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It is forty feet long and has a wingspread of 90 feet. It snarls and spits 30-foot long flames from its mouth. It is called Vermithrax Pejorative, and it is a dragon, a primal force of nature. It is the creature the young apprentice Galen must attempt to destroy.

It is also the brainchild of Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins, who wrote the script and acted, respectively, as producer and director of Dragonslayer, — a new Paramount Productions Corporation and Walt Disney Productions fantasy motion picture. Though the picture features Sir Ralph Richardson as the master sorcerer Ulrich, Peter MacNicol as the young Galen, and Caitlin Clarke as the courageous Valerian, the true star of Dragonslayer is the terrible beast, Vermithrax. British-born Brian Johnson headed up the mechanical effects during the principal photography in England and Wales, and George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, Inc. (ILM) had an 30-man team work on the special photographic effects for the film. The teamwork of Johnson and ILM (under the supervision of Dennis Muren) helped create a true monster well worthy of testing young Galen's mettle.

"There is something irresistible in the idea of a young magician who has not gone through his rite of passage and who can't really do it," Hal Barwood explained. "There is a certain charm and relevance to the many situations that seem to hang in the air around such a character.

"The story has its immediate inspiration in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. We searched around quite a bit to come up with the grand task this foolish young man Should undertake. In our research we came across the story of St. George and the Dragon. Everybody's heard of it yet most people don't have the faintest idea what the story is about.

"In the St. George story, the king finds himself in a terrible quandry. He loves his people and protects most of them from the dragon by periodically sacrificing virgins in a lottery. As the story opens, he chooses the lot with his daughter's name on it, and he's in a terrible dilemma. He wants to do right by his people, but he also loves his daughter. Suddenly, St. George rides up and says, 'If you'll all just become Christians, I'll kill the thing, and that will solve your problem." He does, and they do, and he becomes a saint for converting the whole kingdom.

"The Dragonslayer version is an evil twist. The king has never let his daughter's name appear in the lottery. The Princess Elspeth (played by Chloe Salamanl, the king's young daughter, is innocent of her father's plot and discovers to her horror that she has been kept out of it all. This absolutely destroys her, and so she offers herself as a sacrifice to atone for what she regards as a very great sin.

"Our film is about magic. Sword and Sorcery fantasies of the Conan and Thongor variety emphasize physical prowess and skill at arms, Galen, our hero, is about the furthest thing from Conan you can come across. The kid can't even tie his shoe right, much less cut somebody's head off. But he learns."