Dungeons and Dragons (Cartoon Series)

I was in fourth or fifth grade when I first discovered the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. I’d heard bits and pieces about this supposedly “dangerous” game from some of the older kids in the neighborhood, and told my parents I wanted to check it out. Instead of freaking out and writing the game off as violent or Satanic (like a lot of parents did back then), my parents ended up buying the basic edition for us to play together as a family. Dad served as Dungeon Master while mom, sis and I bumbled our way through our first adventure together. While my folks decided it wasn’t for them, they saw no problem with me playing D&D and gave it their blessing. Did I mention I have super cool parents? And just as I began getting really into Dungeons and Dragons (the game), Dungeons and Dragons (the cartoon) made its debut as a Saturday morning cartoon.

The cartoon version of Dungeons and Dragons tells the story of six kids who are magically transported into the realm of Dungeons and Dragons through a bizarre carnival ride. The show debuted in 1983, ran for three seasons, and produced 27 episodes. The story of the children’s magical journey is told during the opening credits; as such, the episodes can be viewed in any order. Each of the kids had a specific class (just like the role playing game) and a magical weapon bestowed upon them by Dungeon Master: Hank the Ranger, Eric the Cavalier, Diana the Acrobat, Presto the Magician, Sheila the Thief and her little brother Bobby the Barbarian wandered the strange new world, constantly searching for a way home. Along with these six protagonists, other regular occuring characters include Bobby’s pet unicorn Uni, the kids’ evil nemesis Venger, Tiamat the dragon, and of course the Yoda-like Dungeon Master.

I’ve been waiting 20 years to finally own this series at home; as such, my review is probably a bit biased. One of my first eBay purchases was a bootleg dub of most of the episodes on two VHS tapes, so to finally own the entire series on DVD is quite exciting. As someone who has been waiting so long for this to be released on DVD, I am glad to say that the BCI studio did everything right with this set.

There are enough bonus materials here to please even the most finicky spellcaster. Two of the episode, “Night of No Tomorrow” (the series’ pilot episode) and “The Dragon’s Graveyard” come with commentary tracks featuring several people associated with the show, including the show’s producer, editor, director, an animator, a writer, and even a CBS executive. The commentary tracks present listeners with the background of how the show came about and touch on several interesting points, such as issues censors had with the show and how the characters developed over time. The fifth bonus disc also contains animaed storyboards, tons of photo galleries, a fan film based on one of the episodes, scripts, and more. One of the most special extras for fans of the show is the script and radio-style presentation of “Requiem”, the 28th and final episode of the show which was written but never created. Fans and newcomers to the series alike will also enjoy “Entering the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons,” a 30-minute featurette which includes a lot of great footage.

The episodes are as fun and exciting as ever to watch. The episodes look and sound as I remember them; the presentation suits the material, and the menus are particularly well designed and add to the overall package presenation. As an adult looking back it’s a little disappointing that there was no official ending to the kids’ adventure, and a few of the earlier episodes have a Scooby Doo’ish “I think I’ve seen this before” plots, but the series is still a treat to watch whether you’re an adult or a child — a fact my five-year-old son can attest to. He spent the majority of the weekend by my side, watching all 27 episodes with me.

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