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Inside The Dragon’s Lair Director Interview January 20, 2012

Posted by Maniac in Interviews.
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I recently reported that the gaming documentary Inside the Dragon’s Lair, a documentary about the history and enduring legacy of the famous Dragon’s Lair franchise, had just released its first teaser.  I’ve been looking forward to seeing this documentary since it was in pre-production as I have recently become a bit of a Dragon’s Lair convert with the more recent arcade accurate ports, but have been disappointed to learn that up to this point there has been very little coverage about this game, its fanbase, and what may be to come from it.  This is the documentary that I’ve been waiting for.

Since the release of the teaser I have had so many questions about the project.  Fortunately, I was able to get an interview with the documentary’s director, Martin Touhey.

Maniac: What is your documentary about and what do you plan to show your audience?

Martin:  The short answer on this is the documentary will cover the past, present and future of Dragon’s Lair. Vague, I know. There are many facets to this game beyond the game itself. I want to give some insight on how the game was conceived and created from its initial concept to its production and manufacture. It will cover the animation, music, and programming involved. This will include the technology of the laserdisc player and how it was groundbreaking at the time. I wish to show its importance in video game history as it was inducted into the Smithsonian. I’ll touch upon how the video game crash came and Dragon’s Lair was a hopeful addition to struggling arcades. I also want to give insight to the fan base that Dragon’s Lair had and still has to this day, along with new fans that constantly pop up. Showing the various merchandise, tv shows, and general hype that was created back in its heyday in the 80’s should be interesting as well. The home versions of the game will be covered and show the differences between them and the arcade version. The Daphne emulator will also be included in that list. I want to delve more deeply into the emotional impact it had on the creators as they struggled to meet deadlines and started running short on investment capital. I want to look into how a game that is nearly 30 years old is still ported to new consoles and devices and still sells well. The one thing that I want to know along with many other fans is what is going on with the 2d animated feature film. As I said, many facets. The trick to all of this is being able to make a film which will flow as a steady stream of consciousness. This in no way is a complete list, just what I can think of in one sitting. Besides I don’t want to give everything away.

I have a few goals I’d like to meet in regards to the audience. I’d like them to come away with a thorough knowledge of Dragon’s Lair, even if they’ve never heard of it before, I’d want people to seek out and play the game, and I want the audience to feel good about what they saw and to be excited about the long-awaited 2d animated feature film.

Maniac: What inspired you to make this documentary?

Martin:  What inspired me to make this film was simply a love of the game. My story is a familiar one to many fans I’m sure. I was only 9 years old in ’83 and I loved video games. Anywhere I went I sought out an arcade, restaurant, or laundromat to play them. As I was in the mall one day I walked into the arcade and that’s when I saw it. A crowd of people standing around one game that completely threw me for a loop. It was Dragon’s Lair. Atop the machine was a monitor and what I saw was the most surreal and fantastic thing ever. An animated cartoon of a bumbling knight fighting his way through all kinds of perils and monsters. I was almost in disbelief that this animated film was a game. It blended two of my favorite things, animation and video games. I felt that childlike wonder and amazement and knew that this was something special. As time went on my love for video games never diminished and when versions of the game came out on computers and consoles I started flashing back to those childhood memories and bought version after version hoping the next would be better than the last. It took a number of years, but eventually the technology of home computers supported faster and more vibrant graphics, enabling a more authentic Dragon’s Lair experience. As I grew older I kept the memories of Dragon’s Lair alive and, with the advent of the internet, I found that I wasn’t the only one who had the same experiences. Growing up with an appreciation for art and film, I wanted to create movies of my own. I was particularly fascinated in documentaries and especially video game documentaries after the release of The King of Kong. In the beginning of 2009 I googled “Dragon’s Lair documentary” and found references to a french documentary short and a video which was an inclusion on the 20th anniversary dvd, but nothing that was feature length. I felt that Dragon’s Lair was a great subject for such a project so I decided to take it on.

Maniac: Who do you have scheduled for interview?

Martin:  At this point there is a long list of potential interviews. The ones I seek in particular are Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, Rick Dyer and David Foster. There is an open communication going on between myself and Dragon’s Lair LLC to shoot these interviews. Although there is nothing set in stone quite yet, I am optimistic and have had an encouraging conversation with the director of marketing at Bluth Films. Shooting dates are tentative and will be announced as soon as details are hashed out. Other interviews that will be scheduled will be with Syd Bolton, who is a great resource of information on the game, Dragon’s Lair music composer Chris Stone, Walter Day of Twin Galaxies, Daphne emulator creator Matt Ownby, Dragon’s Lair superfan Jason Finn. There are many others, many of whom have worked on the game as artists, sound engineers, or programmers. Effects animator Dorse Lanpher was to be interviewed, but sadly he recently passed away.

Maniac:  What equipment are you using to make the documentary?

Martin:  To shoot we’re using a Panasonic HDX-900 and a Canon 7D. Editing and graphics are done on Macintosh computers running Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects.

Maniac:  What do you expect the final runtime to be?

Martin:  Final run time will be approximately 90 minutes.

Maniac:  What is your projected release date?

Martin:  The final release date is up in the air. I’d love to release it on June 19, 2013. That would be exactly 30 years from the date that Dragon’s Lair made its debut. Realistically that probably won’t happen and the date may be closer to the end of 2013 if not early 2014.

Maniac:  How do you plan to release the finished product?  Any chance of a DVD or Blu-Ray release?

Martin:  Releasing the film is a tricky business. Once finished, I’ll be submitting the film to various film festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca. Most films that show at festivals are without a distributor and are there to seek distribution. At this point it’s too early to tell whether or not I’ll have a distributor lined up before the festival release. A theatrical release is possible, but may not be likely as the cost to do such a release is in excess of $35,000. It’s going to depend on how successful the film is and if there’s a possibility of it turning a profit. A DVD and Blu-Ray release has been a goal from the start. Releasing the film on various digital platforms such as Netflix and Itunes are also possibilities.

Maniac:  Thank you for your time, really looking forward to seeing the finished film.

Well there you have it folks.  Be sure to check out the film’s official Twitter feed for any updates on the project.  Thanks again to Director Martin Touhey for taking my questions.  If you haven’t seen that teaser yet you can check it out here!