Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real
(aka The Last Dragon
and Dragon's World
) is a 2004 British-American mockumentary
describing the finding of an actual dragon carcass frozen in the mountains of Romania, its study and subsequent explanations (via CGI re-creations a la Walking with Dinosaurs
) of the anatomy, ecology and evolutionary history of these mythical creatures, ending with their final extinction in the 15th century. Or did it?Patrick Stewart
narrates the U.S. version and Ian Holm
the British version.
Notable for leading many viewers to think that everything told in the documentary was truth, and therefore dragons actually existed
. This might have been fueled by some format similarities with Impossible Pictures Walking with...
series and the fact that it was aired on educational TV stations like Animal Planet
and the Discovery Channel
Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real provides examples of:
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Dr. Tanner.
- All Myths Are True: Well, not all myths, but at least some of the dragon myths are implied to be stylized accounts of encounters with real dragons.
- Atlantis Is Boring: The Marine Dragon segment of the documentary is much shorter than those of the 3 terrestrial dragons (Prehistoric, Forest, and Mountain). It was mostly shown to explain how dragons survived the KT event that killed the dinosaurs.
- Dinosaurs Are Dragons: Subverted. Despite first popping up right alongside the dinos, dragons are stated to be highly derived crocodilians.
- Dragon Hoard: Dragons are naturally attracted to shiny objects, and may collect hoards of such items, more or less valuable, to allure potential mates.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs
- The show states that dragons have been around since the early Triassic. Why do the prehistoric scenes have to take place in the very late Cretaceous? Because everything's better with Stock Dinosaurs.
- This trope is probably also the reason why the Prehistoric Dragon segment is the longest.
- Free Fall Romance
- Green Aesop: Thankfully, a much more subtle one.
- Here There Were Dragons: The premise of this film is that dragons actually did exist at a point in the past, but Middle Age man wiped them out and these awe-inspiring creatures faded into myth and legend. Subverted in that dragons are revealed to have been perfectly natural animals with really nothing magical about them. But they remain the truly amazing and majestic beasts that we always thought they were.
- Humans Are Bastards: Damned humans, killing all the dragons...
- Ignored Expert: Dr. Tanner's backstory; he's the joke of the scientific community for believing in dragons.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons
- Last of Its Kind
- Mama Dragon: The prehistoric dragon mother.
- Meanwhile, in the Future: The show alternates between depicting the lives of the various dragon species in the past, and showing Dr. Tanner and his team in the present-day searching for evidence and speculating about the biology of these animals.
- Monster Is a Mommy:
- Inverted. The first frozen dragon found is a baby. Her mother is even bigger.
- Played straight later with the mother raiding human farms. The locals thought she was just a bitch who liked killing livestock, but it turns out that she was simply trying to feed her daughter.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Non-Malicious Monster: The dragons.
- Only Six Faces / Palette Swap: Apart from the "Prehistoric Dragon", all of the other dragons look almost identical apart from a few small changes in wing size. Justified in that the "Prehistoric Dragon" was separated from all the others by millions of years. The others all lived relatively close together.
- Our Dragons Are Different: Four different species are shown: The Prehistoric Dragon (similar to a Wyvern), the Sea Dragon, the Chinese Forest Dragon and the European Mountain Dragon.
- There's also a "Desert Dragon" in the phylogenetic tree shown, but its never elaborated on.
- Precursors: Humans learned the values of cooking from dragons. No joke.
- Pyrrhic Victory: The mother Prehistoric Dragon managed to drive off the Tyrannosaurus rex and save her son at the cost of her own life.
- Reluctant Monster: Dragons only raid human farms because they have no choice
- Rule of Cool
- Sacrificial Dragon: The mother prehistoric dragon.
- Sea Monster: The Sea Dragon is used to explain legends about sea serpents and other aquatic monsters.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The story of the Prehistoric Dragon seems to be this. The young dragon lost his mother to a T-Rex. He barely avoids death at the hands of an older dragon. Later he grew up and then he managed to defeat another dragon. With that he managed to gain his own territory and his own mate. But then the K-T Extinction Event happens.
- Possibly a subversion, since it is never stated exactly how long before the K.T. event the young dragon lived, so the segment could just as easily have fast-forward a few hundred thousand years after the events of the dragon's life to show the infamous extinction event.
- Shown Their Work: The premise of the documentary is to show how giant six-legged, flying lizards that breathe fire could exist. And it mostly succeeds.
- Somewhere, a Paleontologist Is Crying: It seems the creators were so preoccupied with making their dragons authentic that they didn't bother to check if their other prehistoric creatures were accurate. The T-Rex has pronated hands that are slightly too long, the pterosaurs are of the standard Ptero Soarer variety (not to mention that they are clearly supposed to be Pteranodons, despite living inland and being shown as scavengers), and the humans in the Forest Dragon segment clearly have European features, despite this segment taking place in prehistoric China.
- Stealth Pun: In one segment, a tiger attempted to pounce on a dragon waiting in the shadows
- Stock Footage: You'll be seeing that shot of the mountain dragon's head entering the frame, then turning to face something a lot. Sometimes it's flipped so she's looking the other way. Along with several other shots recycled several times (curiously, only the mountain dragon segment has this reuse of footage).
- Tiger Versus Dragon: A literal case; dragon wins.
- Together in Death: In the end, the mother dragon and the daughter dragon that was discovered and studied was put in a museum exhibit together.
- Too Dumb to Live: The human hunters in the mountain dragon segment, one of whom thought it was a good idea to charge straight into the path of a rhinoceros-sized flying predator that breathes fire and presumably killed tens of other hunters who made the same mistake.
- Tyrannosaurus rex: A rival predator of the Prehistoric Dragon.
- Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: Most species shown have six (four legs and two wings). The "Marine Dragon" they presumably descend from has four (two wings and two legs) and the extra legs came to be via a later, somewhat massive mutation that affected the homeobox genes that regulate growth and development in animals.
- The Worf Effect: Look, a Tyrannosaurus rex! What do you think will be the dragon's breakfast? Subverted: the Tyrannosaurus almost killed the young dragon, the mother only wanted it gone, and used her fire only after the T. rex had grabbed and broken her wing, dooming her as well. So the fight was pretty much a draw.
- The also prehistoric, but much more recent, Chinese Dragon preys on tigers.