When I was a kid my parents restricted me to an hour of Saturday morning cartoons a week. One time, thinking that I wouldn’t be caught, I watched about three hours of cartoons thinking that I was in heaven. When my mother came into the room and saw what I had done, she angrily banned my from cartoons for the next weekend. It is safe to say that it was the worst weekend of my childhood.
I’m not sure what I squandered my hour of entertainment watching, but I do know that for a while it was the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, which turns 30 this year. Therefore I was 9 when it came on, and what I most remember about it was being disappointed that it wasn’t better. I hadn’t started playing the game yet, but even then I expected barbarians, swords, violence, mayhem, and tons of cool looking dragons. What I got instead was a bunch of kids and a unicorn.
It’s easy to see how this happened, since cartoons by this point had merely become a way to sell cereal and other toys to kids and the quality was suspect; most cartoons lasted only a year or two before they were gone. I envision a group of adults with no knowledge about what kids actually like gathered around a table developing this thing; they decided that kids will only want to watch kids slightly older than they were and threw in a cute unicorn to attract a female demographic. (apologies to Mark Evanier, who likely made this show as watchable as it was.)
To be honest I had completely forgotten about the cartoon until a friend of mine brought it to my attention this week. I decided to go to youtube to watch an episode, but not for nostalgia. I remembered an episode that had completely scared the daylights out of me and I wanted to watch it again. Thankfully, the internet is now a place where mediocre television shows go to die, and this one was, surprisingly, good quality and wasn’t filmed by someone recording the episode on television with a camcorder.
The episode is entitled “The Quest of the Skeleton Warrior” and perhaps appropriately the plot of the episode involves the kids trapped in a tower forced to confront their worst fears all while being pursued by a bunch of demons. Two parts I remember in particular scaring the daylights out of me: one, Diana turning into a shriveled old crone and Hank’s face melting off during the encounter with Venger.
I still think the episode is entirely too intense for children, and the face melting is still pretty unsettling. Now though I was disappointed with the quality of the animation which comes from the era where studios thought that people had to be rendered as realistically as possible (which made for some truly bizarre and boring character designs.) Also the voice acting are merely adequate and it seems like all of the villains at this time were done by the same bunch of guys that were working on Transformers and G.I. Joe as well. However, kudos to the series’ creators for creating something that was often pretty decent, had a complicated backstory, and created the awesome Tiamat (and I am still mad that David Punkett had the Tiamat toy and I never did.) And it was a hell of a lot better than He-Man ever was.
So here is the episode that led to several nightmares when I was a kid. Watch it if you dare.