.....When he created the original version of the
Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game, Gary Gygax surely could not have
imagined the extent to which his creation would grow. By the early 1980s, the
game was being played by hundreds of thousands of teenagers and adults, and had
inspired a small line of action figures and other merchandise (including
revisions of the original game). However, in 1983, Gygax and TSR approached
Marvel Productions, Ltd. to produce a cartoon based off of the game. Marvel
accepted, and CBS signed the series as part of its video game-themed Saturday
morning lineup (note to Rick Dees: I have some of the promos you recorded for
CBS, and I can and will post them on the Internet). With this, Dungeons &
Dragons was born.
.....One of CBS' two big new hits of the 1983-1984 season (along with the video game cartoon amalgamation known as Saturday Supercade), Dungeons & Dragons quickly became a source of problems for CBS and Marvel (especially Marvel), much like the game the show was spawned from. In addition to the belief by many "family groups" that the game had Satanic references and such (which was actually quite a common accusation in the 1980s), the fact that the cartoon was tied into a game and other merchandise (although, in addition to Saturday Supercade, cartoons based on Pac-Man and Peanuts were on as well-to say nothing of three of Filmation's cartoons that had just ended their runs on CBS-Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, The Lone Ranger, and Zorro), and the level of violence, which had been heavily curtailed in TV cartoons since the 1968 Kerner Commission study. Of course, D&D pushed these limits, and was none too popular with the Peggy Charens of this world for it.
.....The first season, which featured story editing by Steve Gerber, is very much noted (by Gerber) for intense scrutiny by CBS. Also of note is how CBS balked at calling Sheila by her given specialty, Thief. However, despite these issues, the first season was a major success, even though Gerber himself eventually quit the series, vowing to never again work on a cartoon (until the good people at Sunbow mentioned the magic word-syndication-when offering him the head story editing position on G.I. Joe). The show became one of CBS' many hit cartoons, and earned its keep in the 9:30 AM timeslot with pride.
.....The second season not only pushed the envelope even further, but was the series' best-by far. A whopping share of the credit must go to Michael Reaves, who wrote four episodes (and co-wrote one additional episode) out of the eight produced. Each of these five episodes would help to make the cartoon one of the best developed on television, one that became one of CBS' top shows on Saturday morning (as evidenced by the screen time the show received on the network's Saturday morning preview show that season). All of the episodes are at least great, and some are animated classics in every sense of the word.
.....Unfortunately, the level of success achieved in the second season was far too brief. The new opening, ordered by CBS in part to further hide the fact that Sheila is known by the "class" of Thief, wasn't too well received. First off, the intro began with a close-up of the demon head entrance to the Dungeons & Dragons ride, with it's eyes glowing blood red. Then, the zoom out reveals mushrooms that are more like a drug-inspired image than the "benign" ones of the original opening.
.....Then, the third season premiered, and ratings took a nasty hit (in part because the episodes simply weren't of the caliber of the preceding season). Plus, CBS had to deal with the always touchy subject of Nazis and World War II in "The Time Lost". CBS made Marvel remove all Swastikas from the episode (replacing them with the German World War I Iron Cross), and cut short the third season as the ratings hit failed to justify the bother of dealing with the show, while problems with TSR killed the entire series concept altogether.
.....Today, Dungeons & Dragons is remembered fondly by those who actually remember it (except those damn idiots at scifi.ign.com). There's a fairly nice-sized community (which is amazing given how little connection there is between the show and the games nowadays), which has a number of sites with a lot of information on the show. And, Michael Reaves has given the fans closure (and finally silenced such dark rumors as the infamous "Kids in Hell" story), posting his third season finale, "Requiem", which, if it had been produced, would've stood proud alongside his other episodes.
.....For a brief time in 2000, Fox revived the series, albeit with two artificial commercial breaks, and an entire host of issues with episodes like "The Dragon's Graveyard" (in which the true commercial break was not honored by the network). After acquiring Saban (by then the owners of the core Marvel Productions library) and the Fox Family Channel for an obscene amount of money, Disney handed DVD rights to BCI/Eclipse (and noted DVD Special Features producer Andy Mangels), but they ordered Rob Walsh's music removed in all but one the episodes it appeared in (making the decision particularly dubious, especially since the D&D fanbase overlaps with that of Gargoyles, which Disney has likewise mistreated on DVD and in reruns). Additionally, the previews were gone, the opening for all episodes was the one from Season 1 (and then with altered audio), and the credits were wrong (and also omitted the Marvel Productions logo). Between the closure of BCI by parent company Navarre and Disney's legal problems with DVD releases of the Marvel Productions library, it remains to be seen if we'll ever see the series get a proper DVD release.
.....Episodes are listed in order of original broadcast.
1983-1984: First Season
1984-1985: Second Season
1985-1986: Third Season
The Young Ones
Episode Intro Music (*.wav format): D&DEpIntro
The Realm of Dungeons &
Dragons: The Animated Series-This page is the de facto leader of all the sites dedicated to the series, primarily because of Zak.
Helix Town Square-The main message board for the D&D cartoon community.
Preface to "Requiem" (portion of Michael Reaves' website)-This is Michael Reaves own notes about the "lost" finale to Dungeons & Dragons, which he wrote. This preface includes his thoughts about the show, including a nugget about how well "The Dragon's Graveyard" (which he wrote) was received by CBS.
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