Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lame is Good. Another group of Cartoon Heroes I Grew Up With.

Dungeons and Dragons. A role-playing game (that’s RPG for non-gamers) created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. You’ve probably heard of it, whether you’re a fan of the game, or if you believe it teaches kids how to worship Satan. But did you know that there was animated series about it? It debuted it 1984, and ran for three seasons, eventually pulled due to low ratings, rather than the controversy surrounding the game as many people believed.

The series is so straightforward that they don’t even bother with an origin episode; they tell the entire story in the opening theme song. Six kids (ranging 8 to 15 years old) get on board a Dungeons and Dragons themed amusement park ride, and are magically transported to the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons. They meet a baby unicorn that’s being menaced by a five-headed dragon called Tiamat. A white-haired balding midget wearing a red robe appears and bestows the children with magical weapons, which they use to fend off Tiamat. They attempt to escape, only to have their path blocked by an evil-looking guy who obviously means them harm. But before he can blast them into atoms, Tiamat comes back, the two lock horns for a moment, and Tiamat chases the bad guy away. The kids wonder who that guy was, and the midget tells them that it was Venger, an evil sorcerer. The midget introduces himself as Dungeon Master and tells them they are in the Realm of Dungeons and Dragons. (although they, and viewers, had probably figured that out already)

So, who are these kids, and why am I including their show in my lame list?

Name: Hank
Class: Ranger
Weapon of Choice: A magic bow that shoots energy arrows, so he never has to load it.
Function: Leader
Lame Factor: Low. His biggest flaw is that he has few flaws. He’s confident and ready to take charge in dangerous situations. He’s also a blonde pretty boy. I imagine him dressing like Fred on Scooby Doo in our world.
Voiced by: Willie Aames. You know, Buddy Lembeck on Charles in Charge.

Name: Bobby
Class: Barbarian
Weapon of Choice: A big club that smashes anything he swings it against.
Function: The Kid
Lame Factor: Mid-Low. It’s more to do with the way the others treat him than any way he behaves. As befitting a barbarian, Bobby is ready for battle from the get-go. He likes to rush in, heedless of danger. And the others do their best to stop him, because he’s the youngest, and little kids simply musn’t be allowed to fight, even though he has the best weapon, and totally saved all their asses in episode 8. Although he does have a pet unicorn, which probably detracts from his coolness, seeing as a unicorn is traditionally a girls’ pet.
Voiced by: Ted Field III. Who seems to have never acted again, as he doesn’t have an entry on Wikipedia. Check IMDB if you actually care.

Name: Presto AKA Albert (which actually sounds a lot less dorky by comparison)
Class: Magician
Weapon of Choice: A wand right? Or maybe a cool staff that shoots lightning bolts? Nope. A green wizard’s hat, out of which he can pull nearly anything, but he hardly ever conjures anything he wants.
Function: Remember Neville Longbottom, of Harry Potter fame? Nuff said.
Lame Factor: High. Did you not notice I compared him to Neville Longbottom? Presto’s spells almost never work the way he intends them, often backfiring dangerously. For instance, instead of squashing the giant carnivorous fly into oblivion, he conjures a second giant carnivorous fly.
Voiced by: Adam Rich. Also known for playing Nicholas Bradford on Eight is Enough, and co-starred with Willie Aames on that same series. He also faked his own death for a spoof article in Might magazine.

Name: Shelia
Class: Thief
Weapon of Choice: Invisibility Cloak.
Function: Coolest character on the show.
Lame Factor: Almost Non-Existent. The only thing might be the company she keeps. In addition to being one of the cleverest of the group, she’s also a friend to all living things. I mean, she got Venger’s sister to turn to the good side. She’s always looking out for the others, especially her little brother, Bobby. She’s daring enough she only fights with her invisibility cloak to protect her. Not invulnerability, invisibility, as in, “my-friend-shooting-lethal-energy-bolts-and-my-little-brother-whose-club-could-break-every-bone-in-my-body-into-a-hundred-pieces-won’t-be-able-to-see-me-if-I-accidentally-get-in-their-way” invisible. And she’s the only character we’ve seen pick up a sword for any length of time. Hell yes.
Voiced by: Katie Leigh, probably known best (to me, anyway) for voicing Connie Kendall on Adventures in Odyssey. I guess D&D didn’t cause her to do a Regan impression. She was also the only member of the cast to return for the radio style presentation of the lost episode, Requiem, produced for the DVD boxed set of D&D.

Name: Eric
Class: Cavalier
Weapon of Choice: A shield that can create force-fields around a small group.
Function: Bitching and moaning.
Lame Factor: High. You’d think a guy whose shield can protect him from anything would be a little braver, but no, Eric usually takes the approach of hiding, or trying to appease a scary monster that’s intent on ripping flesh from bone. Can’t risk harming his pretty face, even Hank is clearly the best looking of the male cast. And when the group isn’t fighting, Eric is complaining. If they get to sleep in real beds instead of on the ground, Eric is griping about their quality, or insulting their host when he thinks the man isn’t listening. I mean, he does have his moments, like rushing in (eventually) to defend someone with his shield, or getting embarrassed when the others realize he really does care about someone other than himself, but overall, Eric is the kind of person one could have conversations with. The kinds of conversations that end in gunshots.
Voiced by: Don Most. Best known for playing Ralph Malph, from Happy Days. I guess Eric don’t “still got it.”

Name: Diana
Class: Acrobat
Weapon of Choice: An magical baton that adjusts its length according to its user’s will. Palm-sized for convenient storage, or nine feet for pole-vaulting.
Function: Token black character.
Lame Factor: Mid-low. Like Hank, she lacks any obvious flaws, but she doesn’t show any obvious strengths, apart from the ones that make Hank a good leader. However, she is a better athlete, and she’s usually the one to rebuff Eric when he’s sniping at someone. If you’re trying to picture that, just remember, this was a long time before, “Oh no, he did-ent!” and the head thing.
Voiced by: Tonya Gail Smith. Check IMDB for her other roles.

Name: Uni
Class: Cute Little Goat-Thing
Function: Cute Little Goat-Thing
Lame Factor: Mid-Level, at least. I mean, to take the majestic animal of legend, and turn it into a cutesy little useless creature that speaks with a lot of heavy bleating? So wrong. And aren’t unicorns supposed to have powerful magic? Yet she’s always finding herself in some peril or another.
Voiced by: Frank Welker. This guy was basically born to voice act. He did the voices for eight of the fourteen original Decepticons on Transformers, including Megatron. That should tell you something right there. And they cast him as the Cute Little Goat-Thing.

Name: Dungeon Master
Class: Dungeon Masters don’t have classes, everyone knows that.
Function: Mysterious Old Guy
Lame Factor: Mid-Level. Only ever speaks in riddles, when he could really just tell the kids what they need to do to get home. And despite possessing powerful magic, he’s rarely seen to use it. My guess is he taught Albus Dumbledore how to be a wizard. Then again, if he ever gave a straight answer to a question, there wouldn’t be a show. Way to go, Dungeon Master!
Voiced by: Sidney Miller

So that’s the cast of heroes, now here are the two main villains.

Name: Venger
Class: Half-Fiend Sorcerer
Function: Primary antagonist. Always tries to steal the children’s weapons for purposes which are not elaborated upon.
Lame Factor: High. Seriously, this guy tries way too hard to be scary. He’s got this all red and black thing going, and his face is like a vampire, all pasty and fangey, and he’s got a horn on the side of his head, like the Devil, or something. He can’t decide who is scarier, so he’s trying to incorporate everyone into his look, or something.

VENGER: “Fear me! (silence) No, seriously FEAR ME!”

He also has a disagreeable habit of not dying when he’s killed. Despite this, he’s always ready to hose himself if Tiamat ever shows up, despite also commanding whole armies of orcs, lizardmen, and frog-things and the powers of darkness besides.
Voiced by: Peter Cullen. Guy who voiced Optimus Prime in Transformers. (the show, and the blockbuster fims) All right, I guess Venger is not that lame.

Name: Tiamat
Class: Five-headed dragons don’t need classes.
Weapons of Choice: Well, she has claws, and impenetrable scales, and a wicked huge tail, and five sets of jaws. Not to mention, her five heads breathe five different breath weapons. Her main head breathes fire, her blue head shoots a bolt of lightning, her white head breathes ice, her green head breathes toxic gas, and her black head spits corrosive acid. And she can fly, despite being way too heavy and non-aerodynamic. But apart from that, she doesn’t have much going for her.
Function: Killing you to death if you happen to run into her.
Lame Factor: None. Unlike Venger, Tiamat is actually scary. We’re talkin’ serious nightmare fuel here. And this is supposed to be a kids’ show.
Voiced by: Frank Welker, once again. They probably gave him this role to make up for casting him as the Cute Little Goat-Thing. (by the way, how many times have I used that phrase?)

Why the show is cool: Hey, this is a show about kids adventuring in a magical world. Children raised on The Wizard of Oz, and The Chronicles of Narnia eat this stuff up. I know I did. Still do. Which is probably why I still live with my parents.

But you’d better be wearing some +20 armor if you’re going to make something of that. Feelin’ lucky, punk?

1 comment:

Sue said...

Hi, Jack. (better not say that on a plane or in an airport).
Never been much on cartoons since they took the Road Runner off. Enjoy your comments though.
There is a plant near here that recycles paper by making insulation. They have collection dumpsters at business all over town. If they get over 2000 lbs a month they will pay the establishment. Our church has 3 of them in the parking lot and the money goes to the Sunday School. Is that great or what?