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Forgotten Childhood – Dungeons And Dragons

There is no escape from the realm of Dungeons and Dragons!

Dungeons and Dragons the animated television series first aired on CBS in the US in 1983, running hot on the tails of the controversial and ever-growing hobby of tabletop gaming, inspired by the game with the same name. The late 70’s and early 80’s saw the birth and rapid rise of the D&D game and whether you were playing it or giving out about it, everyone was talking about it from concerned parents, hardened dungeon explorerers to the media, so naturally the decision to give the game some airtime and an animated series was made.
At this point in the game’s history, it was still owned and controlled by it’s founding company TSR, these same people co-produced the series with Marvel Productions (yes those guys!) and it would be animated by  Japanese company, Toei Animation (Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon).

The series spanned an incomplete three seasons, running from 83 – 85 and much like the game it too became marred in controversy when those very same concerned parents watched it and believed the show to be too violent for children. Pressured executives almost pulled certain episodes (notably the one where the heroes almost kill their nemesis) and the NCTV (National Coalition for Television Violence) demanded the show run with a warning, believing it was linked to several real life deaths.
The series as you read above never fully finished, with a final episode left on the shelf with the exception of a script it never saw the floor of animation studio and the adventure was over.
(Just a quick note, if you haven’t clicked the video above, do now, it’s the opening track for the show but in French and it’s amazing!)
MY FULL EXPERIENCE (1991 – 2014)
Dungeons & Dragons 80s Cartoon FlagsThere are dozens of cartoons that I hold dear from my childhood, Captain Planet, Pokémon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Rugrats but there has always been one that I’ve held onto – Dungeons and Dragons.
Six young people lost in a terrifying, magical and dangerous world with nothing but their wits and some magical weapons to help them survive and fight off hordes of monsters, armies of goblins and defend themselves against the cruel and malevolent force known as ‘Venger’.
Why this cartoon above all others? venger_&_nightmareWell parts of it fit very well with my own childhood, I have five brothers, we lived in the middle of the countryside surrounded by fields, woods and bogs and my dad, a carpenter, would always make us toy swords, bow and arrow in my own case a bo staff(it was just a long rounded stick) and we would regularly pretend to be Hank, Diana (I was always Diana), Bobby, Sheila and crew and go on our own D&D adventure.
The show at the time was wondrous, magical and frightening particularly whenever the screen was stolen by Venger or worse Tiamat the Dragon but somehow and usually by some pretty obvious plotpoint the children would defeat one or both and escape but lose their only means to get home.
The show was formulaic in that sense, Dungeon Master would appear, offer some pretty confusing and convoluted advice send the children into danger to find their way home, meet one or both opposing forces and sacrifice their freedom for the greater good.
I remember being annoyed at times, wondering why every single time they’d give up their own desires to help others, sometimes I’d find myself siding with the boorish and selfish Eric just because I saw his point of view.
Now that I’m a little (lot) older and I look back on the episodes and I understand it a lot more, that being said the show hasn’t really survived the test of time.
It has been released and re-released, remastered and leaked online – the original episodes and you’ll see yourself if you check episode one below suffered from poor audio at times sounding like it had been recorded in someone’s living room using a dodgy setup and when you begin to pick at it, you can’t help but keep scratching. While the story and message of the strong protecting the weak is admirable, the story NEVER permeates from it, we don’t get an insight into the lives of the children before they came into the world or how the new world changes them such is the issue with many cartoons from the 80’s and early 90’s but it’s not entirely fair drawing comparisons but then and now especially when you look at how far the world of cartoons, their animation and their audiences have come in that time.
I want to talk about the final episode or would be finale and for anyone who is interested in it, it has been adapted into an audio play (and is available online or part of the US DVD set) and it does reveal the fate of the young adventurers. I haven’t listened to it, I don’t want to know what happened to Hank, Bobby, Diana, Sheila, Presto or Eric because part of me doesn’t want the adventure to end – I want to believe that in that world they are still doing good, still questing to find their way home and still fighting the forces of evil.