Mer is an extraterrestrial planet where evil reigns. A motley band of unlikely heroes, including an orphan prince from a once-powerful kingdom and the last of his line of ancestors, a seasoned pirate with ties to a realm beyond mortal men’s reach, a mysterious eco-mancer, and an odd creature called a monkey bird, are the only thing that can stop the encroaching darkness and the ruthless pirate lord who seeks to control it.
These were The Pirates of Dark Water, which were created in 1991 and debuted by the renowned animation studio Hanna-Barbera.
What was the show all about?
The Pirates of Dark Water is an American fantasy animated television series created by David Kirschner and produced by Hanna-Barbera. Early in 1991, Fox Kids aired the first five episodes of the miniseries. The original five-part miniseries was included in the first season’s 13 episodes, which ran on ABC from September through December 1991. The second season, which had just eight episodes, aired in syndication in the US from 1992 to 1993.
David Kirschner, president and chief executive officer of Hanna-Barbera, based the series on an idea he had as a child that was influenced by the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson and the artwork of Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. The first five-part miniseries was the most expensive animated project Hanna-Barbera had undertaken up to that point, with each half-hour episode costing US$500,000. 12,000 cels were used for each half-hour show, which was twice as much as the standard Saturday morning cartoon programme at the time.
The animated series revolves around Dark Water, a malevolent liquid that is devouring the extraterrestrial world of Mer. Only Ren, a young prince, can put an end to it by recovering the Thirteen Treasures of Rule. His devoted team of misfits includes ecomancer Tula, a monkey-bird Niddler, and treasure-hungry pirate Ioz.
The ruthless pirate king Bloth will go to any length to obtain the wealth for himself, posing several challenges for Ren and his crew. Mer is a planet considerably different from Earth, having its own species of intelligent animals such as the monkey-bird and leviathans.
There are twenty seas around the globe, and the majority of the crew’s stops are at islands. Mer is constantly changing, like the river of spiky rocks that rises from the ocean in the first episode and appears to defy science. Aside from the danger, none of the protagonists are perplexed by these spectacles, although it is unclear if this is the result of the Dark Water or the nature of the geologically active planet.
Octopon was formerly the largest city on Mer, referred to in episode 14 as “the gem in the crown of Mer” by a figure named Ioz, but it lies in ruins until Ren gathers the first seven treasures. After that, it was primarily repaired. Octopon appears to have been decades ahead of Mer’s current technical status. Yet, civilization is likely to be in constant decline owing to the Dark Water pouring from the planet’s core.
Exploring a few episodes and the overall story arc
In the first episode of Season 1, When a young adolescent named Ren saves an older man from a storm, and the older man reveals himself to be his father, Primus, king of Octopon. This is how Ren discovers that he is the heir to the throne of Octopon. When the cowardly monkey-bird Niddler kidnaps Ren and brings him to the terrible pirate Bloth, commander of the most dreaded pirate ship “Maelstrom.” Bloth becomes Ren’s adversary, and he sets out to enlist a crew while Ren embarks on a journey to locate “The Thirteen Treasures of Rule.”
In the second episode, Ren and his crew outmaneuver Bloth’s colossal ship, the Maelstrom, and flee through the Atani’s maze-like tunnel. They are apprehended and taken before the monarch of the underground city. While Ren befriends the Albino King, the mysterious Ioz and Tula both have their own agendas to overthrow him. Tula takes some mysterious documents from the royal library while Ioz steals riches from the castle.
This blatant abuse of the Atani King’s trust nearly kills our heroes. Upon learning of their sins, Ren surrenders himself, his crew, and his ship to the king’s mercy. Ren’s unselfish honorable gesture causes the monarch to take pity on our hero and frees the entire team—on the condition that they never return to his realm. Bloth’s right hand man, Konk, who has been tracking them down, wounds Ren with a crossbow and flees with the Compass and the First Treasure of Rule.
In Episode 3 of Season 1, Konk leads the Wraith to an isolated port surrounded by impenetrable vegetation. A big tribe of monkey birds have been enslaved by a gang of wicked humanoid aliens on this island. Ren and Niddler, diverted from their intended mission, desire to assist in the release of the monkey birds. According to Ioz and Tula, Ren is being silly and naïve; after all, there are treasures to be found!
The once-loyal gang disbands. Ren appears to have been slain when Ren and Niddler incite an uprising among the monkey-bird slaves. Ioz and Tula set out in pursuit of Konk. They both feel terrible, wondering what they might have done to help Ren. Meanwhile, the tide of the rebellion has shifted in favor of the monkey birds, and their imprisoned Queen has been restored to power.
Ren and Niddler are rewarded by the Queen with the gem on the front of her crown: the Second Treasure of Rule! Ren and Niddler set off in pursuit of Ioz and Tula. Unfortunately, a gigantic sea leviathan destroys their ship. Ren and Niddler float aimlessly in the middle of the ocean until they spot a ship. The Maelstrom, Bloth’s battleship!
In episode 4, Bloth captures Ren and Niddler. Ren is also introduced to one of his father’s most trusted commanders. Among Bloth’s other inmates, Ren encounters one of his father’s assistants, a lady named Avagon. Ren and company track some robbers down to the island of Pandawa, home of the monkey birds, with both the Compass and the first Treasure taken.
The island is in the grip of an insurrection as Niddler’s people fight to be free of the slavers’ clutches. Ioz and Tula pursue Konk to Janda-town, where they reclaim the Compass and First Treasure with the assistance of Ioz’s friend Zoolie, but Tula has her own plan and takes them, carrying them to Bloth.
In the fifth episode, which is also the season finale, Tula has sold not only Bloth the First Treasure and the Compass but also his heart. Tula is handed command of the Maelstrom once she has delivered the items. Ren declares that despite this betrayal, he will succeed. They plot an escape with the other captives. Meanwhile, Ioz and Zoolie have healed and want to get onboard the Maelstrom to exact revenge on Tula.
The duo confronts the Maelstrom and nearly steals the First Treasure and Compass, “For Ren!” Zoolie swims away, but Ioz is apprehended and fastened to a hefty post on deck for all to see. Bloth gloats after his “final win” against Ren and begins making arrangements to collect the remaining Treasures. That night, as Ren escorts the convicts away, they are astonished to see Tula risking her life.
Her sole motivation has been to free Theron, one of Bloth’s prisoners. Teron is an expert in environmental healing, and Tula has gone to him to preserve her home island. Massive pools of nasty Dark Water indicate that the entire planet is slowly dying. Tula’s island’s conditions have deteriorated, and the residents require Teron’s healing abilities. Tula’s rescue preparations are foiled, and a massive struggle ensues between Bloth, Ren, and the prisoners.
Ren is reunited with Tula and Ioz in the last fight. The trio reclaims the Compass and the First Treasure, then sets fire to the Maelstrom! As the smoldering Bloth extinguishes the ship’s fires, the Wraith sets sail into the night with a crew that is now wholly committed to Ren’s mission. Ren holds up the Compass as they sail in pursuit of the Third Treasure of Rule, having gained the respect of the others and, more importantly, himself!
Marvelous Verdict – a terrific show while it lasted
The short-lived animated series “The Pirates of Dark Water” stood out among the millions of cheesy, silly, and just plain dull cartoons that came out of the 1990s. This was a fantastic series that was partly “Star Wars,” part “Thundarr The Barbarian,” and partly inspired by a couple of 1940s swashbuckling flicks. “The Pirates of Dark Water” was distinctive in its own right, and it stood out from the crowds of cartoons that were popular in the 1990s.
It had an interesting concept. “The Pirates of Dark Water” has to be one of the most underappreciated animated programs of all time. It’s a lot of fun, distinctive, and original. Unfortunately, the program was canceled before the tale was entirely completed. Thus it was a great tragedy that something so fantastic ended up feeling unfinished. Having said that, the narrative premise was intriguing, as were the episode ideas centered on it.
The concept of dark water threatening to take over the planet and a hero attempting to collect the magical objects necessary to avert it is incredibly fascinating. The soundtrack is fantastic, and the episodes are packed with adventure, hilarity, and bravery. The dialogues were also shockingly sophisticated and morally sound for a kids’ cartoon. The animation is incredibly realistic, with vivid colors and intricate character traits and backdrops.
And the characters are fantastic; Ren is a really appealing hero, similar to Luke Skywalker, and Bloth is a great foe, quite a complicated character if you think about it. Tula is also stunning. A fantastic voice cast brought these personalities to life, particularly Brock Peters as Bloth, who exudes danger, but also Jodi Benson, George Newbern, Frank Welker, Hector Elizondo, Jim Cummings, and Tim Curry. In conclusion, we believe that this is a genuinely outstanding program that has been handled unfairly. It is superior to the vast majority of animated series that are now being broadcast.
Looking back at some memorable characters
When it comes to our heroes, Ren, played by George Newbern, is the prince of the formerly powerful kingdom of Octopon and the series’ primary protagonist. He wields the entirety of the shattered sword that belonged to his father. He had liberated one-half of the planet from the Dark Water by the second part of the first season. Ren was fostered on the borders of his nation by a lighthouse keeper, oblivious of his destiny and lineage.
Niddler, played by Roddy McDowall in the miniseries and Frank Welker in the TV series, is a monkey-bird that initially belonged to Bloth before fleeing by assisting Ren’s escape from the pirate captain. He is from the Pandawa island. Niddler is typically portrayed as a little greedy and continuously ravenous for food, his favorite food being Minga melons. However, he adores Ren, and his ability to fly proves to be helpful on occasion.
Tula, played by Jodi Benson, is an ecomancer with the capacity to control the elements and biological life, both conscious and non-sentient, with a natural fondness for the environment and animals. She is abrasive and frequently irritates another character named Ioz. Tula is introduced as a lowly barmaid, but she stows away on Ren and Ioz’s ship, stating that she wants to escape the monotony of life on land. She quickly reveals herself to be a character with many secrets.
Ioz, who is first portrayed by Hector Elizondo in earlier episodes and then by Jim Cummings, is a rogue and pirate who initially joins up with Ren for the promise of wealth. Throughout the seasons, his character develops, and he grows fond of Ren and his ideals, becoming a protective brotherly figure to him and frequently sacrificing his life for Ren and the Treasures. However, he continues his endeavors to get wealthy rapidly, but he is generally unsuccessful. Solia, Ioz’s younger sister, also features in the series. He, like Niddler, started off working for Bloth, but it ended badly, according to him.
Teron, played by Dan O’Herlihy, is a superior ecomancer who sprouts roots from his body to refresh himself from a portable supply of local soil while he is away from Andorus. He appears in the series for the first time as a prisoner aboard Bloth’s ship, and Bloth utilizes his strength for evil, draining the surrounding environment and its positive life energy. Tula admires him as an ecomancer, and she was tasked with bringing him back to Andorus to help cure the Dark Water-ravaged island. Teron also assists Tula in adjusting to her new talents as an ecomancer when they first appear.
Coming to the villains, Bloth, played by Brock Peters, is the ox-sized, humanoid pirate commander of the fearsome pirate ship Maelstrom and one of the series’ main adversaries. Bloth seeks the Thirteen Treasures of Rule in order to rule all Dark Water in the world, and hence Mer itself. He destroyed Primus’ fleet seventeen years before the show’s chronology and caught Primus and his aide Avagon.
However, the seven captains following Primus managed to escape with the Treasures. Bloth has since been compulsively seeking them and eradicating every relic of the House of Primus, including killing every successor to Octopon’s throne he could discover and trashing and pillaging the dying metropolis. He held Primus imprisoned for seventeen years before releasing him to Octopon and Ren.
He redirected his intense hate of Primus to Ren after finding that he had a son. Bloth proceeded to pursue the kid throughout Mer’s twenty seas in order to acquire the Treasures and destroy Ren and the Primus family. In the second part of the first season, he forms an uneasy and distrusting collaboration with Morpho, a prominent Dark Dweller agent.
The Dark Dweller, played by Frank Welker, is one of the series’ main adversaries. The Dark Dweller is a terrifying, evil monster who created the Dark Water. He initially dispersed the Treasures since their strength is the only thing capable of fighting him and his terrible grand plan to engulf Mer in Dark Water. Morpho, played by Neil Ross, is the Dark Dweller’s servant and the commander of his followers, the Dark Disciples.
He joins forces with Bloth and serves as the Dark Dweller’s above-water liaison so that they may help each other in their joint aim of eliminating Ren and his comrades, despite the fact that they have very different intentions for the Compass and Treasures. He was an alchemist working on Dark Water research when the Dark Dweller caught him and altered him such that he was no longer totally human, turning him into an immortal servant. He has a tentacle in place of one arm, and half of his torso has been molded to seem like a mash-up of deep-sea monsters. He describes himself as being from two worlds: Ren’s and the Dark Dweller’s.
Are the chances of a reboot bright enough?
Aside from avoiding the 30th anniversary, it’s Disney who is making the strongest argument for Warner Bros. to embark on their own high seas voyage as soon as possible. In 2003, Disney decided to release a big-budget, waterborne, pirate-themed adventure film based on Pirates of the Caribbean, a decades-old attraction at its theme parks. On paper, it was a really stupid notion. Waterworld had sunk less than a decade before, owing primarily to the high cost of making movies with a significant water component. So, what are the chances of a new Pirates of Dark Water film seeing the light of day?
All things considered, Disney’s investment paid off handsomely; the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise alone is currently on track to gross $5 billion globally when the upcoming sixth feature and its spinoff are included. That doesn’t even take into account the remainder of the series’ licensing arrangements. Never one to let lightning strike only once, Disney sought to rekindle success with Jungle Cruise, a new ride-inspired, franchise-launching adventure film starring Dwayne Johnson.
Disney now owns two water-based brands inspired by attractions that are more than 50 years old, but Warner Bros. has been sitting on its own original untapped IP for the previous 30 years. We know WarnerMedia isn’t afraid to explore established IP for modern reboots. The top brass reflects on prior accomplishments, but Warner Bros. appears hesitant to take massive Disney-sized swings with their own IP.
A Pirates of the Dark Water revival might prove everyone wrong. If done well, it may also satisfy stockholders. The majority of the characters are persons of color, both heroes and villains, and they come in different forms, sizes, power sets, and persuasions. Only the most vile of evildoers are linked with the Dark Water’s malevolent aim, and the world as they know it is slowly being devoured by an incredibly dangerous environmental catastrophe.
The watery planet of Mer is divided into classes in the same way as our own world is divided. Magic and mystery can be found in plain sight, among coves and islands, deep in the world’s rainforests, or in the seas of Mer itself, with endless possibilities. An adventure awaits around every turn as the wind whisks the pirate crew of The Wraith away in pursuit of wealth to drive the Dark Water back into the deep, keeping one league ahead of the Pirate Lord Bloth and his gigantic ship, The Maelstrom, wherever and whenever they can. Furthermore, if someone really intelligent develops the perfectly gorgeous baby monkey-bird, Warner Bros. may have their very own Baby Yoda on their hands.
They could literally take The Pirates of Dark Water’s structure and plot from 1991 and adapt it to today’s environment without missing a step. It may even be better for having withstood the test of time for 30 years. In doing so, Warner Bros. would be giving one of animation’s most treasured diamonds a chance to shine.
The Pirates of Dark Water was a fun and exciting animated TV series while it lasted, with a host of interesting characters and storylines and a unique premise. The animated series debuted at a unique point in time. The transition from the ’80s to the ’90s was a fantastic opportunity for creative forces to either revive an existing game for the decade’s extraordinary thirst for material or to come up with something fresh that could be the world’s next great franchise.
It’s a pity that the series was short lived, though, because there were many who held great interest in it, and the cartoon had incredible potential. Even to this day, fans of the cartoon show are waiting hopefully for a reboot with bated breath.