The first season of Netflix’s new animated fantasy show The Dragon Prince has been generally well received by the public, but one aspect of the show seems to have bugged nearly everyone: the animation. The creators aimed to fuse the benefits of computer-generated graphics with the details afforded by hand-drawn animation, and while the show does seem great in stills, in action, movement can appear distractingly choppy. Speaking to The Verge, the creators say they’ve heard fan feedback — and they want to make things better.
The Dragon Prince tells the story of a society where elves and humans are at war with each other over the development of dark magic, an unnatural source of power that relies on death to beef up its users. Made by the people behind the critically lauded Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Uncharted video games, one of the show’s standout qualities are the visuals. You can pause the show nearly anywhere and it’ll still look fantastic, almost as if someone carefully posed every single frame of the animation. Characters also have impeccable designs that make nearly everyone look cool or interesting. In motion, however, The Dragon Prince does a unique thing with its animation frames that make the characters have sudden, almost stop-motionesque movement. The animation can be distracting at first; while you can get used to it, watching the show is an exercise in uncanniness.
Last week, The Dragon Prince co-creators Aaron Ehasz and Justin Richmond sat down with The Verge to talk about the show. While we’ll have more from that conversation in the coming weeks, one of the first things we discussed was the series’ reception. According to Ehasz, they’re well aware of the backlash surrounding the animation, and want to do more to improve it — if Netflix grants them a second season, that is.
“I think there’s a lot of valid feedback about the animation,” Ehasz said. “It’s interesting because you look at it and you have a lot of people responding to the character designs, and the backgrounds, and the beautiful world, the cinematic storyboarding that our great director Giancarlo Volpe and his team has brought out. And then you do have people responding to some of the frame rate decisions.
“As you know, we made decisions that were kinda based on, okay we’re kinda leveraging a [computer generated] pipeline, but we’re going for a beautiful detailed 2D look, and how do we balance those, and how do we make those look real?”
Ehasz called the feedback “valid,” and that he knows that it is coming from a “significant” portion of the audience. While they can’t completely change how the show is made, he says they’d like to smooth things out a little bit more.
“It’s definitely something that, in the future, if-slash-when we’re making more episodes, we’re not gonna be able to vastly change how we make it, but we’re definitely gonna have an eye toward specific shots and scenes[:] Can we make them more fluid? Can we make them exceed the expectations that were set?”
The current season, which runs at nine episodes, leaves on a big cliffhanger — so hopefully we can see where the story goes.
“We’re definitely hearing it, and if we’re given the opportunity, we’re gonna work to improve it, within all possible bounds,” Ehasz says.