Don Bluth’s Dragon’s Lair Movie Has the Most Ridiculous Kickstarter Campaign Yet

By  · Published on October 28th, 2015

Don Bluth Productions

Don Bluth Productions

I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous crowdfunding campaigns, for movies and other things. There have been Kickstarter projects for films promising actors that aren’t involved in any way. There was even one for a Breaking Bad spinoff series starring Slash and Val Kilmer (who was named as a replacement for Nathan Lane), attempted by a fan with no connection to the property or the proposed cast. But I think I’ve found a new pick for the most ridiculous crowdfunding campaign of all, and the most insane thing about it is that it’s a legitimate effort involving the participation of one of the most notable filmmakers of the last 40 years. If you told me it was a satire of crowdfunding, though, I’d believe that more.

Don Bluth, a former Disney animator turned brand-name director in his own right, is best known for such features as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven. Those of us who grew up and/or frequented the arcades in the 1980s also know him for a video game called Dragon’s Lair. It had a cult following, but I recall it being frustratingly something you’d watch more than actually play – you’d make a choice of what should happen next and then see the result executed through Bluth’s animated segments. It was like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story combined with a cartoon. Personally, I preferred the short-lived TV series it spawned though I would have much rather seen it done as a feature film in theaters.

Well, now that’s the idea. Bluth, who currently runs a community theater company in Arizona, has seemingly been wrangled unwillingly into making Dragon’s Lair: The Movie. That’s how it looks in the project’s campaign video, anyway. It follows a goofy narrative in which a father and son (performers at Bluth’s theater, Don and Matt Crosby) discuss how they’d always wanted a movie based on the game, then the elder of the two goes off to ask Bluth and his longtime collaborator Gary Goldman (co-director of All Dogs Go to Heaven and others) to make it happen. Likely it is really all Bluth and Goldman’s idea from the start, but this silly short makes the project come across as something they’re fine with doing if it happens and fine with not doing if it doesn’t.

Even more off-putting from a care standpoint is how Don Crosby runs around the video calling the game and movie “Dragon Lairs.” Never mind that he must not get the word play of the title Dragon’s Lair (dragon slayer – which I never got myself for the longest time), you’d think that the guy representing the passionate fan demanding this movie would know its actual name. It’s also weird that he is the chosen representative, given that he’s an older man and presumably not part of the biggest target audience for an animated fantasy film. Why isn’t his son, the guy who has just shown enough love for Dragon’s Lair that he got a signed drawing based on the game, playing the part of the enthusiastic pitch man?

Even then, it’s amusing how this project makes no effort to hide the fact that it’s catering solely to middle-aged white guys who played the game as teens 30 years ago. Not just Matt Crosby. Or the over-the-top cast of a Wizard of Oz production at Bluth’s theater who contribute cash to the movie’s fund in the increasingly goofy bit. But also the guys who’ve apparently been emailing and messaging Goldman about their desire to see Dragon’s Lair finally hit the big screen. One of them claims his kids now want to see it, too, but the dads are the ones who really want this. It’s a cartoonish depiction of the most blatant cashing in on nostalgia. And the funny thing is, the product promised to those fans isn’t even a movie at all.

That’s right. This isn’t actually a Kickstarter campaign for a Dragon’s Lair movie. It’s a Kickstarter to raise $550k for a Dragon’s Lair movie proof of concept teaser to then be used to raise money for an actual movie, which Bluth claims will cost $70m. But why do they need a proof of concept video when they have the video game footage? Will 10 minutes more material be all that’s necessary? What about a script? The campaign offers no mention of any screenplay already in place, which would be a good starting point to prove there’s a story in need of telling here. All we know, via a note hidden near the end of the Kickstarter page, is that it’s going to be a prequel tale about Dirk the Daring.

I would love to see a Dragon’s Lair movie, especially if it’s got a good story and animation that’s true to the Bluth features I grew up on. For me, it’s nostalgia for Bluth’s earlier works more than for the arcade game at hand. If that can be promised, passionately rather than in the passive, hesitant way Bluth presents himself here, then this should just be a Kickstarter for the feature itself. No, they’re not going to raise $70m from the fans, but they could raise enough of a portion to show investors that there’s enough interest – if there is indeed enough interest. Skip the pitch presentation. THIS is the pitch presentation.

The project has already received nearly $72k in pledges in just a few days, so I don’t doubt it will reach the $550k in the next month. What will be interesting to see is if maybe enough fan demand can help put the fund over the goal. How about if the project raises $1m by its deadline they just go ahead and get started on the real deal?

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.