What comes in your mind when you hear the mention of the word pirates? Pirates was the most popularized word in the ‘90s. Thanks to Jack Sparrows in the Pirates of the Caribbean Sear. But around the same time, there was this less talked about a TV show called The Pirates of Dark Water.The nostalgia that these shows bring is so strong to assume. I have been digging the archives latterly and re-watching some retro shows and playing some old school retro games of the ‘90s and 2000s. This particular adventure show got my attention.
Back in the ‘90s, the act of pirates raiding ships on the sea, and the tales of the sea fights that included robbing ships was the most popular storyline in animations and other TV shows. Slowly the shows that had pirate-like storylines started getting more views and positive feedback from the viewers. It is at this point that Disney decided to try its hand on them.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the most adored adventure TV show: The pirates of Dark Water. We begin with its historical background.
Understanding the Background of The Pirates of Dark Water Cartoon series
This show was unique since it was the among the first animated series that attempted to mix popular Japanese anime themes and styles into the American animation. The show did this successfully by following a single epic story.
The Franchise of the Pirates of The Caribbean Sea helped to revive the pirate genre that had died a natural death on the big screen back in then. Complex and expensive releases like Cutthroat Island indicated that people were not interested in seafaring stories. Disney thought of creating Pirates of The Caribbean for a direct video affair with Jack Sparrow, Cary Elwes, and Christopher Walken.
This was a big gamble since it was a big-budget show which paid off; the series sold over $4.5 billion globally.
The ‘90s was an era of many pirates-related animated shows, including Cutthroat Island or Muppets Treasure Island. Others included Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, and Rugrats. The Pirates Of Dark Water was also released around this time but is the least talked about on the list. It rarely comes up in discussions about the most amazing animated pirates’ series of the ‘90s.
In 1991, the Hanna-Barbera productions (Scooby-Doo) released the animated series on Fox Kids as a five-part mini-series dubbed Dark Water. The success of Dark water was followed by changing the name to attract more viewers. This has to be one of our generation's best shows produced by David Kirschner, who had earlier brought the fantastic Child's Play movie.
The show ran for 21 episodes, with the first season having 13 and the second 8. It was saddening how the series did not complete fully. Only 8 of the 13 treasures had been collected when these fantastic series ended abruptly.
The Pirates of Dark Water theme song (intro and outro music)
The Pirates of Dark Water StorylineThe show is set on Mer, a planet devoured by a sentient substance called Dark Water. The planet has a prince named Ren, who is tasked to unite a crew that will sail around the oceans and collects the treasures to stop the Dark Water for good.
Ren finds a misfit crew that together they work to find the lost thirteen treasures of rule. He uses necromancer Tula, a monkey bird Niddler and the treasure –hungry pirate Loz. Ren and his crew have to face the evil pirate, Lord Bloth, who is determined at keeping the treasures for himself.
In the show, Ren acknowledges how urgent his quest is instead of his progression; the Dark Water consumes everything that it comes across, and it spreads rapidly and threatening to consume the entire planet. Ren is therefore supposed to find all the 13 treasures to stop the deadly dark water from ravaging the world.
The Main Pirates of Dark Water Cast and CharactersThe show is packed with nostalgia, and besides, it was a fantastic cast and characters chosen by the producer. Some of the pivotal characters in the Pirates of Dark Water include;
He is the prince of the kingdom of Octopon (a city in Mer) and the main character in the series.
He is unaware of his destiny and heritage and was raised in a humble background by a lighthouse keeper in his homeland's outskirts. He wields the broken sword that belonged to his father.
Ren is the rightful heir to the Octoponian Kingdom and must take the quest of his dad, Mer, to save the world from the mysterious dark water. In the series, Ren has a magic crystal Compass that guides him in his quest for Rul’s 13 Treasures to single-handedly conquer the dark water.
George Newbern voiced Ren.
Photo courtesy: piratesofdarkwater.net
Niddler is a monkey-bird that hails from the islands of Pandawa. He initially worked for Lord Bloth until he helped Ren escape from the pirate captain. He is known to like food and is often depicted as a greedy character.
Roddy McDowall voiced him in the mini-series, and Frank Welker later voiced him in the TV series.
TulaImage Courtesy: Fandom
She is an ecomancer who can control elements and biological life and has an affinity towards nature and animals. The writer has used Tula to portray the different characters she has and secrets.
She is introduced as a barmaid, later she stows aboard Ren and Loz's ship, claiming she wants to rest and get away from the drudgery of life on land. She is even more complex than she seems, compared to the other characters in Pirates of Darkwater.
Jodi Benson voiced Tula.
Loz is a rogue and a pirate who joins Ren initially for the promise of treasure. Later on, in the series, he comes to like Ren and is fond of his idealism and goes to the point of risking Ren's life in the quest for treasures. Despite working for Ren and his changed mindset, he still attempts to get rich quickly but fails most of the time. He was voiced by Hector Elizondo in earlier episodes and Jim Cummings in later episodes.
Brock Peters voiced him.
Zoolie, Teron, Dark Dweller, Morpho, Joat, Konk, Mantus, and the Lugg brothers are other characters who made the show memorable.
Rise and fall of the Pirates of Dark Water
The attempt to bring back the memories of pirates and their sea adventures was not easy for Hanna-Barbera. After making up to $4.5 billion in sales worldwide, the company thought it had done well until there was a reduction in the number of viewers and movie purchases.
The Pirates of Dark Water created products like SNES and Genesis games, toys, and comic book series. From the onset, it was supposed to be a huge success since it was well-reviewed and promoted. Unfortunately, it was also an expensive show to produce, and it was canceled after the end of season two.
The show will forever be missed. I fondly remember how organized the series was. All the seasons were well serialized, and it was very easy to go through them. Each episode took Ren a step closer to the next treasure.
Pirates of Dark Water CancellationThe big question is, Why was Pirates of Dark Water Cancelled?
There are several grounds for the cancellation of the show. Some were mentioned in the press release of the time while some remain mere speculations.
It was reported that the show was very costly at the time and had the most expensive animators. It was supposed to be canceled after episode 13 because the audience was not enough to justify the high cost of production.
Unfortunately, the story was never finished as Ren and his crew never collected the five treasures.
If you were a fan of the show back in the ‘90s, you would remember that the show continued rerun after its cancellation. This made many people watch the past series just to check whether they had missed an episode.
The Pirates of Dark Water RPGAround 1994, The Pirates of Dark Water made a comeback as a role-playing game. Thanks to Lee Agosta and the team at mind games. The role-playing game (RPG) was based on the original Hanna Barbera Cartoon TV show.
The game was based on the 2nd edition of AD & D. The game contained:
- A 64-page book that offered the background information, locations, and rules on how to create characters.
- It also had 105 creature sheets contained in a set 3-hole punched sheets that had details of the creatures of Mer.
- There was also a large color map of Mer
The Pirates of Dark Water RebootDiscussing the show sparks with its nostalgia for the 90s kids. Back then and up to date has a robust cult following and is arguably one of our era's best adventure shows. The show had strong writing and the beautifully designed world around it.
The writer's use of ships in the escapades by Ren and his crews as they battled Bloth didn't just capture the audience, but it was a surprise flashback of movies like Duck Tales.
The show has many comic books written with the storyline still fresh in many people's minds. It would not be a surprise to have the show back in our living rooms to complete the story and find the last five treasures. It would also be fantastic to know who between Bloth and Ren would at the end, rule Mer.
Who do you think would help get the five remaining treasures and rule Mer if the show returned?
Did you watch the Pirates of Dark Water? Your opinion?The Pirates Of Dark Water is one of the old classic shows from the ‘90s that elicit some strong nostalgia. Even if it did not show to completion, the Pirates of Dark Water opened up the animation arena for mature cartoons in America at the period when cartoons were assumed to be for children.
I fancied the show back in the days, and, sadly, the story never finished. Having the show back would quench my thirst for the love of Ren and his crew.
Many believe that the show should have some modern touches, and I think that goes without saying much. The core of the story is strong and has a high concept and is made for the feature adaptation.
The stay at home and working online order, for most of us, is an excellent chance to look at the series on YouTube or buy a DVD on Amazon.
Let's keep it retro.