Nightmares. We’ve all had them. Any
time something weighed on our minds. Any time we were anxious about something.
Or maybe just because you decided to eat that ice cream, pickle and pepperoni
combination too late at night. Whatever the reason, nightmares are a scary part
of going to sleep. And one company sought to turn it into a franchise.
Creative Capers Entertainment
is a creative thinktank formed in 1989 by Terry
Shakespeare and David Molina that
specializes in Flash
and hand-drawn animation for a variety of different kinds of productions. Terry,
having worked for Sullivan
Bluth Studios, was able to use his connections to
secure some of the top talent from Bluth and develop a relationship with Disney. They provided uncredited
additional animation for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The
well as worked extensively on games
published by Disney Interactive.
was looking to break into the growing PC game market and tasked the studio with
crafting a new IP that they could exploit. One that wasn’t just based on a
previous Disney film and could attract some of the older gamers. The resulting
game was Nightmare Ned, created by Walt Dohrn.
|The weird world inside Ned's head.
Ned focused on Ned Needlemeyer (Courtland Mead), a pre-teen with anxiety to
spare. The game found Ned learning his family would be out of the house for a
while, so he indulges in some junk food binging and video games until a storm
knocks out the power. Ned believes someone’s in the house with him but writes
it off as his anxiety flaring up. But, it turns out five fear-eating shadow
creatures are there to feed on his dreams when he goes to sleep. They rule over
five distinct worlds: the Graveyard, the Hospital/Dentist’s Office, the
Bathroom, the School and the Attic/Basement. The game was rendered in a variety
of different styles--hand drawn, stop-motion, painted backgrounds, collages and
3D computer animation—in order to effectively create a nightmarish world for
Ned to navigate.
object of the game was to travel to each world and solve the puzzles within the
span of 8 game hours, or the length of time Ned would be asleep. Ned would lose
time whenever he took too many hits, or a whole hour whenever he returned to
his quilt which was possessed by the entities and served as a hub between the
levels. Accomplishing this would have Ned learn the true, real-life anxiety
that would fuel the entities, allowing him to confront and overcome that
particular fear. Finishing within the allotted time led to receiving the “good”
ending, where Ned was a bit surer of himself and felt loved. The “bad” ending
saw Ned as even more of a wreck than when he started.
|Vernon and Conrad, typical bullies.
development of the game, Disney saw potential in Nightmare Ned and decided to adapt it into an animated series for
their new Disney’s One Saturday Morning programming block.
Developed, produced and directed by Donovan Cook,
the animated Ned took a departure
from the game. His family, only briefly seen in the game, was featured more
prominently in the show. There was his father, Ed (Brad Garrett), his unnamed
mother (Victoria Jackson), and little baby sister. Ned (still Mead) also gained
two bullies that constantly harassed him: the crown-wearing Conrad (Jeff
Bennet) and the big-nosed Vernon (Rob Paulsen).
|Ned becomes a girl who wants to be recognized as a boy.
were no supernatural entities to be found to fuel Ned’s nightmares. Instead, an
event in Ned’s real life would cause his anxiety to activate his wild
imagination, leading to a bizarre nightmare related to whatever the incident
was indicated by a swirl after Ned fell asleep. For instance, wanting to adopt
a pet pig but discovering that his favorite food, Canadian bacon, was made from pigs, led to a nightmare where
Ned ran away to live with the pig’s family only to realize they were fattening
him up to eat him. Another saw Conrad and Vernon trick Ned into using the
girl’s bathroom at school, leading to a nightmare where Ned became a girl. Or, when Conrad and
Vernon managed to sneak dog food into Ned’s food, he dreamt that he was
transformed into a dog. Each nightmare ended with Ned waking up with a start,
and usually helped lead him to a solution for whatever his difficulty was. Each
episode served to address a typical fear and anxiety experienced by young
children that often wasn’t addressed by other programs.
Nightmare Ned began
on April 19, 1997 on ABC
(coincidentally coinciding with Mead’s 10th birthday). Produced by Walt
Disney Television Animation, the animated Ned abandoned all the different visual styles seen in the game,
which released a short time later that June, and focused on straightforward
hand animation. Each episode was broken up into two segments written by Mitch
with Gaffney and Gary
Sperling serving as story editors. Steve Bartek
composed the music. Dohrn also served as a director and storyboard artist on
the show, while the Creative founders functioned as executive producers.
|Probed by aliens.
Ned aired its twelve completed
episodes by August, the series disappeared entirely from the airwaves. Unlike
other Disney programs, especially ones created during that time period, it was
never rerun on any of the Disney-owned cable networks. Several unproven
explanations have been given for this cancellation. Allegedly, the series was
running over budget and Disney wasn’t seeing enough of a return on their
investment in it to continue. Another explanation was there were creative
conflicts between Cook and Dohrn, which contributed to the budget problem.
Further, despite it being extremely toned down in comparison to the game, the
content and subject matter raised the ire of parents who complained to Disney
and the network.
|The Tooth Fairy up to no good.
of its sudden departure and abandonment by Disney, the show has gone on to gain
a bit of a cult status and following. It was all but forgotten until old VHS
recordings of the series were found and began appearing on streaming services
As of this writing, one segment and one episode remain missing, and the third
episode is allegedly not available in English.