Into The Lair…
Disney wasn’t happy about the dragons. Everyone knew that Don Bluth, a former animator at the studio, drew some of the best fire-breathing reptiles around, but after setting up his own animation studio with a bunch of ex-Disney renegades in the early ’80s, Bluth realised it was difficult to compete with Uncle Walt’s clout.
Their first movie, The Secret Of NIMH (1982), was critically acclaimed but a box office flop. While Bluth licked his wounds, he was approached by Rick Dyer of Advanced Microcomputer Systems (AMS) who introduced him to the concept of “interactive movies”.
The arcade game Dragon’s Lair was born and Disney was royally pissed... Unlike every other arcade game in the early ’80s, Dragon’s Lair didn’t use vector graphics or blocky 8bit sprites.
It looked like a cartoon with Bluth’s animated sequences letting the player control Dirk the Daring as he set off to rescue Princess Daphne.
Under the cabinet’s hood was an industrial Pioneer laser disc player that cued up animated sequences in response to the player’s actions. Each cabinet cost $4,000. But the wow factor was worth four times that.
Queues began to line up around Dragon’s Lair cabinets whenever they were switched on. It was gorgeous to look at. It was also bloody hard with machines sucking up $3-$4 for just 30 seconds of frustrating play (arcade managers were making around $200 a day per machine).
Down the road I think we’ll see more film companies approach videogames via their own film productions,” predicted Bluth’s animation director Gary Goldman at the time.
“Rather than take the character from a film and create a game around it, they will take the movie and at the same time produce a game based on the actual live-action or animation from the film.”
Next: A revolution stirs...