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"The Legend of Prince Valiant" Vol. 2: Dub This a Classic

The other day I heard a radio talk show guest singing the praises of the morally fortified adventures of the Hardy Boys. Oops, there goes half the audience. You know that Nancy Drew movie that neither you and nor anyone else saw this summer? The Hardy Boys were a lot like that, only four-legged and less partial to bobby socks. Anyway that speaker suggested that that sort of moral guidance is a rare commodity in today’s youth entertainment, and perhaps America suffers for it. The scarcity of such TV programming is no big surprise, as it tends to be slow and preachy and a convenient excuse to turn on the Wii.

Image often had to slow down to introduce people and places, now the universe is firmly established and the viewer is thrown right into the action. Valiant and his young companions Rowanne and Arn are no longer mere sidekicks to the adult knights, but are often leading the charge themselves. The romantic tension between the three continues to rise, and a shadowy figure known only as “the dark man” plots to take King Arthur’s throne for his own.

One of the best episodes is “The Tree,” which addresses environmental conservation and personal loss in a relatively sophisticated manner. Valiant, Rowanne, and senior knight Sir Bryant are sent to mediate a violent dispute between two small neighboring villages over an enormous old tree: one wishes to preserve it as a historical landmark, and the other to cut it down to make way for an economically vital bridge. Usually in cartoons, and in Captain Planet especially, anyone who dares threaten any aspect of nature is immediately painted as evil incarnate, but here both sides are allowed to make their cases convincingly, and Valiant actually finds the bridge argument more compelling. However he quickly finds his decision complicated by Bryant, who, curiously, vows to defend the tree with his life.

, starring Valiant’s King Features comic strip cohorts Flash Gordon, The Phantom, and Mandrake the Magician, and sharing The Legend of Prince Valiant‘s directors. If you haven’t already guessed it, in this episode the Defenders travel back in time to Valiant’s realm. Their expedition to rescue Valiant’s wife from an evil wizard is fun but sorely lacking the sophistication of the prince’s own series. Here he looks almost exactly like the comic strip version down to the trademark bowl cut, and is voiced commandingly by 80s heavyweight Dan Gilvezan, better known as Spider-Man and/or Bumblebee.

If you enjoyed the previous set you’ll want to pick up The Legend of Prince Valiant Volume 2 posthaste. It’s an excellent source of chivalrous reinforcement for young viewers, and so involving that parents will find themselves sitting there right beside them. It might even lead to jousting in the backyard over a raise in allowance. Mind you, I’d expect no mercy in that matter.

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