Dragonslayer is a 1981 American fantasy film directed by Matthew Robbins, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Hal Barwood. It stars Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam and Caitlin Clarke. The story, set in a fictional medieval kingdom, follows a young wizard who experiences danger and opposition as he attempts to defeat a dragon.
A co-production between Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions, Dragonslayer was more mature than most other Disney films of the period. Because of audience expectations for a more family-friendly film from Disney, the film's violence, adult themes and brief nudity were somewhat controversial at the time, even though Disney did not hold US distribution rights, which were held by Paramount. The film was rated PG in the U.S.; TV showings after 1997 have carried a TV-14 rating. It's possible that this film was responsible for Disney's later creation Touchstone Pictures to produce more mature fare, starting with 1984's Splash.
The special effects were created at Industrial Light and Magic, where Phil Tippett had co-developed an animation technique called go motion for The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Go motion is a variation on stop motion animation, and its use in Dragonslayer led to the film's nomination for the Academy Award for Visual Effects; it lost to Raiders of the Lost Ark, the only other Visual Effects nominee that year, whose special effects were also provided by ILM. Including the hydraulic 40-foot (12 m) model, 16 dragon puppets were used for the role of Vermithrax, each one made for different movements; flying, crawling, fire breathing etc. Dragonslayer also marks the first time ILM's services were used for a film other than a Lucasfilm Ltd. production.
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Original Music Score; Chariots of Fire took the award. It was also nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, once again losing to Raiders of the Lost Ark. In October 2003, Dragonslayer was released on DVD in the U.S. by Paramount Home Video.