The Dragon Prince is a series with a ton of potential. A rich world, captivating characters, a beautiful score, and a central conflict that can drive season’s worth of stories. The biggest problem is it’s very hard to enjoy all that when the animation is perplexingly stuttering.
As you may have noticed from various trailers for the series, much of the animation in The Dragon Prince is… off. While shots of sweeping vistas and action scenes are mostly animated very well, the all-important character scenes where everyone is talking are tough to watch. The actions aren’t fluid and it makes you wonder if you need to reset your Internet connection.
It’s an absolute shame this huge issue hangs over the series because the rest is very engaging. The story of two rivaling factions of humans and elves locked in a perpetual war with no one willing to call a truce or try to understand one another is solid. Some of the strongest moments in these first two episodes grapple with themes that touch on the cycle of violence and how it can be broken. Both sides think they’re in the right, so what does it take for one of them to lay down their weapons?
There’s a sense of resignation by many of the older characters in the series. Harrow, the leader of the humans, and Runaan, leader of the elves, talk of bringing some kind of end to all this but simply accept this is how it’ll always be. In stark contrast we have our younger characters, Callum and Rayla. These two question what’s so ingrained in their cultures and you can slowly start to see how they’ll grow closer because of it.
The voice acting for the series is superb. You can never go wrong with Jack De Sena, best known for his work as Sokka on Avatar: The Last Airbender. He lends a charming touch to Callum and infuses him with a lot of humor that instantly makes you fall in love with the character. His early interactions with Soren are a particular delight and along with his relationship to Harrow.
All of the main characters introduced in the opening episodes get small moments to shine, although you wish there was more time with them right off the bat. So much of the world needs to set up in the opening episode that it takes till the end of episode two for you to really latch onto everyone besides Callum and Soren.
It also just doesn’t help that when the series is showing off some of its best writing, in the powerful one on one character scenes, it’s let down by the animation. It’s so jerky you can’t lose yourself in the moment. You’re just left with a bit of a headache from how off the animation feels.
It seems to be a stylistic choice since some of the shots are very impressive and don’t exhibit the stuttering problem. The sweeping views of a bird flying or even the rushing river all look fine. When placing the characters in those scenes however it all just feels wrong.
This doesn’t totally take away from the merit of the series. If you can get past these issues with the animation, although I’m sure for many that’s asking more than they’ll be willing to give, there’s a lot to love here. The end of the third episode promises some amazing adventures to come; you just have to accept the series’ biggest shortcoming to enjoy the wealth of other elements that have a lot of promise.