Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
Pirates of Dark Water was created by then Hanna-Barbera
Kirschner. The series was set on the alien planet of Mer, which
was comprised of 20 seas and varied lands on islands that were constantly being
destroyed and created by the planet. The planet one day became besieged by Dark
Water; a semi-sentient, domineering force that rose up from the planet’s crust
and engulfed whatever it touched. The only thing that could reverse the flow of
Dark Water and restore the planet to its former glory were the lost Thirteen
Treasures of Rule: mystical stones that were used to keep Dark Water from
Map of Mer.
The quest for the Treasures fell on
17-year-old Ren (George Newbern). Ren was the prince of the once
technologically advanced city of Octopon; now in ruins because of the Dark
Water. His father, King Primus (Peter Renaday),
set out to find the Treasures shortly after Ren was born and left him in the
care of the lighthouse keepers; his identity hidden to protect him from
threats. Primus wound up the prisoner of the evil pirate Bloth (Brock Peters),
who sought the Treasures in order to take control of Dark Water and rule the
planet with it. Primus escaped and was rescued by Ren, to whom he passed his
mission to before he died. Ren tracked the Treasures through the amulet he wore
around his neck, and used the half sword his father gave him as a weapon.
Ioz, Niddler, Ren and Tula.
Joining Ren on his quest was the
monkey-bird Niddler (Roddy McDowall & Frank Welker) from the Island of
Pandawa, who saved Ren’s life and became a loyal companion (despite being somewhat
selfish and child-like); Tula (Jodi Benson), an ecomaner (beings that could manipulate nature) and warrior from the
island of Andorus; and Ioz (Hector Elizondo & Jim Cummings), a mercenary
from the island of Tayhoj who never shied away from an opportunity to make some
money. Together they sailed on The Wraith,
a ship Ioz stole that was imbued with the life-force of the mystical trees from
which it was built. The Wraith’s
original owner, Joat (Andre
Stojka), was set to have a larger role in the series but was
dramatically reduced. The crew often received help and information from
gamehouse owner Zoolie (Dick
Gautier), who worked at one of the ports.
Ren and Bloth change bodies.
Ren’s primary foe was Bloth and his
crew on The Maelstrom, a massive and
deadly warship built from the carcasses of leviathans. Bloth’s crew consisted
of Mantus (Peter Cullen), his second-in-command and calculating strategist;
Konk (Tim Curry), who lost his leg to Bloth’s pet Constrictus and was the only
one to ever survive an encounter; and The Lugg Brothers (Earl Boen and Welker),
two dimwits who assisted Konk. But, they also faced the threat of The Dark
Dweller (Welker), the evil creature that created Dark Water. He was served by
Morpho (also Welker), leader of his Dark Disciples who was an alchemist
researching Dark Water before the Dark Dweller transformed him. Morpho served
as a liaison between the Dark Dweller and Bloth.
The Maelstrom crew concept art.
Pirates of Dark Water was one of Hanna-Barbera’s few attempts at a serious,
straightforward fantasy series. As such, Hanna-Barbera recruited animation
houses that could provide high-end animation not usually seen on regular
provided most of the art for the show, with additional animation rendered by Big Star Enterprises
Cartoons. Episodes were constructed in a serial fashion, with
each leading right into the next, and contained a subtle message about ecology.
While the show was a success with older
audiences, it didn’t quite reach the younger audiences coveted by the networks
to justify the high production costs the series generated. ABC opted to not
renew the series for a second season after its initial 13 episodes aired.
During this period, Turner Broadcasting
was in the process of acquiring Hanna-Barbera and their executives wanted the
studio to focus more on their own ideas. Kirschner and producer Cos Anzilotti pushed to keep the
series going. FOX picked the series back up
and a second season of 8 episodes was aired as part of the syndicated Funtastic World of
Ren and his half sword.
Unfortunately, the final nail in the
coffin for the show came when Fil-Cartoons experienced difficulty in animating
the final four episodes of the series. As a result, Hanna-Barbera was unable to
meet their airdate deadlines and the series was cancelled in November of 1992.
The final episodes wouldn’t air until 6 months later in May, leaving a total of
eight of the Treasures found. By that time, most of the show’s crew was working
on the production of SWAT Katsand
Anzilotti had moved on to Captain Planet and the
Planeteers. Jayne Barbera
also lost her position as the executive in charge of production as a result of
the blunder, replaced by Catherine
Winder for all productions following the failed prime-time co-production Capitol Critters.
Fans of Pirates have always wondered if there was any chance for a
resolution to the storyline. When the series aired on Cartoon Network, the network played
to these questions during one of their comical commercial bumper segments. They
claimed to have a tape of the “unaired episodes” of the show and proceeded to
perform a psyche-out with footage of a kitten lapping milk as if someone had
“taped” over the episodes. There has also been fan speculation that Kirschner’s
film, Titan A.E., shared
so many similarities to Pirates that
it could be viewed as Kirschner’s attempt to finish the story. With fans having
succeeded in getting the show released to DVD, and with constant reboots and
revivals of long-dormant franchises, a completion to the story may still be a
remote, but not necessarily impossible, possibility.
Quest” (2/25/91) – Rescuing a man who claims he’s his father, Ren is set on a
quest to recover the thirteen treasures of Rule along with Niddler, Ioz and
(2/26/91) – Escaping Bloth in a cave leads Ren and the crew to be captured by
Up” (2/27/91) – Following the stolen compass and treasure leads the crew to
Pandawa, where Niddler’s people are in the middle of fighting for their
(2/28/91) – Ren and Niddler end up captured by Bloth, and Ren meets one of his
father’s most trusted captains.
(3/1/91) – The crew tries to escape from Bloth and recover the first treasure.
(10/12/91) - A supply run is interrupted by Bloth and the crew escapes to
Andorus, where they learn that Tula is an ecomancer.
Drop of Darkness” (10/26/91) – Rescuing an acquaintance of Ren’s father leads
to trouble as she puts a spell on Tula to force them to give her Dark Water for
Beast and the Bell” (11/2/91) – Ren’s vision from his father telling him to
ring a bell to destroy the Dark Water turns out to be a trick to free the evil
Keroptus from his prison.
(11/9/91) – The crew’s guide for the next treasure plays both sides and helps
Bloth as well.
Niddler” (11/16/91) – Niddler ends up the king to a tribe of non-flying monkey
birds and it falls on him to defeat a dangerous creature.
Collection” (11/23/91) – While trying to rescue Ioz, the crew ends up part of a
wizard’s shrunken ship collection.
Little Leviathan” (11/30/91) – Ren rescues a baby leviathan who imprints on
him, but they and Ioz end up captured by Bloth.
Dark Dweller” (12/7/91) – Ren takes the treasures and enters the realm of the
Dark Dweller to free Tula from the Dark Water.
Dark Disciples” (11/8/92) – The Wraith must pull into port for repairs, but the
nearest one is the port of Octopon overrun by servants of the Dark Dweller.
Ghost Pirates” (11/15/92) – Ioz steals a treasure from a deserted ship and ends
up targeted by its ghostly inhabitants.
Dagron Master” (11/22/92) – While shipwrecked Ren and Niddler are led to a
treasure by a being they encounter, but it turns out to be a trap and Ren is
turned into a reptile.
Game Players of Undaar” (11/29/92) – Ren and Bloth are captured and chained
together, made to compete in the deadly games of two strange creatures.
Pandawa Plague” (5/2/93) – Niddler is called on to defend the egg of the future
Pandawa queen from a deadly plague.
of the Sword” (5/9/93) – After they refuse to help her treasure hunt on a
dangerous island, Ioz’s sister Solia steals the crew’s gold and compass and
gets Konk to help her.
Soul Stealer” (5/16/93) – After learning only Ren is destined to gather the
treasures, Bloth switches bodies with Ren and puts Konk in Niddler’s.
Living Treasure” (5/23/93) – Tula tricks a tribe of Amazon warriors into
accepting her so she can free the crew and protect a little creature they want