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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Legend of Prince Valiant, Vol. 2
The Legend of Prince Valiant, Vol. 2
BCI Eclipse // Unrated // January 16, 2007
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Don Houston | posted February 5, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Background: Last summer, I checked out a tidy little syndicated series from the early 1990's called The Legend of Prince Valiant: The Complete Series V1. The set included all of season one and the first part of the second season with the promise that a second set would be released soon. Well, the subject of today's review is The Legend of Prince Valiant: The Complete Series V2 so I'm happy to report that fans were not left hanging as with other series released on DVD to date. Given some of the trailers and recent releases by the company (not to mention childhood favorites I grew up with that are forthcoming), I admit to being pleasantly surprised at this fact and picked up a copy as soon as I could. Here's a recap of what was said before since the dynamic was the same, followed by some specific information regarding these later episodes:

The Series: The Legend of Prince Valiant: The Complete Series V2There are probably very few people in the Western world that have not heard some version of the legends surrounding King Arthur and Camelot. The story predates most of the written language of England but describes the perfect king who unites the warring nation under one crown. He pulled his magic sword Excalibur from a stone (or anvil, depending on which legend you believe) and was guided by the ageless magician Merlin to form the round table where disputes could be solved under a nation of laws rather than men. There being no shortage of versions in film and on television, today's review is on the second volume of a sort of spin off tale related to the tale called The Legend of Prince Valiant: The Complete Series V2. Prince Valiant was a much later creation in the western lore of the King Arthur legend as it began nearly 70 years ago when cartoonist Hal Foster was commissioned by the newspaper king William Randolph Hearst to publish a weekly comic that would invoke a certain spirit of noble attitude among the people struggling out of the Great Depression. So, on Saturday, February 13, 1937; a prince was born to right wrongs and fight the evil doers of the world on a weekly basis. This led to movies, comic books, and all sorts of other merchandising over the years, including the subject of today's review; the first half of the television series originally airing on the Family Channel back in 1991. Due to the religious nature of the owners of the channel, the series was held to certain guidelines as to what could be shown and what kinds of adventures could be undertaken but in all, the show was simply a politically correct version of the comic strip in most ways.

Valiant was voiced by actor Robby Benson. His father's kingdom of Thule was overtaken by a evil king and Valiant set off for the mythical land of Camelot where life was grand since it was ruled under the just hand of King Arthur. Valiant has no idea which direction to start heading, nor is there any established record of the kingdom in question but he has a dream about it and ends up on the road with his naïve ways making the best of life against his father's wishes. He has the fire of youth and determination of the righteous so when he meets a young man named Arn, the two become fast friends and set out for Camelot together. They soon come across a third companion to travel with, the daughter of a small village's blacksmith named Rowanne; a skilled archer and lady in need.

The three face various evils and obstacles until one day they all but stumble across Camelot under less than positive circumstances. They unveil a plot and become accepted as the kind of people the shining city wants to have, with Arn and Valiant on the fast track to becoming knights as they train under the tutelage of Sir Gawain. Rowanne makes it clear that she intends on being the first female knight of the round table (which Arthur takes under advisement) but the established formula of the series is that the trio continued to fight for the common good wherever they are sent by Arthur. Like most cartoons, the stories center on moral tales of the week, using friendship, loyalty, faith, and other such constructs as their guiding principles. Surprisingly, there was some death and killing shown (which ultimately ended the series prematurely) but the magical elements were stripped away as Merlin and Morgana became more like alchemists and dragons were no where to be found. Here's a look at the second set of episodes for the series in the order they were presented on the five DVD set:

34) The Traitor
35) The Tree
36) The Crossbow
37) The Lesson Twice Learned
38) The Princess Aleta
39) The Voyage
40) Mordred's Return
41) The Rescue
42) The Parting
43) Peace On Earth
44) Empty Justice
45) The Rival
46) The Walls of Tyranny
47) The Jubilee
48) The Treaty
49) The Blackest Poison
50) The Hero
51) The Vision
52) The Shadows of Destiny
53) The Eyes of the Serpent
54) The Spirit of Valor
55) The Aurora
56) The Burning Bridge
57) The Sage
58) The Song of Valor
59) The Ring of Truth
60) A Light in the Dark
61) The Ghost
62) A New Dawn
63) The Death of Arthur
64) The Gathering Storm
65) The Hinge of Fate

Okay, without going too deeply into the artistic and creative compromises the show had to succumb to thanks to the venue that funded and aired it, I have to say that there was a reason why the series won an award or two when it aired. It was family entertainment that held more than a modicum of positivity yet did not shirk from showing that even the leading characters were not perfect. They learned from their mistakes and I gathered from the commentaries (as well as the stories of course) that the writer's were allowed, if not actually encouraged, to let the characters grow as time went on (even allowing characters to die on screen, if there was a valid reason for it according to the creator and writers-something rare in family fare even now). The series seemed to deal in arcs of episodes so there wasn't all that much to go on but there might have been some maneuvering of the episode list when putting them on DVD but it did not impact the storylines significantly (if at all) for the better or worse in my opinion.

The second set of episodes started off with Prince Valiant as a knight. King Arthur would send him out on missions much like before but this time with the burden that he was in charge and had the responsibility to bear as a knight (with power comes responsibility). Arn and Rowanne were just as important this season as the last, often accompanying Valiant as he did the king's work. The dynamic changed a little in that a lot more of the episodes were gloomy and had negative outcomes but there were also the rays of light too as Valiant fell in love with the daughter of a scheming enemy king (this was a particularly interesting arc of stories as it showed Rowanne's place as Valiant's friend rather than lover as most would have assumed by their closeness that they were lovers). There was also a lot more of the political intrigue to show how fragile the ideals of a place like Camelot would be without men willing to fight for them daily; yet another morality play but one well suited for the series.

Arthur's main role in this batch of episodes seemed to be always getting hurt, poisoned, or even killed as foes would strike with treachery on a continuous basis. The wiles of Mordred and Morgana were again at the heart of many of the attempts but they were often foiled by the goodness triumphing over evil idea that was so heavily played in the show. It was interesting to see that none of the characters in the show got off without a spotlight shined upon their flaws this time, Valiant, Arthur, and Merlin each displayed thus as well as a lengthy arc involving Rowanne as she attempted to become the first woman knight of the round table. Say what you will about the political correctness that permeated the show but it did provide a solid change of pace from the rest of the market when it aired and I think it probably earned a rating of Recommended as a result (I have mixed feelings on the ratings for the show, having seen it all, a higher rating would be given if the whole series was put together). Picture: The Legend of Prince Valiant V2 was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color it was shot in for airing on The Family Channel. The picture looked a bit grainy and seems to have been captured on 35mm film, adding in some minor video noise but otherwise looking pretty decent after the first handful of episodes (which looked a bit worse upon checking out the DVD). The colors were bright and the limited animation style employed to tell the story was about par with other shows from the era, noting it was made 15 years ago. The boxed set had the second 32 episodes on 5 discs and there did not appear to be any issues with compression artifacts or heavily damaged frames (if they were, they were edited out) and the visual appeal of the show was better than I expected.

Sound: The audio was presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital English but there wasn't any separation that I could hear and the dynamic range was limited but the balance between the vocals and score were pleasing. The voice actors ranged from quite good (Tim Curry comes to mind) to quite weak (some of the cameo roles in particular) and some that were obviously hired based on their fame (lead Robby Benson; though he was decent enough in the role). There were reasonable attempts to upgrade some of the vocal acting from previous efforts.

Extras: My favorite extras were the two audio commentaries by creator/producer David J. Corbett, writer Brooks Wachel, and writing team (married at that) Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens. They were hosted by Andy Mangels and took place on episode 55 (The Aurora) and episode 65 (The Hinge of Fate). They offered up some tidbits and fond memories of the show though I would have preferred more details from their experience besides the rose colored views they offered up. There were a couple of interviews with Noelle North and Judith & Garfield as well (each providing a different perspective of the show), a storyboard gallery for episode 54 (Peace on Earth), a lengthy slideshow of character paintings and background drawings, and a DVD Rom feature complete episode scripts. One of the best extras (again) in my opinion was the 8 page paper booklet outlining the episodes and extras.

Final Thoughts: The Legend of Prince Valiant V2 was family fare that won't bore you to death and can be watched with your children. The show was far from perfect and discarded much of the Arthurian legends of the past but as a primer for fans of animation, it was a pretty good show. The story of Arthur has been around for 1000+ years and the Prince Valiant story for the better part of 70 years. Both have many followers and this DVD package was well handled by BCI. It might not be perfect but it was more than fans could have expected given the nature of TV on DVD to date. I liked the show more on DVD than when it came out but I think it will suffice to say that your mileage may vary but the quality of the show improved with time regarding the writing and voice acting ability of the cast so the rating went up in accordance. Good job!

If you enjoy anime and animation, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, Best of Anime 2005, and Best of Anime 2006 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.

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