Dungeons & Dragons (TV series)

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Dungeons & Dragons
Dungeons and Dragons DVD boxset art.jpg
Genre Action
Adventure
Fantasy
Created by Kevin Paul Coates
Dennis Marks
Takashi
Developed by Mark Evanier
Directed by Bob Richardson (season 1)
Karl Geurs (seasons 2–3)
Voices of Willie Aames
Don Most
Katie Leigh
Adam Rich
Tonia Gayle Smith
Teddy Field III
Sidney Miller
Peter Cullen
Frank Welker
Bob Holt
Composer(s) Johnny Douglas
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 27 + 1 unproduced episode (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) David H. DePatie (season 1)
Lee Gunther (seasons 1–3)
Margaret Loesch (seasons 2–3)
Producer(s) Bob Richardson (season 1)
Karl Geurs (seasons 2–3)
Running time 24 minutes
Production company(s) Marvel Productions
(Disney–ABC Domestic Television)
TSR Entertainment
Broadcast
Original channel CBS
Original run September 17, 1983 (1983-09-17)[1] – December 7, 1985 (1985-12-07)

Dungeons & Dragons is an American animated television series based on TSR's Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. A co-production of Marvel Productions and TSR, the show originally ran from 1983 through 1985 for three seasons on CBS for a total of twenty-seven episodes. The Japanese company Toei Animation did the animation for this series.

The show focused on a group of six friends who are transported into the titular realm and followed their adventures as they tried to find a way home with the help of their guide 'Dungeon Master'. A final un-produced episode would have served as a conclusion as well as a re-imagining had the series been picked up for a fourth season. However, the show was cancelled before the episode was made. The script can be found from various sources online and was performed as an audio drama as a special feature for the BCI Eclipse DVD edition of the series.

Overview[edit]

The show focuses on a group of friends aged between 8-15 who are sucked into the "Realm of Dungeons & Dragons" by taking a magical dark ride on an amusement park roller coaster. Upon arriving in the realm they meet Dungeon Master (named for the referee in the role-playing game) who gives each child a magical item.

The children's main goal is to find a way home, but they often take detours to help people, or find that their fates are intertwined with that of others. The group come across many different enemies, but their primary antagonist is Venger. Venger is a powerful wizard who wishes to rule the realm and believes the power from the children's weapons will help him to do so. Another recurring villain is Tiamat, who is a five-headed dragon and the only creature Venger fears.

Throughout the show, a connection is suggested between Dungeon Master and Venger. The final un-produced episode would have revealed that Venger is the Dungeon Master's corrupted son, and would have explained that the children were brought into this realm to help redeem Venger and to restore balance to their world.

Characters[edit]

Protagonists[edit]

Alt text
Left to right: Hank, Eric, Diana, Presto, Sheila, Bobby and Uni.
  • Hank, the Ranger (voiced by Willie Aames): At 15,[2] he is the oldest of the gang, along with Eric, and a natural leader. Hank is a brave and noble individual; maintaining a focus and determination, even when presented with grave danger. Hank is a Ranger, with a magical bow that shoots arrows of glowing energy. These arrows could be used in many different ways such as a climbing tool, to hurt enemies, to bind them or to create light.
  • Eric, the Cavalier (voiced by 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, and he also fulfills 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. Despite his cowardice and reluctance, Eric has a well-hidden heroic core, and constantly saves his friends from danger with his magical shield, which can project a force field. In one episode, he is even granted the powers of the Dungeon Master, and manages this duty quite successfully. 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."[3]
  • Diana, the Acrobat (voiced by Tonia Gayle Smith): Diana is a beautiful and brave 14-year-old girl.[2] She is an acrobat, and an outspoken and tomboyish member of the group. She carries a magic staff which can shift in length from as short as a few inches to be easily carried on her person to long as six feet to be used as a defensive weapon or as an aid during various acrobatic moves. Furthermore, if the staff is broken apart, Diana simply has to touch the severed pieces together at their break point and they will completely reunite as one unit. She is skilled at handling animals, and is a self-assured, confident person. These qualities make her the natural leader in the absence of Hank. It is mentioned that Diana is chosen as the acrobat because in her real world she is an Olympic-level gymnastics practitioner.
  • Presto, the Magician (voiced by Adam Rich): 14-year-old Albert, better known as Presto,[2] is the wizard. Presto fulfills a role of the well-meaning, diligent, but hopeless magician. 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. There are also numerous instances when the whole group is in danger, whereupon Presto will draw from his hat precisely what is needed in order to save all of his friends.
  • Sheila, the Thief (voiced by Katie Leigh): As the thief, Sheila has a magical cloak which, when the hood is raised over her head, makes her invisible. Although Shelia is often shy and nervous with a deep-seated fear of loneliness, she will always display bravery when her friends are in trouble, especially her younger brother, Bobby. Sheila is also the first to point out the flaws or dangers of the group's plans. (In both the Spanish and Latin American versions of Dungeons & Dragons, Sheila is called a mage, or an illusionist.)
  • Bobby, the Barbarian (voiced by Ted Field III): Bobby is the youngest member of the team; the characters celebrate his eighth birthday in the "Servant Of Evil" episode but says he is "almost ten" four episodes later in "The Lost Children." He is the barbarian, as indicated by his fur pants and boots, horned helmet, and cross belt harness. 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, usually resulting in one of the others moving him from harm's way. He has a close relationship with Uni and is often reluctant to leave her when they discover a way home. Bobby carries a magical club, which he regularly uses to trigger earthquakes or dislodge rocks when he strikes the ground.
  • Uni, the Unicorn (vocal effects provided by Frank Welker): Uni is Bobby's pet, a baby unicorn, which Bobby 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. As seen in the episode "Valley of the Unicorns", Uni also possesses the potential for the natural unicorn ability to teleport once a day, and has accessed this power through tremendous concentration and effort; it is intimated that she is still too young to use this ability regularly.
  • Dungeon Master (voiced by Sidney Miller): The group's friend and mentor, he provides important advice and help, but often in a cryptic way that does not make sense until the team has completed the quest of each episode. It is the Dungeon Master who supplies 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 the Dungeon Master could easily return the companions home himself. This suspicion is confirmed in the script for the unmade series finale, "Requiem", wherein the Dungeon Master proves he can do just that, without any difficulty.[4] In some episodes, including "City at the Edge of Midnight" and "The Last Illusion", realm inhabitants display great respect or nervous awe of Dungeon Master.
Alt text
Venger; the main villain.

Antagonists[edit]

  • Venger, Force of Evil (voiced by Peter Cullen): The main antagonist and the Dungeon Master's son (as revealed in the episode "The Dragon's Graveyard" and again in the lost episode "Requiem"), as well as Kareena's brother ("Citadel of Shadow"), Venger is an evil wizard of great power 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 unmade finale "Requiem", when Venger is restored to his former self.
  • Shadow Demon (voiced by Bob Holt): A shadowy demon, he is Venger's personal spy and assistant. Shadow Demon often informs Venger about the children's (whom he refers to as "Dungeon Master's young ones") current quests.
  • Tiamat (vocal effects provided by Frank Welker): Venger's arch-rival is a fearsome female five-headed dragon with a reverberating multi-level voice. Her five heads are : a white head breathing ice, a green head breathing toxic gas, a central red head breathing fire, a blue head breathing lightning, and a black head breathing acid. Although Venger and the children both avoid Tiamat, the children often use her to their own ends such as making a deal with her in "The Dragon's Graveyard" to thwart Venger.

Episodes[edit]

The show ran for 27 episodes split into three seasons of thirteen, eight, and six episodes respectively. Most of the episodes served as 'stand alone' stories; however, towards the end of the series, the storyline involving Venger being revealed as Dungeon Master's son was sewn into several episodes. This storyline would have climaxed in the un-produced finale "Requiem".

Opening credits[edit]

The opening credits served as an introduction to the series and an explanation as to how the children ended up in the realm. It begins with the group getting on the 'Dungeons and Dragons' ride, which then transports them. Dungeon Master appears to give them their individual weapons to defend themselves from Tiamat and Venger.

The credits were altered for the second and third seasons. It started in a similar way to the first with group getting onto the roller coaster. Once in the realm, however, the characters can be seen in a castle and already in possession of their weapons fighting various enemies before Venger appears and says -

The credits featured an orchestral score composed by Johnny Douglas, which played alongside the soundtrack of Dungeon Master. However, in France it ran with the song "Le Sourire du Dragon" sung by Dorothée and in Spain, the theme song "Dragones y Mazmorras" ("Dragons and Dungeons") sung by Dulces became very popular.

Controversy[edit]

The level of violence was controversial for American 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.[5] In 1985, the National Coalition on Television Violence demanded that the FTC run a warning during each broadcast stating that Dungeons & Dragons had been linked to real-life violent deaths.[6] The series spawned more than 100 different licenses,[7] and the show led its time slot for two years.[1][7]

Merchandise[edit]

The show produced a variety of spin-off merchandise.

DVD releases[edit]

US DVD Cover.

In Region 2, E1 Entertainment UK (formerly Contender), originally under license from Fox Kids (then co-owned by 20th Century Fox and Saban International) and later from Disney, released Dungeons & Dragons on DVD in the UK in four volume sets between June 27, 2005, and January 15, 2007. They also released a complete series set on October 18, 2004, prior to releasing the 4 separate volumes.[citation needed]

In Region 1, BCI Eclipse (under license from Disney) released Dungeons & Dragons - The Complete Animated Series on DVD for the very first time on December 5, 2006. The 5-disc set featured an extensive array of special features including documentaries, commentaries, character profiles and more. This release is now out of print as BCI Eclipse ceased operations in December 2008.[8]

There are differences between the R1 & R2 releases. The US DVD release is notable for having a specially-created radio play of the final episode, "Requiem", that was never made (this is not available on the UK DVD). Likewise, an episode-guide booklet and role-playing game booklet were created for the US release, which the UK release does not have. The US release, however, is also notable for having had some music alterations for copyright reasons; parts of the original scores for the last nine episodes have been replaced with various instrumental tracks from other episodes of the series plus a few from other sources. In the UK release, however, all the original music is intact.[original research?]

In June 2009, Mill Creek Entertainment acquired the rights to the series and subsequently re-released the complete series on August 25, 2009, in a 3-disc set without any special features but with almost all the original music restored; the release contains all the televised episodes but does not contain the radio play of "Requiem".[9] Mill Creek also released a single-disc best-of DVD on the same day.[citation needed]

Toys[edit]

A Dungeons & Dragons toy line was produced by LJN in 1983,[10] including original characters such as Warduke, Strongheart the Paladin, and 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 toy line, but a connection does exist, as Warduke, Strongheart, and several characters from the toy line occasionally guest-starred in some episodes of the series. Only in Spain and Portugal were PVC figures of the main cast (Hank, Sheila, etc.) produced.[11][12]

Games[edit]

The PC game Baldur's Gate II features a parody Easter Egg in the form of portraits featuring Hank and Bobby in the Adventurer's Mart in Athkatla, Amn. Both portraits can be clicked and the player can read jokes that imply they were eaten by Tiamat.[13]

Books[edit]

Several books on this series were released at the time of its popularity height.

  • Pick a Path to Adventure. Six books following the Choose Your Own Adventure format, from the point of view of one of the children. Six separate stories were created, each focused on a separate character (though in the books Eric was replaced by his brother, who did not appear in the cartoon series). These books were released by TSR.
  • The UK Annuals. Two hardcover books published in the United Kingdom in 1985 and 1986, by World International Publishing Limited. Included illustrated stories of differing quality. The first of which included eight original adventures whilst the second only included three as well as a re-telling of the episode 'Eye Of The Beholder' renamed as 'Eye Of The Watchman'.
  • Marvel Summer Special 1987: Prison Without Walls. Published in the United Kingdom. A simple re-telling of the episode 'Prison Without Wall' which included original artwork drawn for the book.
  • "Donjons et Dragons": Published in France, a six-book collection that re-tells some of the most popular episodes.
  • "Tour of the Realms": Published by DC comics features the now adult characters still stuck in the Realms, now the Forgotten Realms, with Presto seeking apprenticeship with Elminster the Mage.

Awards[edit]

For her work on the series, Tonya Gayle Smith (as "Diana") was nominated for Outstanding Young Actress in an Animation Voice-over at the 1984-1985 Youth in Film Awards.[14]

In January 2009, IGN ranked Dungeons & Dragons at #64 on its "Best 100 Animated Series" list.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  2. ^ a b c "Archive of Development of the Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon: Series Bible". Mark Evanier. Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  3. ^ "Point of view, by Mark Evanier". POVOnline.com. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  4. ^ Requiem - The Unproduced Dungeons and Dragons Finale at michaelreaves.com (the author's official site) (archives)
  5. ^ "Preface to Requiem: The Unproduced Dungeons and Dragons Finale". MichaelReaves.com. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved 2007-05-23. 
  6. ^ Evil influences: crusades against the mass media p.153 - Author: Steven Starker, 1989.
  7. ^ a b "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2005-08-20. 
  8. ^ Tvshowsondvd.com
  9. ^ "Dungeons and Dragons - Mill Creek Acquires the License to the Classic '80s Cartoon". Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  10. ^ "Series 1 & 2 of the original LJN toyline at toyarchive.com". Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  11. ^ "Spanish set of PVC figures based on the TV series at toyarchive.com". Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  12. ^ "Portuguese set of PVC figures based on the TV series at toyarchive.com". Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  13. ^ Dungeonsdragonscartoon.com
  14. ^ Seventh Annual Youth in Film Awards: 1984-1985. YoungArtistsAwards.org. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
  15. ^ IGN

External links[edit]

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