Dungeons & Dragons: the animated series that rolled a natural 20 on our hearts (retrospective).
Once upon a time in the fantastical world of the 80s, a magical roller coaster transported a group of friends into the thrilling realm of Dungeons & Dragons. Little did they know, they were about to embark on a journey that would captivate viewers and capture our hearts with laughter, danger, and a healthy dose of 80s charm.
Dungeons & Dragons, the animated television series, brought the excitement of the beloved tabletop role-playing game to the small screen. Produced by Marvel Productions and TSR, and featuring the artistic touch of Japanese Toei Animation, this show was a critical hit, though it met its untimely demise after three seasons.
The series followed the adventures of six friends, each blessed (or cursed) with magical items by the enigmatic Dungeon Master. Hank the Ranger, Eric the Cavalier, Diana the Acrobat, Presto the Magician, Sheila the Thief, and Bobby the Barbarian, along with their adorable mascot, Uni the Unicorn, battled the forces of evil while seeking a way back home.
These young heroes faced a slew of dastardly villains, from the wicked wizard Venger to the terrifying five-headed dragon Tiamat. But the real charm of the show lay in the characters themselves. Hank’s unwavering determination, Eric’s comical cowardice, Diana’s acrobatic prowess, Presto’s unpredictable magic, Sheila’s stealthy skills, and Bobby’s youthful courage made for a delightful ensemble of adventurers.
The series was not without its twists and turns, including the revelation that the Dungeon Master and Venger shared a mysterious connection. It was even suggested that Venger was the Dungeon Master’s corrupted son! This tantalizing tidbit of lore was, unfortunately, left unexplored due to the show’s cancellation. But fret not, intrepid viewers! The script for the unproduced finale was released online and has even been adapted into an audio drama and fan-made animated version.
Season 1 begins with a bang – or, more accurately, a poof – as Presto, our lovable but bumbling magician, accidentally summons a horde of fire-breathing dragons to terrorize the town of Helix. In an admirable display of friendship, the kids rally to save Presto, Helix, and their dreams of a quiet life.
From there, the misadventures only escalate. We meet the cowardly knight Sir John, who, along with the children, must vanquish the fearsome Beholder. Ironic, isn’t it? A brave knight who’s afraid of his own shadow. Meanwhile, our plucky young heroes have their magical weapons drained and must navigate the perilous Hall of Bones to recharge them. It’s a good thing they left their warranty cards at home!
But it’s not all doom and gloom for our young adventurers. In the Valley of the Unicorns, they learn the importance of friendship as they rescue Uni from the clutches of the dastardly sorcerer, Kelek. Honestly, who wouldn’t love a pet unicorn?
As the season progresses, the kids have their fair share of mishaps. They turn Eric into a Bogbeast, battle an ogre, and even break the one rule of magical flower sniffing: never, ever sniff a forbidden flower! There are prison breaks, skeleton warriors, and even a brief stint as royalty for Eric – though, to be fair, he’s not quite the king he imagines himself to be.
But fear not, dear reader, for as the seasons change, so too do our heroes. In Season 2, the kids encounter a clairvoyant dreamer, a monstrous Demodragon, and the eerily silent City at the Edge of Midnight. Along the way, they learn valuable life lessons about trust, sacrifice, and the importance of a good night’s sleep.
In one particularly heart-wrenching episode, Bobby must choose between his soulmate, Terri, and the chance to return home. And let’s not forget Eric’s brief stint as Dungeon Master, where he quickly learns that absolute power is absolutely exhausting.
Finally, in Season 3, the kids tackle their toughest challenges yet. They must restore the power of the Dungeon Master, prevent World War II from taking a dark turn, and even confront Venger’s sister, Kareena, in a battle of sibling rivalry for the ages. As they face down the Winds of Darkness, the kids prove that bravery, friendship, and a healthy dose of humor can overcome even the most insurmountable odds.
Dungeons & Dragons was a show ahead of its time, unafraid to tackle darker themes and push the boundaries of children’s television. It faced controversy for its portrayal of violence, but remained a beloved classic that inspired numerous spin-offs and licenses.
Now, in 2023, the characters of this iconic series have made a triumphant return in “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” appearing in live-action, non-speaking cameos (see the video above for a look at this easter egg). It’s a heartwarming tribute to the show that captured the imagination of a generation and left us all wondering if we, too, might one day stumble upon a magical roller coaster to whisk us away to a world of adventure.
So here’s to Dungeons & Dragons, the animated series that rolled a natural 20 on our hearts, and proved that sometimes the greatest adventures are the ones we share with friends. May your dice always roll in your favor, and may you never find yourself on the wrong end of a five-headed dragon’s breath.