Friends, in my youth thanks mainly to the 1977 animated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Rankin and Bass as well as the Dungeon! board game from TSR – I was primed to enjoy the fantasy genre. My Father was a factory worker who spent all day picking up heavy pieces of steel and shoving them into a massive press that produced tools – I mention this because I have many fond memories of him coming home from work exhausted but still finding enough energy to play a couple games of Dungeon! with me. Those were wonderful times when I let my imagination run rampant – imagining myself as a Wizard wandering a dank and dangerous underground lair in search of hoarded treasure. Which is why I believe I was so attracted to the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game when I first heard about it in grade school – it wasn’t long until I stumbled across a basic set at a garage sale and I began immersing myself into the lore and rules. Then in 1983 CBS somehow made my World even more awesome by releasing the Dungeons & Dragons Saturday Morning animated series!
If you could go back in time to see me visiting my Grandparents, which was pretty much daily during the Summer, and playing with the neighborhood kids – you would see an awful lot of afternoons where I was running around with a trash can lid pretending to be a Cavalier. One of the things I thought about as I sat in front of the television every single Saturday Morning was how awesome it was going to be to get toys based on the animated series… yeah… that didn’t happen. Not that there wasn’t a toy line produced for D & D as LJN Toys released the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons series in ’83 as well.
From that rather amazing line of toys the characters of Strongheart, Kelek, and the iconic Warduke would manage to crossover into the animated series – although I personally think Elhorn the Dwarven fighter makes an appearance even if he isn’t mentioned by name. Did you know though that some of the kids from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon had a crossover with the LJN Toys characters – in a 1983 View-Master Reel set entitled Castle Venger? Although the likes of Hank, Sheila, Diana, and Eric are present – Presto and Bobby must be off with Dungeon Master on another adventure.
What is even more interesting is that besides Venger, none of the characters from the animated series are mentioned on the back of the View-Master Reel set that explains the story:
“Strongheart Good Paladin and his worthy band of adventurers climb craggy rocks to the castle stronghold of the evil Venger. Long has Venger held power in these mountains by terrorizing people throughout the kingdom. Monsters scurry to attack Strongheart’s crew and defend Venger’s cursed fortress.
Strongheart urges his troops over the walls of the castle. Seeing humans advance upon his legions, Venger hisses, “I will summon a special servant,” and an Earth Elemental ponderously rises from the courtyard. In turn, Ringlerun Good Wizard conjures an Air Elemental. Defeated, the Earth Elemental falls; but the battling warriors, both good and evil, are overwhelmed by these elements. Venger casts a withering spell on a weakened Strongheart.
Elkhorn Dwarf Fighter and the remainder of the the keep of Venger’s castle. Fighting monsters all the way, they discover a secret treasure chest, and inside the chest, a glowing amulet – the source of Venger’s power. Meanwhile Mercion Good Cleric removes the spell from Strongheart. The troops reunite in the courtyard where Venger summons his most powerful monster, Tiamat. Breathing fire, Tiamat advances. Strongheart, wearing the amulet, poises his sword for battle. Then suddenly succumbing to Ringlerun’s magic, the massive Tiamat falters. Venger and his monster flee the land leaving Strongheart’s crew victorious in the castle – the kingdom at last is at peace freed from the curse of “Castle Venger!”
However thanks to an eBay listing I can tell you that at least Eric and Hank are mentioned in the brief descriptions of the View-Master reel scenes themselves – the majority of text is of course reserved for the LJN characters. For such a popular animated series it is bizarre to me that there was so very little merchandise – I’m still holding out hope for a line of figures!