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 was popular in the United States 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.
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.
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
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 (Willie Aames): At fifteen, he is the oldest of the gang, along with Eric, and a natural leader. He is the most level-headed, and his orders are not often questioned (though that does not stop Eric from voicing his usual pessimistic attitudes about them). 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. His greatest fear is of his failure to be a leader. Hank makes a cameo in the game Baldur's Gate II.
- Eric, the Cavalier (Don Most): The 15-year-old 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 heroic core, and constantly saves his friends from danger with his magical shield, which can project a force field. Sometimes he's also smarter than he looks, and 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 through a powerful magical book that he could read when he was given Dungeon Master's powers for a day. Eric seems to be at his strongest when he gets good guidance. In one episode when a rich caravan merchant is taking care of the kids in search of his daughter, Eric's strengths show full force, even giving the other members confidence to press on, when he has been under the oversight of a good father figure. Eric also hints here that his true father is distant with him, and this presumed lack of parenting is causing his attitude with the others. In the Dungeons and Dragons "Pick Your Path To Adventure" books, it's shown that Eric has a stubborn, cheerful younger brother named Michael, who is the playable character (instead of Eric) in that book. 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 (Tonya Gail Smith): Diana is fourteen years old. 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, although Eric was the leader in the episode "Winds of Darkness". It is mentioned that Diana was chosen as the acrobat because in her real world she is an Olympic-level gymnastics practitioner. She also likes horses. 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 weak and dependent in her 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 and she also has a brother, who is a trained pilot (as hinted at in "The Time Lost").
- Presto, the Magician (Adam Rich): 12-years-old Albert, better known as Presto, is the wizard. Presto fulfills 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 of his occasional production of useful items include 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 in order to save all of his friends. The often comic incidents 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. Although in one episode Eric is blunt with Presto to believe in himself and produce something extremely powerful, to which a confident Presto makes an aircraft carrier appear. Presto also appears to have a psychic connection to his soul mate, illusionist Varla in the episode "The Last Illusion". He showed the power of levitation in the episode "Cave of the Faerie Dragon". Like Sheila, he attracts friends rather easily. In the second 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 (Katie Leigh): As the thief, 13-years-old Sheila has a magical cloak that, when the hood is raised over her head, makes her invisible. 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, though, as by driving a band of Venger's lizard men and bullywugs against each other. She appears to have the ability to comprehend languages other than English, where she can understand a fairy. Sheila's 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; and in "The Garden of Zinn" she even receives a proposal from a grateful king she had released from a curse, which she politely declines. In both the Spanish versions of Spain and Latin America, Sheila was not a thief but a mage or illusionist.
- Bobby, the Barbarian (Ted Field III): At eight 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. His hidden fear is becoming helpless. Bobby celebrates his ninth birthday in "Servant of Evil", later saying his age is "almost ten" in the first season episode "The Lost Children". In the episode "The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow", he falls in love with a young seer called Terri, who also originates from Earth. In her last vision it is implied that she and Bobby will eventually meet again. Bobby also makes a cameo in Baldur's Gate II.
- Uni, the Unicorn (Frank Welker): Bobby's pet, a baby 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 (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. Although another possibility is that Dungeon Master lacked the power to simply send the children home, and had gained an increase in magical ability when the curse on Venger was broken. Dungeon Master eventually reveals in the requiem script for the last episode that was never made that he is Venger's father when the young ones redeemed Venger from evil, that they did the one thing he could not, return his son to him. He then opens a portal and gives the children the choice of remaining to fight more evil and have more adventures or return home. The scene closes on the children about to make the choice. It was never revealed which choice they made.
- Venger, Force of Evil (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") as well as Kareena's brother ("Citadel of Shadow"), Venger is an evil wizard of nearly infinite 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 finale "Requiem", where Venger is eventually restored to his former self. It is known that some time before the children arrived in the Realm, he has been busy conquering people, acquiring slaves and winning a war against little sister Kareena. He has one horn (placed as if to suggest the absence of a second), powerful magic, and powerful minions, most notably the 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. Venger appears to have other enemies to fight especially the enchanter Lukion. 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. One enemy who he both fears and cannot defeat is Tiamat.
- Shadow Demon (Bob Holt): A shadowy demon. He is Venger's personal spy and assistant. He often informs Venger about the kids' current quest.
- Tiamat (Frank Welker): 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 six of the weapons into his care.
Episode & plot guide
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.).
DVDs of the series were released in the UK (Region 2) in 2004. The US Region 1 DVDs were released on December 5
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 "radio play" 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.
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