Top of All Tables: A Fan’s Review of the Television Series “Jane and the Dragon”
When a dragon’s claws whisk young Prince Cuthbert of Kippernium away from the castle, an unlikely hero arrives at the dragon’s den to rescue the kingdom’s heir: feisty, precocious, and unforgettably red-haired twelve-year-old Jane Turnkey.
Instead of becoming a dragon slayer, however, Jane hits it off with the wisecracking Dragon, and the two shortly thereafter become an inseparable duo. As a reward for rescuing the prince, King Caradoc of Kippernium grants Jane the dearest desire of her heart: to become a squire at the castle and receive knight’s training from Sirs Theodore and Ivon. The stunningly animated Jane and the Dragon series by Weta Workshop (The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia) follows Jane and her Dragon through the everyday adventures of a hot-tempered girl’s exciting and difficult journey to knighthood.
Fans of the medieval era, fantasy buffs, and people with overlarge funny bones can all find something to like about this television series. Although it’s fantastical in premise, the castle life of Jane and the Dragon is believable and attention-seizing, filled with a richly varied cast of characters including Smithy, Jester, Pepper the cook, Rake the gardener, Sirs Ivon and Theodore, Squire Gunther, and servants and royals in tow.
Witty, fast-paced dialogue, entertaining plotlines and lively music drive each half-hour episode. Jane, most of the time absorbed with competing against her arrogant and ambitious fellow squire Gunther, finds her temper and other personal shortcomings obstacles to her achieving knighthood, but slightly narcissistic Dragon is always around to help her with both common sense and naughty good humor. The problems of Jane’s young friends and other castle members weave with the twelve-year-old’s and form a gripping mosaic of character development, competition, and coming of age.
While Jane and the Dragon is intended to be a children’s TV series, laughing at the wisecracks and predicaments of each storyline is too much fun to be had for someone like me. My siblings and I have a subconscious habit of quoting random bits from Jane and the Dragon at least several times a week. One of our favorite dialogue segments goes something like this:
from the episode Dragon Rules:
Jane [getting ready with a few other of her friends to play a hockey-like game called bandyball]: Come down, Gunther, play bandyball with us!
Gunther [laughing]: Do I look like a child to you?
Jester [bouncing and raising his hand]: Oooh! Oooh! I can answer that one!
Jane: Come down, Gunther, we need only one more.
Gunther [leaving]: As you were, children.
Jester: And so, without the charming, delightful, and ever-diplomatic Gunther, we are still one player short.
And for a taste of Jane and Dragon together:
Jane [remorsefully, after fighting with her friends over Dragon]: I hate arguing. Especially with friends.
Dragon: But you do it so well, and with the entire court.
Jane: Oh, Dragon, what am I going to do?
Dragon: Well, if you want my opinion, Jane . . . [pitching his voice high] Wise and handsome Dragon, what is your opinion? [normal again] So glad you asked, Jane, because I side with your friends. I am ten times their size.
Jane: Go on.
Dragon: Well, thank you for standing up for me, but—
Jane: I overreacted.
Dragon: You overreacted.
As made somewhat clear by the above, whenever I’m in need of a near-death experience with laughter, Jane and the Dragon is my top viewing choice. The main thing wanting with the series is that only two DVDs’ worth of episodes were released for US viewers, packaged in A Dragon’s Tale and Dragon Rules (all other episodes are on discs formatted for strictly Australian viewing), and this sad fact means we Americans are barely able to scratch the surface of all the hilarious and touching episodes made by the wonderful Weta Workshop, unless we’re able to catch a rerun on a youth channel.
In summation, I encourage you to give this series a go if you feel in the least intrigued by it, and prepare to be amused and fascinated by its story, setting and characters. To borrow a phrase from the loveable Jane, “It is top of all tables!”
Jane and the Dragon: A Dragon’s Tale is available on DVD at Amazon.com