|Dungeons & Dragons|
|Format||Fantasy / Animation|
|Created by|| Dave Arneson & E. Gary Gygax (game)|
Kevin Paul Coates
|Presented by|| Marvel Productions|
|Voices of|| Willie Aames |
Tonia Gayle Smith
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||27 (List of episodes)|
| David H. DePatie|
|Producer(s)|| Bob Richardson|
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Original run||September 17 1983 – December 7 1985|
Dungeons & Dragons is an American animated television series, that was a co-production of Marvel Productions and TSR. Based on TSR's Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, the show was popular in the US, and ran for three seasons on CBS. The show's story editors were Hank Saroyan and Steve Gerber, who both contributed episodes and had a firm hand in the writing of the series.
Although aimed at a young audience as many animated series are, the show has distinctive plots, and was unusual - especially at the time - in children's television for the amount of ethical awareness and empathy displayed to and encouraged in the viewer. It is not unusual for protagonists to lose hope or break down in tears, only to be comforted by others or reinvigorated through good works. The level of violence was controversial for children's television at the time, and the script of one episode, "The Dragon's Graveyard", was almost shelved because the characters contemplated killing their nemesis, Venger. In 1985, the National Coalition on Television Violence claimed it was the most violent show on network television. At least some of the criticism of the show was based not so much on its actual content, as its association with the Dungeons & Dragons franchise which had become highly controversial by the 1980s due to its supposedly occult content.
In 1987, the series premiered in France (under the name "Le Sourire du Dragon" — The Smile of the Dragon) and in the United Kingdom, satellite television channels were showing repeats at least into the late 1990s. In 1999, Saban Entertainment bought the Marvel Productions catalog, minus the Hasbro related series, including all the broadcast rights. Saban later merged with the Fox Entertainment Group, and for about six months, the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon was broadcast during the Saturday morning and weekday afternoon FoxKids time block. In August 2002, Disney acquired Fox & Saban and gained the broadcast rights to the cartoon; however, it had not been shown on any affiliated television channel until April 7 2006, when it was broadcast on Jetix on Toon Disney. BCI has recently acquired the DVD rights. The whole series is currently available on DVD in the United Kingdom and was released in the United States on DVD for the first time ever on December 5 2006.
The general premise of the show is that a group of children are pulled into the "Realm of Dungeons & Dragons" by taking a magical dark ride trip at a fairground. Invariably, the children wish most to return home, but often take detours to help people, or find that their fates are intertwined with the fate of others.
After arriving in the Realm, the children are a little out of place, but the Dungeon Master, named for the role of the referee in the role-playing game, appears assuming the role of their mentor, and gives them each clothing and magical paraphernalia to suit their abilities.
The original title sequence is a concise dramatization of the children's arrival in the Realm and the assignment of their respective character classes. The second season version begins with the ride, only to shift to a stylized action sequence with the children, more accustomed to the demands of the Realm, capably doing battle. This sequence was kept when the show was re-broadcast by Fox, but was shortened and remixed with different music. The ending credit sequence was completely replaced by a generic closing credit sequence common to shows on the Fox network at the time. This is the version currently shown on Jetix in America. The U.S. DVD release uses both the original 1st Season opening and original ending for all the episodes, but still includes all the various openings and endings in the special features. A storyboard for the second season's introduction can be viewed here.
The main characters of the show are six friends, ranging from age 8 to 15, trying to find their way home. They are:
Hank, the Ranger (voice: Willie Aames):
- At 15, he is the oldest of the gang, along with Eric, and is a natural leader. He is the most level-headed, and his orders are not often questioned.
Hank is a Ranger, with a magical bow that shoots magical arrows of glowing energy. Besides occasional fighting, Hank often uses these glowing arrows to simply light a room, to activate switches out of reach, to span gaps, to create climbing ropes and swings, etc. Hank makes a cameo in Baldur's Gate II. His greatest fear is of his failure to be a leader.
Eric, the Cavalier (voice: Don Most): The cavalier is the spoiled child originating from a rich home. On the surface Eric is the big-mouthed coward of the show; a smart-alec who is always ready with a sarcastic comment or a dry one-liner at the most inopportune moment. However, these lines are the most humorous in the show; as well as being "cavalier" (in all likelihood a pun given his nature), Eric also fulfils the role of the comic relief character. Despite his egotism, selfishness, and snobbery, Eric is potentially also the most realistic character, complaining about the dire situations in which he is involved and voicing concerns which might be common to inhabitants of our world transplanted to the Realm. His greatest fear is ridicule, dovetailing with both his insulting demeanor and his use of a shield.
Despite his cowardice and reluctance, Eric has a well-hidden heroism, and constantly saves his friends from danger with his magical shield, which can project a force field. Sometimes he is the one who generates a decisive idea. In one episode, Eric serves as a general leading a group of creatures into battle to free their tribe from enslavement. In another episode, he is even ready to sacrifice his own life and safety in exchange for sending his friends back home.
Series developer Mark Evanier revealed that Eric's contrary nature was mandated by parents groups and consultants to push the then dominant pro-social moral for cartoons of "The group is always right…the complainer is always wrong.
Diana, the Acrobat (voice: Tonya Gail Smith):
- Diana is 14. She is an acrobat, and an outspoken and tomboyish member of the group. She is skilled at handling animals, and is a self-assured, confident person. She keeps calm in perilous situations and is able to connect with each of the group. She is often the one most likely to be able to counter one of Eric's sarcastic comments. These qualities make her the natural leader in the absence of Hank. It is mentioned that Diana was chosen as the acrobat because in her real world she is an Olympic-level gymnastics practitioner.
Diana has a magical, telescopic pole (sometimes called a javelin) that can be used for vaulting, spanning gaps, etc., which complements her natural acrobatic talents. It can extend to any length she needs and can mend itself, if broken into separate pieces, upon their contact. Her hidden fear is becoming dependent in old age.
In the third-season episode "Child of the Stargazer", Diana falls in love with a boy from the Realm named Kosar. It is also revealed that her father is an astronomer.
Presto, the Magician (voice: Adam Rich):
- Albert, better known as Presto,. is the wizard. Presto fulfilles a role of the well-meaning, diligent, but hopeless magician. He is something of a caricature of the stereotypical "nerd" figure prevalent in early 1980s comedies. He suffers from low self-confidence and nervousness, which manifests in the use of his magical hat. He is able to pull an endless succession of various tools from it; but often these will be, or appear to be, of little use. Examples include his use of a working fire hose against a lava dragon, a weed-killer against a Shambling Mound, and an electric fan against giant hornets. There are also numerous instances when the whole group is in danger, whereupon Presto will draw from his hat precisely what is needed by which save all his friends. The often comic incidence are attributed to the premise that Presto is young and still coming into his own power ("The Last Illusion"). The user must know what he/she wants when reaching into the magic hat; as a result, Presto's indecisiveness tends to sabotage his results.
In the 2nd season episode "City at the Edge of Midnight" it is shown that he was nicknamed Presto even before coming to the magical Realm, and implies that he was constantly trying to show people magic tricks that did not work, relating his past to the present difficulties he experiences when using his hat. Without his spectacles, Presto is helpless; therefore his fear of losing them is very great.
Sheila, the Thief (voice: Katie Leigh):
As the thief, Sheila has a magical cloak that, when the hood is raised over her head, makes her invisible. This cloak also has, at times, enabled her to teleport over short distances. She is Bobby's older sister and therefore very protective of him. Sheila is usually sensible, somewhat shy, kind, and friendly, but is plagued by self-doubt and fear. Her greatest fear is to be totally alone, making her invisibility cloak, with which she could be ignored even in a crowd, a somewhat ironic accoutrement. She is daring enough to trick her enemies, as by driving a band of Venger's lizard men and bullywugs against each other.
Her compassion and friendliness have made her several friends in the Realm, as in the episode Citadel of Darkness wherein she befriends Venger's younger sister Kareena and converts her to good.
Bobby, the Barbarian (voice: Ted Field III):
- At 8 years old, Bobby is the youngest member of the team. He is the barbarian, as indicated by his fur pants and boots, horned helmet, and cross belt harness. He wields a magic club that can produce shockwaves when he strikes the ground. He is Sheila's younger brother; in contrast to her, Bobby is impulsive and ready to run headlong into battle, even against physically superior enemies. He has a close relationship with Uni. Bobby also makes a cameo in Baldur's Gate II. His hidden fear is becoming helpless. He celebrates his 9th birthday in "Servant of Evil", later saying his age is "almost ten" in the first season episode "The Lost Children".
Uni, the Unicorn (voice: Frank Welker):
Bobby's baby pet unicorn, which he discovers in the first episode and retains as his companion throughout the show. She has the ability to speak, though her words are not quite discernible; she usually is heard echoing Bobby when she agrees to his opinions.
Uni is cute and mostly helpless, and becomes the victim in need of rescue from distress in some episodes, although she can also be helpful in some situations, such as when she helps guide Presto when he is separated from the others in the episode "P-R-E-S-T-O Spells Disaster." In addition, although she is rarely seen using it, Uni has the ability to teleport once per day, although this ability is not revealed until the fourth episode.
While adult unicorns whinny like horses, Uni bleats like a goat, perhaps because she is still a filly. On those rare occasions when Bobby and the others approach returning to Earth, it is presumed that Uni must regrettably be left behind, because it is suggested that she could not survive away from the Realm. This may be contradicted in "Beauty and the Bogbeast", in which Uni actually travels to the kids' home in the "real world"; however, she may not have stayed long enough to suffer any ill effects.
Dungeon Master (voice: Sidney Miller):
The group's friend and mentor, who provides important advice and help, but often in a cryptic way that would not make sense until the team has completed the quest of each episode. It is Dungeon Master who supplied the companions with their weapons and clues for their numerous opportunities to return home. As the series progresses, from his repeated displays of power, it begins to seem possible and later, even probable, that Dungeon Master could easily return the companions home himself. This suspicion is confirmed in the scripted, but unmade, series finale "Requiem", wherein Dungeon Master does just that, without any difficulty. It thus appears that all the quests on which Dungeon Master sends the children are, in reality, ways for him to use them to right injustices, as well as provide them with invaluable character-building experiences.
Dungeon Master eventually reveals that he is Venger's father. He convinces the children not to leave the Realm, with the hope of saving Venger (and younger daughter Kareena) from themselves. When the spell on Venger is broken and he is no longer evil, the children can then return home.
Venger, Force of Evil (voice: Peter Cullen):
The main antagonist and Dungeon Master's son (as revealed in the episode "The Dragon's Graveyard" and again in the lost episode "Requiem"), Venger is an evil wizard who seeks to use the children's magical weapons to bolster his power. Though described as an evil force, comparable to the devil, it is occasionally hinted that he was once good, but fell under a corrupting influence. This is later revealed to be true in the finale "Requiem", where Venger is eventually restored to his former self. He has one horn (placed as if to suggest the absence of a second), powerful magic, and powerful minions, most notably Shadow Demon. His voice is deep and has an artificial reverberation (reminiscent of Darth Vader's). Venger is far from invincible and is often thwarted by the kids. In "The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn," it is revealed that Venger's master is He Whose Name Cannot Be Spoken who was imprisoned in the Box of Beofire and is a terror on other worlds.
Shadow Demon (voice: Bob Holt):
He is Venger's personal spy and assistant. He often informs Venger about the kids' current quest.
Venger's arch-rival is a fearsome dragon with a screeching voice and five heads. Although Venger and the children both avoid Tiamat, the children make a deal with her in "The Dragon's Graveyard" to thwart Venger. Tiamat's five heads correspond to the five types of chromatic dragon in the Dungeons & Dragons game, whence she originated as a monster. Her five heads exhale fire, ice, bolts of lightning, acid, and streams of poisonous gas, respectively. She is named after the Tiamat of Babylonian mythology. Tiamat lives in the Dragon's Graveyard, a sacred place where only the most ancient of dragons go to die. She dutifully guards the bones of the ancestral dragons, as well as the magic weapons stored there, from greedy creatures that would use them for their own ends. Somehow, Dungeon Master was able to convince her to release five of the weapons into his care.
Episode & plot guideEdit
- Nominated for the 1986 Young Artist Award in the category of outstanding young actress in an animation/voice-over (Tonya Gayle Smith)
The cartoon ran in the United Kingdom and United States with an instrumental theme; however, in France it ran with the song "Le Sourire du Dragon" sung by Dorothée; in Spain, the theme song "Dragones y Mazmorras" ("Dragons and Dungeons") sung by Dulces became very popular.
In other countries, it also ran with a local translation of this song. However, in Brazil, due to a change in character roles, the lyrics are altered.
A Dungeons & Dragons toyline was produced by LJN in 1983., including original characters such as Warduke, Strongheart the Paladin or the evil Wizard Kelek that would later appear in campaigns for the role-playing game. None of the main characters from the TV series was included in the toyline, but a connection does exist, as Warduke, Strongheart and several characters from the toyline occasionally guest-starred in some episodes of the series. Only in Spain and Portugal were produced PVC figures of the main cast (Hank, Sheila, etc.).
UK - From the Contender Entertainment Group
- Dungeons & Dragons — The Complete Animated Series
- Dungeons & Dragons volume 1
- Dungeons & Dragons volume 2
- Dungeons & Dragons volume 3
- Dungeons & Dragons volume 4
US - From BCI Eclipse
- Dungeons & Dragons — The Complete Series
- The pilot episode (Disc 1) has commentary from the creative team that provides insight about making the series and also some of the difficulties encountered with anti-D&D groups.
There are differences between both releases. The US DVD release is notable for having a specially created audio of the final episode that was never made (this is not available on the UK DVD). Likewise a booklet was created for the US release which the UK one does not have. The US release, however, is also notable for having had some music alterations for some of the episodes for copyright reasons, or so Disney claims. This has been done by replacing the original score for the affected episodes with various instrumental tracks from other episodes of the series plus a few from other sources. The UK release however does not suffer from this and all of the original music scores are still intact in the episodes. Why the UK is not affected by the change, but the US version is, is a subject of debate.
Differences with the RPGEdit
The "Dungeon Master" appears as a gnome-like character who interacts physically with the leading characters, acting as a mentor and having wizardly or godlike powers. The Dungeon Master could as a result, in some rare instances, also be hurt or threatened in the show. The DM of an RPG does not have a physical manifestation or character representing him/herself in the game, but instead acts out the parts of Non-Player-Characters & Monsters, and gives descriptions of the player's physical surroundings, while acting as a referee. The film character of Dungeon Master is a play on RPG refereeing, in that Dungeon Master personifies jokes and familiar tropes to DM's of RPG gaming. Dungeon Master controls the world around the characters; his son plays the arch-evil NPC, Venger. When the party complains he teasingly offers them a way home, much like an RPG DM suggesting that now is time to end a D&D session; but something always comes up to keep the game going. The mysterious appearances of Dungeon Master in the cartoon may be inspired by the occasional instances in RPG D&D where the DM breaks the fourth wall, or ceases to act merely as a narrator and directly gives hints or guidance to players who were close to dooming their characters.
Most D&D games have characters whose origins are in the world they exist, such as Greyhawk, or Blackmoor, or the Forgotten Realms (the third of which was created after the series ended). In the show, the protagonists were children from Earth who were transported to "The Realm" (which has no specific name in this series). The cartoon characters are like D&D reflections of the ordinary humans who rode the dark ride at the start of the series. Each character's personality is a derivative of their real-world personality. In an RPG this would be considered poor role-playing as the purpose is to play a character different from yourself. Thus, the premise of the cartoon is a send-up on role-playing gaming, where normal people transport themselves (in their minds) to another world, to act out a character. Alternatively, the concept was simply a way of creating characters with whom kids could empathize in a Saturday morning cartoon.
There are several appearances of creatures true to the game. Purple Worms, and other creatures were often accurately depicted in the show, clearly drawing inspiration from art within such books as the Monster Manual. At times, however, the monsters differed from their game descriptions. One case was the Beholder. In the game, a beholder has different powers for each eye, but during the in-show appearance of "Eye of the Beholder", the beholder used generic energy blasts and "force tentacles".
The US Complete Series DVD release has packaged inside a 30-page hardcover minibook entitled "Dungeons & Dragons Animated Series Handbook", which was prepared by Wizards of the Coast as an adaptation of the animated series to D&D 3.5 paper & pen rules. The handbook includes an adventure, "Beneath the Blade of Sword Mountain", that serves as a prequel to the Animated Series episode "The Dragon's Graveyard". The book also outlines the D&D statistics of the main characters of the Animated Series (along with Venger and Shadow Demon), and rules for their items of power--although, the adaptations do not include exact power conversions from the series. For example, Hank's Energy Bow can fire energy arrows (which are treated as Magic Missiles), but there is no mention in the converted rules of his ability to warp that energy into the energy rope constructs seen many times in the series.
A magic hat is usually not the source of a wizard's spell powers in the game (verbal and material components may be required). Presto's magic hat is derived from a blend of legerdemain archetypy and the pointed wizard's hats depicted in fantasy art and literature. In the game, a wizard memorizes specific known spells and calls for which spell he wishes to cast in any given scenario, whereas Presto does magic by saying a rhyme and pulling randomly related results out of his hat. Since Presto could not cast spells without his hat, one might conclude that the hat was either a sort of focus or material component; it is more likely a magical item unto itself, perhaps with a flexible series of command words, with results as random as the dangerously powerful Deck of Many Things or wand of wonder. If all of the power was indeed in the hat (and Presto seemed to have little control over the results), in the RPG Presto would in fact not need to be a "wizard", but could have been any 1st level character with magical item use such as a Rogue, using the Use Magic Item skill (3.0 or 3.5 edition game rules).
- ↑ "Preface to Requiem: The Unproduced Dungeons and Dragons Finale". MichaelReaves.com. http://www.michaelreaves.com/requiem_preface.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Development of the Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon: Series Bible". Mark Evanier. http://www.kryschenns-fortress.com/The_Show/seriesbible.html. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- ↑ "Point of view, by Mark Evanier". POVOnline.com. http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL145.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- ↑ "Series 1 & 2 of the original LJN toyline at toyarchive.com". http://www.toyarchive.com/Dungeons&Dragons/Figures/ActionFigures.html. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- ↑ "Spanish set of PVC figures based on the TV series at toyarchive.com". http://www.toyarchive.com/DungeonsDragonsSpanishPVC.html. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- ↑ "Portugese set of PVC figures based on the TV series at toyarchive.com". http://www.toyarchive.com/Dungeons&Dragons/DungeonsDragonsPortugalPVC.html. Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- ↑ BBC Programme Catalogue
- ↑ TVGlobinho - Infantil - Rede Globo
- Dungeons & Dragons at the Internet Movie Database
- Dungeons & Dragons at TV.com
- POVonline - Mark Evanier developed the series and wrote the pilot. He comments the series on his weblog (e.g. ) and on his main site (, ).
- About Katherine Lawrence - Katherine Lawrence has fond memories of D&D (first script she sold).
- Jeffrey Scott's site, www.jeffreyscott.tv - Jeffrey Scott has been working for a long time in animation, including Dragon Tales.
- Michael Reaves' site - Michael Reaves wrote several episodes including the un-produced finale.
- The Realm, by Zakiyah
- Zakiyah's Links page - has links to many more fan sites.
- Cavern of Tiamat - a comprehensive episode guide with more details.
- "Choices" - the first live-action short based on the cartoon.
- "Choices" - The movie on GameVideos.com