Merlin and the Dragons proves that real magic doesn’t emanate from a wand; it springs from the minds of artists. Jane Yolen’s story is the sort of stuff that casts a spell on young viewers. It has swords and sorcerers, crowns and castles, dragons and dreams. In one sequence, young King Arthur seeks Merlin’s counsel after having a nightmare. The venerable wizard then recounts a similarly unsettling dream from his youth. Merlin’s dream, however, ended happily, and his words instill Arthur with confidence in his ability to lead.

Kevin Kline displays his protean vocal skills as the narrator, providing convincing characterizations of Merlin, Arthur, and others. That is no small accomplishment; he sounds young and naive one moment, old and wise the next. The animation is, for the most part, thoughtfully drawn; though motions don’t always look realistic (Merlin sometimes talks without moving his lips), characters have distinctive features, and many scenes are carefully detailed. Michael Rubini’s music, alternately haunting, ominous, or regal-sounding, enhances this uplifting tale.

Merlin may have been a great magician, but even he could have learned a trick or two from the people who produced this bewitching fantasy tale. A-