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A long-time fan says: Make sure you buy the version released by Mill Creek Entertainment. Here's why...
on December 6, 2006
This was my #1 favorite cartoon series when I was eleven years old in 1983. I watched it religiously on TV back then, and when we got our first VCR, I recorded every re-run and watched those videotapes until I wore them out. Naturally, I was excited to hear this show was finally coming out on DVD. I bought the complete series box set released by BCI right away. All the episodes look great in terms of picture quality. Not to mention, the special features are surprisingly plentiful for an old, mostly-forgotten Saturday morning cartoon, and it really brought back some great memories.
Then I discovered a very disappointing problem. And I'm going to sound like a real nit-picker here - but I gotta state my case...
Any dedicated fan of this show is familiar with the episode "The Dragon's Graveyard" - generally considered to be the best episode of the entire series. That's the one where the kids decide to destroy Venger (the ultimate, evil bad guy) once and for all. They plan to do this by convincing Tiamat (the ultimate, evil 5-headed Dragon) to help them. It's a very cool story, because the good guys basically team up with one arch villain in order to settle their grudge match with another arch villain. As a kid in the 80's, I videotaped this series and "The Dragon's Graveyard" was one episode that I went back and watched repeatedly. So, I know that episode almost by heart. One of the things I always loved about that episode, and which I still remember clearly, was its powerful musical score. Especially during the scene where Venger throws fireballs at Uni, the baby Unicorn, nearly killing her, and the scene at the end, where the kids have their final, climactic battle with Venger, pin him against a rock, and lead hero Hank has to make the ultimate decision whether to kill Venger, or let him go. From watching and re-watching this particular episode to death on videotape, I remember very clearly that during these scenes the music had a fast, chaotic, rushing quality - a theme not heard frequently in other episodes - which racheted up the energy and took the drama way beyond typical Saturday morning cartoon fare.
And yet, while watching this same classic episode on the BCI-released Dungeons and Dragons DVD set, I noticed that this music had been completely replaced with slower, formulaic sections of music that can be regularly heard elsewhere in the series. This change in the music made the scenes described above considerably less effective, severely weakening the emotional impact of this episode.
Allright, now - yes - I realize how trite and ridiculous it must sound for a 30+ year old man to be nit picking the DVD quality of one single episode of a Saturday Morning cartoon show he loved when he was eleven. But the whole reason I bought this DVD set in the first place was to re-experience the innocent fun of those childhood memories, and instead I got a diluted version of that experience.
As a matter of fact, in the "Episode Trivia" section, it even mentions that another version of "The Dragon's Graveyard" episode exists, with a completely different musical score... and when I read that, all I could think was, "Yeah, no kidding, and you bozos put the weaker of the two versions on the DVD set. Thanks a lot!"
So... that's my one huge disappointment with the BCI set, and I'm guessing other fans who are total geeks for this show, will notice and be bothered by it, too.
NOW HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS... In 2009, Dungeons and Dragons was RE-RELEASED in a new DVD set, by a company called Mill Creek Entertainment. I had heard rumors that this new release RESTORED ALL of the ORIGINAL MUSIC used on the show, thus presenting every episode AS IT APPEARED, WHEN IT WAS ORIGINALLY SHOWN on TV in the early 1980's. At first I wasn't sure if I should believe the rumors... Then I saw that the Mill Creek release was selling for a surprisingly lower price than the BCI set... Low enough that I decided it was worth giving it another shot.
So, I ordered it, and let me tell you as a knowledgeable fan, that yes - the Mill Creek Entertainment release DOES include all the episodes with their original music. THIS is "The Dragon's Graveyard" as I remember and love it. Be advised, the Mill Creek release contains no Special Features, which is unfortunate, but I find myself not caring about that. The important thing is to have all the original episodes in their original form. And again, the price on the Mill Creek set is also a lot cheaper than the price on the BCI set, so it's hard to complain about the lack of "extras".
Bottom line - this is a great cartoon series. But if you want to experience this show in its original form - do yourself a favor: Snub the BCI set, and buy the Mill Creek Entertainment set. Take if from a long time fan of this show. I was deeply disappointed with the BCI set, and very, very happy with the Mill Creek set.