For those of a certain age, the mere mention of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon brings back memories of crouching in front of the TV with huge grins plastered across their faces.
For those a little bit younger than a certain age, the show, which originally ran from 1983 to 1985 has become a delightful discovery.
In fact, so popular is the cartoon still that we have had many requests to write about it! What can we say, we’re eager to please! We’re here to serve.
If you’re one of the hundreds of people who’ve picked up the DVD on Amazon (head to the reviews…”One of my favourite cartoon shows of all time”, “If you’re looking at this you already know you want it”) then get ready to dig into a trip down memory lane.
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Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon – The Background
“Never fear Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, and Acrobat,” said the Dungeon Master to the six bewildered children introducing himself to all of them after they entered the realm of Dungeons and Dragons.
That may not strictly count as a legendary dragon quote, but it’s definitely evocative for those who remember the show!
The animated series, based on the wildly popular TSR Inc. Role Playing Game (RPG) of the same name, first aired on CBS in 1983. Over three seasons and 27 episodes millions of children (young and old) were enraptured as we followed the epic quest of our heroes to get themselves back to the real world.
Wait, we’re ahead of ourselves a little, we just got a bit excited! Why were our heroes not already in the real world? Where were they?
Let’s have a look at the plot.
Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon – The Plot
Like all good adventures, it all begins at the amusement park. Six kids of varying ages head to a roller coaster ride called “Dungeons & Dragons”. All six cram into one car and the ride starts. In almost no time at all something happens, and they’re pulled out of the car and thrown into smoke by an unseen force.
They find themselves in an alternate universe where they meet a stranger who introduces himself as The Dungeon Master. He gives each on of our heroes a name and a magical weapon to help them escape from a fearsome, terrifying, five-headed dragon.
The episodes quickly get themselves into a groove. The kids explore their surroundings, desperate to get home to their lives and families. Trapped and scared, the kids try various plans and schemes to return home, only to be repeatedly foiled.
Throughout their journey, they use their magical powers and the guidance of the Dungeon Master to aid and save victims of the mischievous “Venger”.
Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon – The Good Guys
So now we know a little bit about the plot, let’s dive into the characters. As with most sagas, you can divide the main players of the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon into Good Guys and Bad Guys.
Let’s start with the Good Guys, shall we?
Hank the Ranger (voiced by Willie Aames)
From the beginning it’s obvious to everyone, viewers and characters alike, that Hank is going to be the group leader. At 15 years old, he’s the oldest of the group, and he shows maturity beyond his years on numerous occasions.
Hank always keeps his head, even though he has constant concerns about failing as a leader. He’s brave and a true chevalier, carrying a magical bow that shoots energy arrows. Everybody wanted to be like Hank.
Bobby the Barbarian (voiced by Tedy Field III)
At the other end of the scale we have Bobby, the youngest of the group at just eight years old. Bobby is your classic loose cannon, diving headlong into danger with no hesitation and no thoughts about the consequences!
Fortunately, Bobby has the knack of being saved by the others, right in the nick of time.
The younger brother of Sheila, Bobby befriends a baby unicorn, known by the name “Uni”. Belying his young age and small size, Bobby carries a magical club which causes earthquakes when he strikes the ground, bringing down boulders onto the heads of enemies.
Presto the Magician (voiced by Adam Rich)
If you’re a nerd, and let’s face it, we’re all a little bit nerdy, then you’ll like Presto. The relatable wizard always tries his best but is prone to extreme clumsiness. If anything can go wrong, with Presto, it will go wrong! Like many a 14-year-old boy, Presto lacks self-confidence, and his nervousness prevents him from excelling as a wizard. Presto wears a magical wizard’s hat from which he regularly draws different tools to help the gang in desperate times.
Sheila the Thief (voiced by Katie Leigh)
Sheila is our typical 14- year-old teenager who fears being left alone. This fear caused her to often be shy and unsettled. However, Sheila’s bravery and willingness to help others always came to benefit the whole group.
She has a magical cloak that allowed her to disappear at will. Sheila is smart and can pinpoint flaws in the group’s plans, which serves them right in many situations. She always takes care of her younger brother Bobby.
Eric the Cavalier (voiced by Donald Most)
Here’s the one character you love to hate! The 15-year-old Eric represents the nagging, cowardly, and comic team member. He comes from a rich house and doesn’t like being in unchartered waters.
However, Eric holds a good heart and as events unfold, he usually shows bravery and saves the team every now and then. He has a magical shield that emits a force field to divert danger away.
Diana the Acrobat (voiced by Tonia Gayle Smith)
You know the girl that you shouldn’t mess with? That’s Diana. She’s 14-years-old, outspoken, and brave. Her confidence and kindness make her the second in command within the team and acts as the leader whenever Hank the Ranger isn’t around.
Uni the Unicorn (voiced by Frank Welker)
In the early scenes of the first episode, a baby unicorn runs into the hands of Bobby the Barbarian. The unicorn was fleeing from the hideous dragon and from that moment Bobby took the unicorn as his pet and named her Uni. She can speak but not in an easily distinguishable way.
Uni’s horn gives her the ability to teleport, although being a baby unicorn limits her capability to an extent. She can also perform magic, and at times causes great mirth and delight to everyone (except Presto!) by using the wizard’s magical hat more effectively than the magician.
Dungeon Master (voiced by Sidney Miller)
The Dungeon Master is the group’s guide to the realm of Dungeon and Dragons. Like a certain Jedi Master, he regularly offers wise words of advice, albeit often in an ambiguous way. If his advice doesn’t seem to make sense at the time, come the conclusion of each adventure, the group always know what he meant.
As well as providing the group with their names and weapons, the Dungeon Master also gives the clues needed to help solve each episode’s challenge or riddle. The gang follow his lead and instructions hoping that it’ll help them find their way back home.
Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon – The Bad Guys
So that’s the Good Guys, but you can’t have Good Guys without Bad Guys! So let’s look at the villains of the peace in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.
Tiamat (voiced by Frank Welker)
Tiamat is the first dragon our unlucky team faces once they teleport from the amusement park. A female dragon with five heads, each expelling a substance that hurts her prey:
- The white head expels ice
- The green head expels toxic gas
- The red head expels fire
- The blue head expels lightning
- The black head expels acid
As the show continues, we learn that Tiamat is Venger’s ultimate fear. Once the team finds this out, they attempt use it to their advantage against Venger. Here lies one of the great dilemmas in the show as the group are afraid of Tiamat and at times, she almost hurts them.
If you think the idea of a five-headed dragon is pretty awesome, check out our guide to dragon anatomy to see how it’s even possible.
Venger the Force of Evil (voiced by Peter Cullen)
The main villain of the show is Venger, a powerful wizard who seeks to gather the team’s magical items to boost his own powers.
Throughout the series it becomes apparent that Venger will stop at nothing until he defeats our heroes, slays Tiamat and becomes the leader of the realm.
Venger also has a secret, a twist that’s revealed during the course of the series. We won’t ruin the surprise for you, you’ll just have to watch to find out!
Shadow Demon (voiced by Bob Holt)
Did they ever get home in Dungeons and Dragons cartoon?
OK, so here we have the big question and a big, fat SPOILER ALERT!
Throughout the series the kids fought to get home, a constant quest to return to their loved ones. They actually did make it back to the real world on numerous occasions, but each time, something would happen to make them return. Such as one memorable occasion where Venger followed them.
By the end of the series, fans were clamouring for their heroes to get home. However, in 1985, CBS decided not to renew the show! This caused outrage at the time, and then more when it was revealed that a finale had been written.
Thankfully, the script for a final episode – called Requiem – surfaced and was performed as an audio play and added as an extra on the DVD box set. So what are you waiting for?
Final Thoughts on the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon
Despite its cancellation, the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon was a mega-hit in the 1980s. Although it was based on a game, it spawned a couple of games of its own (sort of). The board game, Quest for the Dungeonmaster was released in 1984, and then in 2000, an Easter Egg in the PC game, Baldur’s Gate II featured portraits of Hank and Bobby.
There were also several books, including some choose-you-own-adventure titles and the now mandatory tie-in toys.