Dungeons & Dragons (TV series)
|Dungeons & Dragons|
DVD boxset cover
|Created by||Kevin Paul Coates|
|Developed by||Mark Evanier|
|Directed by||Bob Richardson (season 1)|
Karl Geurs (seasons 2–3)
|Voices of||Willie Aames|
Tonia Gayle Smith
Teddy Field III
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||27 + 1 unproduced episode (list of episodes)|
|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|
|Distributor||Disney-ABC Domestic Television|
|Original release||September 17, 1983 – December 7, 1985|
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.
The show focuses on a group of friends aged between 8 and 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 that Venger fears.
Throughout the show, a connection is suggested between Dungeon Master and Venger. The final unproduced episode "Requiem" would have confirmed that Venger is the Dungeon Master's corrupted son (making Karena Venger's sister and Dungeon Master's daughter), redeemed Venger (giving those trapped in this realm their freedom), and ended on a cliffhanger where the six children could finally return home or deal with evil that still existed in the realm.
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- Hank, the Ranger (voiced by Willie Aames): At 15, 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. His deepest fear is a failure to be a leader ("Quest of the Skeleton Warrior"). Twice he does fail as a leader: making the wrong decision trying to save Bobby from Venger ("The Traitor") and disobeying Dungeon Master's instructions ("The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn"). Only once does his anger and frustration at not going home result in uncontrollable rage at Venger ("The Dragon's Graveyard"). Of all the kids, Venger regards Hank as his most personal enemy ("The Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn").
- Eric, the Cavalier (voiced by Don Most): The Cavalier age 15 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 frequently saves his friends from danger with his magical shield, which can project a force field. In one episode ("Day of the Dungeon Master"), he is even granted the powers of the Dungeon Master, and manages this duty quite successfully—even to the extent of risking his own life fighting Venger—so his friends can return 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 (voiced by Tonia Gayle Smith): Diana is a beautiful and brave 14-year-old girl. 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 as long as six feet, and which she uses as a weapon or as an aid in 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 reunite. 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 gymnast. In "Child of the Stargazer" Diana finds her soulmate—whom she must give up in order to save a community.
- Presto, the Magician (voiced by Adam Rich): 14-year-old Albert, better known as Presto, 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. Although, like all the kids, Presto yearns to return home, in "The Last illusion" Presto finds his soulmate—an [clarify] named Varla and makes friends with the Fairie Dragon Amber ("Cave of the Fairie Dragons").
- Sheila, the Thief (voiced by Katie Leigh): As the Thief, Sheila age 13 has a magical cloak which, when the hood is raised over her head, makes her invisible. Although Sheila is often shy and nervous ("Citadel of Shadow") with a deep-seated monophobia (fear of being alone) ("Quest of the Skeleton Warrior"), 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. Through her capacity for friendship with those in trouble she receives unexpected rewards—such as being offered to become Queen of Zinn which she politely declines ("The Garden of Zinn") and redeeming Karena, Dungeonmaster's daughter, from evil ("Citadel of Shadow").
- Bobby, the Barbarian (voiced by Ted Field III): Bobby is the youngest member of the team, eight years old when he enters the realm; the characters celebrate his ninth birthday in the "Servant of Evil" episode, and he confirms that 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. In "The Dragon's Graveyard", the strain of being separated from family and friends causes him to have an emotional breakdown; in "The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow", Bobby finds his soulmate Terri, whom he must give up in order to save her from Venger.
- 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—without her horn she cannot teleport and becomes very weak.
- 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. 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. It is through the efforts of the kids that both of Dungeon Master's children, Venger ("Requiem") and Karena ("Citadel of Shadow"), are redeemed from evil.
- Venger, the Force of Evil (voiced by Peter Cullen): The main antagonist and the Dungeon Master's son (as revealed in the unmade finale "Requiem"), Venger is an evil wizard of great power who seeks to use the children's magical weapons to bolster his power. He especially hates the kids not only because their refusal to part with their weapons prevents him from not only destroying Tiamat ("The Hall of Bones") and conquering the realm ("The Dragon's Graveyard") but also because they are "pure of heart" ("Quest of the Skeleton Warrior"). He is described as an evil force, although it is hinted that he was once good, but fell under a corrupting influence ("The Treasure of Tardos"). 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 destroy Venger. Although promotional blurbs show the kids fighting Tiamat, the kids only fight her twice ("The Night of No Tomorrow" and "The Dragon's Graveyard")-Tiamat's main quarrel is with Venger. The non-canonical "Baldur's Gate II" makes the claim that the kids were destroyed by Tiamat.
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 unproduced finale "Requiem".
Fear not: Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, and Acrobat. That was Venger, the force of evil. I am Dungeon Master, your guide in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons!
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 & Dragons" ride, which then transports them to the realm. 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 -
There is no escape from the realm of Dungeons and Dragons!
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. In Spain, the theme song "Dragones y Mazmorras" ("Dragons and Dungeons") sung by Dulces became very popular.
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. 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. The series spawned more than 100 different licenses, and the show led its time slot for two years.
The show produced a variety of spin-off merchandise.
In Region 1, BCI Eclipse (under its Ink & Paint classic animation entertainment label) (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 all 27 episodes, uncut, digitally re-mastered and presented in story continuity order, as well as 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.
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".
An Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line was produced by LJN in 1983, including original characters such as Warduke, Strongheart the Paladin, and the evil Wizard Kelek that would later appear in campaigns for the Basic edition of the roleplaying game. None of the main characters from the TV series were included in the toy line, but a connection does exist, as Warduke, Strongheart, and Kelek each guest-starred in their respective episode of the series. Only in Spain and Portugal were PVC figures of the main cast (Hank, Sheila, etc.) produced.
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.
Several books on this series were released at the time of its greatest popularity.
- 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 1987, 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.
In January 2009, IGN ranked Dungeons & Dragons at #64 on its "Best 100 Animated Series" list.
- "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03.
- "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.
- "Point of view, by Mark Evanier". NewsFromMe.com. Retrieved 2016-11-01.
- Requiem - The Unproduced Dungeons and Dragons Finale at michaelreaves.com (the author's official site) (archives)
- "Preface to Requiem: The Unproduced Dungeons and Dragons Finale". MichaelReaves.com. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- Evil influences: crusades against the mass media p.153 - Author: Steven Starker, 1989.
- "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2005-08-20.
- Tvshowsondvd.com https://web.archive.org/web/20100531025036/http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Site-News-BCI-Shut-Down/11064. Archived from the original on 2010-05-31. Missing or empty
- "Dungeons and Dragons - Mill Creek Acquires the License to the Classic '80s Cartoon". Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
- "Series 1 & 2 of the original LJN toyline at toyarchive.com". Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- "Spanish set of PVC figures based on the TV series at toyarchive.com". Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- "Portuguese set of PVC figures based on the TV series at toyarchive.com". Retrieved 2008-01-23.
- "Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon Show books". RPGGeek. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
- "Seventh Annual Youth in Film Awards: 1984-1985". YoungArtistsAwards.org. Archived from the original on 2010-11-14. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
- "Top 100 Animated Series". IGN. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
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