The Legend of Prince Valiant Continues

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In the second half of the complete series, Prince Valiant, Arn, Rowanne, and Merlin help King Arthur face Morgana, Mordred, and many more!

Not only is this series a classic that takes me back to Sunday mornings at the breakfast table talking about Prince Valiant’s weekly adventures with my dad, but also each episode teaches a valuable moral lesson.  At first glance this may seem a bit juvenile, a bit preachy.  However, upon deeper reading of the series it is clear the writers have weaved together a tale of interconnecting stories where things are not as black and white as they are in many other American cartoons, even those solely aimed at adults. 

Maybe the show’s animation has been criticized in the past as being flat and too reminiscent of cartoons such as G.I. Joe.  Maybe these criticisms are accurate, to a certain degree.  After all, The Legend of Prince Valiant was a primetime-animated series that strove to be a middle ground for both adults and children to enjoy.  Unfortunately, with animation that reminds its viewers of shows like G.I. Joe, the mature factor is sort of lost.  Thankfully, with storylines involving treachery, death, moral dilemmas, and sincere romance it is clear that this cartoon was ahead of its time.  Perhaps its receiving of the Humanitas Prize speaks to that though. 

The Humanitas Prize is given to film and television writing that “affirm[s] the human person, probe[s] the meaning of life, and enlighten[s] the use of human freedom. The stories reveal common humanity, so that love may come to permeate the human family and help liberate, enrich and unify society.”  How many cartoons made in the early nineties did that?

As Volume II begins Prince Valiant and friends have been training at Camelot for some time and are given missions of peace, missions of war, and missions of mediation.  In each mission they face questions of who they are, what motivates them, and whether or not they are doing the “right thing.”  One of the great things about this series is the definition of the “right thing” is not always clear.  Even the villains are not always clear and not always motivated by some ridiculous stock motivation that most cartoon villains are ruled by. 

The Legend of Prince Valiant goes deeper into the hearts and minds of its characters than many television shows, enriching its viewers, especially its younger viewers, with a greater understanding of humanity.   

Furthermore, The Legend of Prince Valiant tries to stay true to the legends of King Arthur and Camelot while incorporating new characters who fit well into the larger than life world of the Knights of the Round Table.  Sir Gaiwin, Merlin, King Arthur, and all the other mythological, historical figures do not seem out of place in Prince Valiant’s story.  The writers clearly did their research and have built a world much like the world of legend, giving this show an appropriate title. 

Though perhaps on this five-disc set the most intriguing materials are the extras.  With interviews with several voice actors and writers, audio commentary on key episodes, storyboard and image galleries there is little a Valiant fan is left wanting.  When they throw in episode #26 of Defenders of the Earth wherein the Defenders go back in time to team up with Prince Valiant, any fan wanting more is just asking for too much. 

Yes, Defenders of the Earth doesn’t exactly follow the formula of The Legend of Prince Valiant; Ming the Merciless is the main villain after all, but seeing Prince Valiant in another interpretation is always fun for fans.

Admittedly, this may not be a series everyone is interested in, it did only last two seasons.  But for fans of Prince Valiant and storytelling that stays true to the original essence of the comic strip, this DVD set, featuring a whopping sixty-five episodes, is well worth its price tag.

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