Ten years ago, October 15, 2005, Canada’s YTV network premiered one of the greatest children’s TV shows ever: Jane and the Dragon. Among many reasons, what made it great was that it didn’t pander to the audience. Adults could watch without feeling their intelligence going down the drain.
The digital animation came from Weta Workshop of New Zealand—the craftsmen behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy—using the same motion capture technology. This was Weta’s first TV series, but it was also a co-production with Nelvana of Canada, who provided the director (Mike Fallows) and storyboard artists using Canadian voice talent.
The series was based upon a series of books written and illustrated by Martin Baynton, the first being Jane and the Dragon (1988), followed by The Dragon’s Purpose (1989) and Jane and the Magician (2000). After Baynton moved from England to New Zealand, he got in touch with Richard Taylor and his wife/partner Tania Rodger, and proposed a children’s TV series based on his books. Coincidently and propitiously, the Taylors also wanted to produce their own children’s TV series.
Baynton told the New Zealand Herald, May 10, 2007, “Richard and I both love beautiful, classic storytelling, the sort of storytelling we remember from children’s programmes growing up. There’s been a movement towards the fast and furious because kids are channel-hopping and catching the eye candy of the moment. We wanted to try to build a show that won our audience and kept them on board, a half-hour story with all the ebbs and flows of a normal drama.”
To that end, Weta succeeded brilliantly.
Watch “Pride and Pollen” and see for yourself:
Note that King Caradoc never speaks to Dragon. We are never told why. An example of one of the fine nuances of the show.
Jane and the Dragon premiered in the U.S. on NBC, September 9, 2006. When I saw it, I was blown away. I’ll detail my enthusiasm in a later post.
For now, happy birthday to Weta’s first TV show and heartiest thanks to Martin Baynton, Richard Taylor, Trevor Brymer, Mike Fallows and everyone involved in the adventures of Jane and the Dragon. My birthday wish, of course, is that they’ll make a movie and more episodes.