Sunday, September 19, 2010

US Television, Beast Legends, Episode 1.2 "Fire Dragon"

Beast Legends
Season One, Episode Two, Fire Dragon
Original Air Date:  Thursday, September 16, 2010

In the second installment of the Beast Legends series, the team sets out to create the fire dragon.  Kathryn, Mike and Scott are in the lab researching the dragon legends.  The Polish legend of Smok the Dragon is their starting point.  They next look over images of dragons from all over the world and find they all typically have wings and fire breathing in common.

Steve and Francis start in southern Poland on their search for information about the fire dragon.  They are in Krakow, Poland looking for the bones of Smok the Dragon at Wawel Castle.  They see the bones that have hung on the cathedral wall for centuries.  What has been believed to be the rib bone of the dragon Steve identifies to be the jaw bone from a whale.  The skull, Steve identifies as that of a rhino, possibly even an Ice Age woolly rhino.  The large thigh bone:  an elephant or mammoth.

They get in out of the rain where Francis begins his sketching.  Using the measurements of the bones at the cathedral, the sketch shapes up to look more like an "overweight dragon" than the fearsome beasts of mythology we've all come to know.  Even once the dragon is on the computer, it still doesn't look the least bit fearsome thanks to its roly-poly belly.

Steve and Francis next go to the Holy Cross Mountains in Poland to see some supposed dragon footprints.  They photograph and measure the huge prints.  The "dragon prints" were determined to be dinosaur prints in the 1950's.  Francis sketches the feet based on the prints and Mike adds the look to the dragon they are creating on the computer (and trims that pudgy belly down a tad, too!).

Next, Steve and Francis head to Jagiellonian University Library in Krakow to research the dragon in 16th century Polish manuscripts.  In the manuscript, they find a reference to the dragon being "Olophagus" meaning it swallowed whole.  Kathryn feels this gives clues about the head and mouth shape as well as the dragon's behavior.

The team heads to Louisiana to research alligators for their swallowing and eating behaviors.  In Manchac Swamp, Dr. Brian Crother (Professor of Biological Science at SE Louisiana University) and Dan Bourgeois (Swamp Guide) take Scott out to see some of the local gator attractions.  Scott feeds the gators chicken legs and thighs so they can see their mouths in action.  A massive gator appears and this beast gets an entire chicken.  They watch as the gator devours the chicken, swallowing it right down.  Using the footage from Louisiana, Mike adds the gators eating actions to their virtual dragon.

Steve and Francis are sent to the Aquarium and Museum of Natural History in Krakow to research snakes to give their dragon the fearsome fangs dragons have long been famous for.  They get an up-close and personal look at the fangs of a puff adder.  Francis makes a sketch of the dragon with the puff adders deadly venom-dripping fangs in its mouth.  Mike adds the new features to their virtual dragon.

Now, they need to add an impenetrable armour to the dragon.  Back in the Manchac Swamp, Scott goes in search of another gator.  This one, he wants to catch to get a good look at the strong armour of the gators skin.  A guide, who is much braver that I will ever be in my entire life, steps from the boat to catch a young gator.  He simply reaches down and grabs the animal then brings it back into the boat.  Scott is able to feel the tough armour on the animals back.  After an examination, they release the youngster then head off to find a solution to the soft skin on the gators belly. 

Scott, Dr. Crother and Bourgeois go "fishing" for a creature that is so tough it can withstand the bite of a gator:  a gar fish.  They catch one and bring it aboard the boat.  They prepare the fish for lunch and test its armour.  A knife will not even penetrate the tough armour.  Mike adds a combination of the super-tough skin of the gar fish and the hard armour of the gator to their virtual dragon.

For the dragon's wings, Steve and Francis head to Jersmanowicka, Poland to meet with Dr. Bronislaw Woloszyn (Polish Academy of Sciences) to study some bat wings at the "Bat Cave".  They go deep into the 1,000 foot deep cave to catch a bat so Francis can get a good look at the wings to sketch them for the dragon.  Francis sketches the wings and raises a new question:  how big should they be to raise the dragon off the ground?  Mike adds the wings to the dragon on the computer.

With their model, they want to test it in the "right environment.  They go to Bialowieza Forest in Poland with tracker, Dariuse Wiacek.  With the thick forest environment, they determine that a large, hulking beast would have trouble flying through to hunt for food.  So, they feel the dragon should be able to glide.  Mike updates the dragon on the computer to include the gliding element.

Fire.  Dragons breathe fire.  However, there aren't any animals that breathe fire.  Scott feels he has a way to make the fire-breathing work.  They will need three things:  a fuel source, air/oxygen and heat or spark to start the reaction.  He suggests a way to harness the methane in the dragons belly so it will come out the front of the creature rather than the back.  He suggests to use the fangs (now upper and lower fangs) as a means for the spark. 

Scott and Francis journey to Ancaster, Ontario, Canada to consult with Tom Comet, a pyrotechnics specialist for ways of bringing the fire to life.  Tom has built a makeshift dragon mouth and throat and equipped it with a fuel source and spark.  In a very cool display, he does a fireball test.  Fire shoots from the mouth of his makeshift dragon.  A short burst produces a quick fireball.  A longer hold produces a steady stream of fire.

With all the details in place, the team settles back to watch the final movie of their finished beast.  The dragon emerges from its cave, scales the rocks and glides out over the countryside and into the city.  It finds and devours a young man then scales Wavel Castle where it unleashes its fire.  The team is pleased with the final product and Scott even remarks "in some ways, it's surprising that biology hasn't figured out how to make one".

Next weeks Beast LegendThe Shark God

Beast Legends airs every Thursday night at 10 P.M. (9 p.m. Central) on the SyFy Channel.  Episode three,  airs on September 23, 2010.

For More Information:
Official Web Site:
Official SyFy Site:
TV Rage:
Francis Manapul's Official Website:

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