles (Ming's fleet annihilating the Hawkmen and Vultan's city is utterly brutal and has a tragic beauty), gunfights in grand palaces, exotic locations and alien creations. There is a slight, but noticeable dropoff in animation quality in the latter half of the serial (chapters 9-16), but the standards remain high, and ultimately the viewer is rewarded.
This magnificent series, and it's pilot film: Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All deserve to be preserved on DVD. Commentary from Filmation execs Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott and living Raymond relatives would be GREAT extra features.
Additional notes: Sadly, the serial gained a small, but loyal following in it's first season, the bane of many great SF series. NBC decided that, rather than give the show a bit more time to develop a larger following, that a format change was in order. The serial format was scrapped in favor of 12 minute shorts, which have disappointing animation measured against the serial, juvenile stories, and an overly cute pink dragon named Gremlin added to the cast. Gremlin is up there near the top of sickenly over-cute characters, such as Barney, Jar-Jar Binks, Gurgi (from Disney's The Black Cauldron), and Elmo. On several occasions, for instance, he blows smoke hearts.
Lastly, if you think you have seen Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All having seen the serial, better think again. The animation standards are even higher here, and while some of the footage was used in the series, the vast majority of it will be new to you. It is an overwhelming, highly recommended experience which you won't regret seeking out. While it has not been officially released, it is fairly common among video traders.
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