Dragon Tales
Dragon Tales logo.jpg
Genre
Created by
Developed by
  • Jim Coane
  • Wesley Eure
  • Jeffrey Scott
  • Cliff Ruby
  • Elana Lesser
Directed by
  • Tim Eldred (S1)
  • Curt Walstead (Assistant)
  • Phil Weinstein (Co-Supervising, S2)
  • Michael Hack (Voice)
  • Gloria Jenkins (Supervising, S2-3)
Voices of
Narrated byVictor Spinetti and Derek Griffiths (Audiobooks)
Theme music composer
Composers
  • Joey Levine & Co.
  • Jim Latham
  • Brian Garland
  • Cheryl Hassen
Country of origin
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes94 (155 segments)[4] (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Producers
  • Richard Raynis
  • Jeff Kline
  • Ron Rodecker
  • Cliff Ruby
  • Elana Lesser
  • John Mariella
  • Cheryl Hassen
  • Pamela Aguilar
Running time30 minutes per episode
Production companiesAdelaide Productions
Sesame Workshop[a]
Columbia TriStar Television (1999–2002)
Sony Pictures Television (2005)
DistributorSony Pictures Television[b]
Release
Original networkPBS Kids (U.S.)
CBC Television (Canada)
Picture formatNTSC
Audio formatStereo
Original releaseSeptember 6, 1999 (1999-09-06) –
November 26, 2005 (2005-11-26)

Dragon Tales is an animated educational fantasy children's television series created by Jim Coane and Ron Rodecker and developed by Coane, Wesley Eure, Jeffrey Scott, Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser and produced by Sony Pictures Television, Sesame Workshop, Columbia TriStar Television, and Adelaide Productions. The story focuses on the adventures of two ordinary kids, Emmy and Max, and their dragon friends Ord, Cassie, Zak, Wheezie, and Quetzal. The series began broadcasting on PBS on their PBS Kids block on September 6, 1999, and aired its final episode on November 25, 2005. Yearim Productions was responsible for the animation for all seasons (Sunwoo Entertainment and Wang Film Productions only did animation for season 1), with the exception of Koko Enterprises, which recorded the show along with BLT Productions, and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The U.S. Department of Education, Kellogg's, and greeting card manufacturer, American Greetings[5] were responsible for the funding.

Background

Origin

Dragon Tales is based on characters created in 1978[6] by Laguna Beach, California artist and retired educator Ron Rodecker. Rodecker was recovering from a coronary artery bypass graft when he began sketching dragons as a means of symbolizing forces in life that were too big to control.[6][7][8] In 1995, Jim Coane, then a producer at Columbia TriStar Television, found the artwork and developed it into a television series with several writers. The project was considered something of a risky venture, because it was not based on a well-known franchise like many children's television programs, such as Arthur or Paddington Bear. The series was immediately shipped to PBS member stations at the suggestion of PBS, but all originally passed at the time. In October 1995, Jim Coane met Marjorie Kalins, senior VP of programming and production at Children's Television Workshop, and showed her the idea for the series. Kalins, who loved the idea, brought the series to Children's Television Workshop, who agreed to a partnership with the Columbia TriStar Television Group. Kalins helped him and Columbia TriStar Television obtain an $8.5 million grant from the Department of Education and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The grant proposal was written by Wesley Eure.[9] Coane stated that there was never any consideration of trying to shop the program to a commercial broadcast network and that PBS was, in his mind, the only destination for the program.[10] As Columbia TriStar was the TV division of two major Hollywood film studios, which in turn are owned by the Sony Pictures Entertainment division of Japanese multinational conglomerate Sony, Dragon Tales became one of the few PBS Kids and Sprout programs to be co-produced by a major Hollywood studio's TV subsidiary; The other PBS shows were Bill Nye the Science Guy (made by Walt Disney Television), and Curious George (produced by Universal Television). In 2002, CTTV was renamed to Sony Pictures Television, a company that would co-produce the third season of the program.

After a tour of the lot of Sony Studios, Wesley Eure created the first treatment of the show, including the initial conception of the two-headed dragon Zak and Wheezie, back then known as "Snarf and Bugger." The series received a massive multi-million dollar grant from the federal government, beating out The Muppets and Sesame Street for the request. As part of the conditions for the grant, Eure was required to create a companion series for the program, which he titled Show and Tell Me, based on his own lecture series known as "Anyone Can Write a Book." Though the companion series was never actually created, Eure remains hopeful that it will one day be produced. Eure's name was not included in the initial credits for the series, forcing him to hire an attorney to ensure that he received credit.[11]

Following the development of a show bible by Jeffrey Scott, with some tweaks by writers Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser, the series was ordered for just over 60 eleven-minute episodes by PBS. Scott was assigned to write and edit half, with Ruby/Lesser assigned to the other half. At this point, the writing team was provided with a document titled "FUN AND LEARNING IN DRAGON LAND: A Writer's Guide to Dragon Tales Educational Content" which provided directives as to which curriculum should be included within the stories, such as "emotional challenges > understanding other people's emotions > recognizing and labeling feelings in others" and the statement that "CURRICULUM IS PARAMOUNT!" After the creation of the first script, all writing parties involved agreed that the scripts "weren't fun or funny, they were flat and boring." The writers successfully explained to the consultants, educators and psychologists of PBS that children watch television to be entertained and must be entertained in order to be educated. They were then provided with a new directive, "Come up with entertaining stories and shoehorn in the curriculum wherever it fits!" Scott states that from the experience he learned an invaluable lesson about how to create a successful preschool series.[12] Dong Woo Animation, Rough Draft Korea, Sunwoo Entertainment, Wang Film Productions (season 1 only), Yearim, Siriol Productions (season 3 only) and Lotto Animation contributed some of the animation for this series.

Show premise and overview

Dragon Tales has three primary educational goals. They are:

  • To encourage children to take on new or difficult challenges in their lives
  • To help children recognize that there is more than one way to approach a challenge
  • To help children understand that to try and not succeed fully is a valuable and natural part of learning

Dragon Tales official website Parents FAQ[13]

The series focuses on the adventures of Emmy and Max, two human siblings in possession of an enchanted dragon scale which, upon reciting a special rhyme engraved into its casing, can magically transport them to Dragon Land, a whimsical fantasy world inhabited by colorful dragons. Befriended by four friendly dragons with distinctive personalities - the fearful, but strong Ord; the shy, yet sweet-natured Cassie; and polar opposite twins, neat-freak Zak and rambunctious Wheezie - the two children frequently travel to Dragon Land and help their friends in fulfilling particular quests, assisting them in their daily problems, and learning important morals through their experiences in Dragon Land.

Designed to educate preschoolers mildly in Hispanic culture, a new character named Enrique debuted during the show's final season, providing the series with a third protagonist. Surrounded by a variety of unique characters and faced with numerous differing situations, Emmy and Max commonly embark on adventures with their dragon friends, conquering fears or achieving goals in spite of any obstacles along the way.

As a series broadcast on PBS, the program has an educational focus, combining lessons of a pro-social nature with those of more general educational value. Educational themes covered included identifying shapes, learning words and letters in both English and Spanish, counting and basic math. Social themes are also covered, such as good sportsmanship, the importance of being a good friend, overcoming obstacles such as jealousy or fears and getting along with siblings. Many of the show's interstitial song segments, known as "Dragon Tunes," also covered such themes, such as "Make It Fun", which encourages viewers to not complain about having to do seemingly mundane chores such as washing dishes or helping parents with cooking meals, but instead find ways to make them fun; and "Hum," which encourages those who had a fear of the dark or trying new things to hum softly to comfort themselves. Three stated goals of the program's educational philosophy are the encouragement of pursuing new experiences, finding ways to approach and learn from challenges and that learning can come through trying and not succeeding entirely.[14] Despite two of the show's human leads, Emmy and Enrique, being six years old, the show's described target audience was children closer to the age of four.[15]

Another key topic of the program is the encouragement of honest and candid expressions of emotion. In "Cassie, the Green-Eyed Dragon," Cassie feels jealous of her little brother, Finn, who gets everyone's attention when she takes him to school for "circle time." Discussing the matter with her best friend, Emmy, and her teacher, Quetzal, helps her to understand that jealousy is a natural feeling that everyone experiences sometimes, but that there are ways that she can appreciate her brother, while still feeling appreciated herself.[16] In "Feliz Cumpleaños, Enrique," Enrique feels sad and homesick for his homeland of Colombia when his birthday celebrations in Dragon Land are not like the traditions of those back in his old home. He talks with Quetzal, who encourages him to cry, even though he had been told that crying was something a boy at his age was not supposed to do. After doing so, he feels better and is able to enjoy his party celebrations.[17]

As with Sesame Street, which is also produced by the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop), the program's creators encourage "co-viewing," the practice of parents or other caregivers watching the program along with their children and engaging in activities such as discussion, singing and dancing, and pretend play.[13] The program's official website offers a number of activities and lesson plans to aid in these efforts.[18][19]

Characters

Emmy and Max.JPG
 
Dragon Tales main characters.JPG
Protagonists Emmy and Max (top image) in a season 2 episode of Dragon Tales, "Lucky Stone" (2001). Ord, Enrique, Max, Emmy, Zak and Wheezie, and Cassie in a season 3 episode (bottom image) of Dragon Tales, "Rise and Bloom" (2005).

Main

Kids

Dragons

Other

Each of the following characters have appeared more than once:

Places in Dragon Land

Dragon Land is the fantasy world where the majority of the show takes place. It is home to numerous colorful, dragons and many other fantastical creatures. Max and Emmy travel to Dragon Land by holding an enchanted dragon scale while reciting the rhyme: "I wish, I wish, with all my heart, to fly with dragons in a land apart." The scale then teleports them to Dragon Land. It appears that it does not matter who does or does not say the rhyme, as long as at least one person says it; whoever is holding the dragon scale while they say the rhyme will be teleported with them. Returning home from Dragon Land is done in the same fashion, although no dragon scale is needed. The rhyme is: "I wish, I wish, to use this rhyme, to go back home until next time." The person reciting the rhyme, as well as all those holding their hands, will be transported back to their original homes.

Release history

Dragon Tales premiered on PBS Kids on September 6, 1999 with the episode "To Fly with Dragons/The Forest of Darkness." The installment introduced the characters of Max and Emmy to Dragon Land after discovering a magical dragon scale in their new home and to their new dragon friends. In the first half, they discovered Ord's missing tooth, while the adventures continued in the second story with Ord facing his fear of the dark. A total of forty episodes were aired in the first season, with the finale airing on April 28, 2000. The show also aired on the original PBS Kids Channel until that network's closure in 2005. Dragon Tales was the only CTW show airing on the PBS Kids Channel due to Noggin having the cable rights to air shows from the CTW's programming library (including its flagship series Sesame Street). The show's second season premiered on June 4, 2001 and had 25 episodes. 20 of these episodes were broadcast from June 4, 2001 to September 14, 2001. The final installment of this set, "Just the Two of Us/Cowboy Max," was broadcast only in non-U.S. markets such as Guam and Canada and did not premiere to U.S. audiences until the program's third season, though "Cowboy Max" was released on DVD prior to this. The special "Let's Start a Band!," featuring the dragon characters blended with live humans in a musical show based on the program's "Dragon Tunes" segments, was released on March 2, 2003. Following this, no new episodes were aired until February 21, 2005, leading many long-time viewers to believe the program had been quietly canceled. The new season introduced the new character Enrique, an immigrant from Colombia, as well as an updated focus on folk songs and teaching of Spanish. The premiere installment, in two parts, showed Enrique being introduced to the sights and sounds of Dragon Lands, learning to fly on Zak & Wheezie, and having his first adventure. The second half appeared as "The Mystery of the Missing Knuckerholes" in some listings, but on the program was simply titled as Part 2 of the episode. Though 29 episodes were broadcast, including "Just the Two of Us/Cowboy Max," only one story from each was original, while the others were a repeat of a story from the second season. The series officially concluded with the "Big, Big Friends Day" special on November 25, 2005. Dragon Tales would continue to air in reruns on the PBS Kids block (and sister channel Sprout) until August 31, 2010.

The program's first musical album, Dragon Tunes, was released on March 20, 2001 and featured the character themes of Cassie and Ord, as well as tunes such as "Betcha Can," the "Wiggle Song" and "Shake Your Dragon Tail."[31] A second album, More Dragon Tunes, was issued on February 15, 2005. This album introduced the character theme of Zak & Wheezie, as well as a number of new tunes introduced in the program's second and third seasons, including "Hola," "Make a New Friend" and remixes of two previous themes, "Shake Your Dragon Tail" and "Dance."[32]

Throughout its history, a number of tie-in book releases were printed, some based on installments of the television program, others not. These included Cassie Loves a Parade,[33] Ord Makes a Wish[34] and Taking Care of Quetzal.[35]

A special, Parent Tales from Dragon Tales, was produced in association with the program. The program was stated to use "messages built into the children's series to inform parental challenges. From bedtime dramatics to tantrums and assorted other small-fry rebellions..." For the special, parents were given video cameras used to record problematic behavior, then counselors analyzed the video footage and provided specific tips to the parents, who all reported significantly improved behavior two months later. The researchers also discovered from their work on the series that children often think in pictures and that visual aids are often helpful.[36]

Music and songs

Dragon Tales featured an original score composed by Jim Latham and Brian Garland.[37] Each episode also included an interstitial segment between story airings known as "Dragon Tunes," featuring a song either based on one of the characters of the show, or designed to teach a lesson, such as "Stretch!", which encouraged viewers to reach forward for their goals and "When You Make a New Friend," which espoused the joys of forming a new friendship. The songs were released on the albums Dragon Tunes[31] and More Dragon Tunes.[32]

Episodes

Main article: List of Dragon Tales episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
140September 6, 1999 (1999-09-06)April 28, 2000 (2000-04-28)
225June 4, 2001 (2001-06-04)October 15, 2002 (2002-10-15)
329February 21, 2005 (2005-02-21)April 11, 2005 (2005-04-11)

Dragon Tales aired a total of 94 episodes, 40 in its first season, 24 in its second season and 30 in its third season. Each episode featured two original stories, aired back-to-back, split by the interstitial song segment "Dragon Tunes," all of which were eventually released on the show's music albums. Almost all episodes from the third season, however, generally contained at least one repeat of a story from the program's second season (As evidenced by the absence of Enrique.) and some were even repeats of material from that season and earlier material from the third season. In all, there were a total of 155 original stories. The show also had two specials: Let's Start a Band and Big, Big Friend Day. Let's Start a Band was a musical feature in which the characters of the show were seen alongside real human children. Big, Big Friend Day, however, was merely a special featuring episodes of Dragon Tales and Clifford the Big Red Dog, with interstitial segments introducing characters from the new series (new at the time) It's a Big Big World. As such, it did not contain any new Dragon Tales material.[4]

Reception

The series has received generally positive reviews (although the third season's reception was more mixed).[attribution needed] Common Sense Media rated the show a four out of five stars, stating, Dragon Tales intends to positively impact a child's growth and development by encouraging a love of learning and helping children problem-solve and work through the challenges of growing up. The kids and dragons embark on different adventures and attend the School in the Sky, all while learning how to face their fears and handle new situations. The fun, nurturing, and sometimes challenging atmosphere of Dragon Land is a lot like preschool."[38]

Awards

The series was nominated for three Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Children's Animated Program in 2001, 2002 and 2003, but did not win any. Jason Michas and Kathleen Barr also received Annie Award nominations in 2000 for their performances of Zak and Wheezie respectively.

In other media

Video games

Cover of Dragon Tales: Dragon Adventures
Cover of Dragon Tales: Dragon Adventures

On November 29, 2000, a video game based on the series, Dragon Tales: Dragon Seek, was released for the PlayStation. Published by NewKidCo, the player takes control of either Emmy or Max as the player navigates them through Dragon Land playing hide and seek, searching for either Ord, Cassie, Zak and Wheezie, Monsieur Marmaduke or Captain Scallywag that are hiding in certain areas in each level, the player would also have a choice to pick what character they want to search for at the beginning.[43]

On December 16, 2000,[44] another video game, Dragon Tales: Dragon Wings, was issued for Game Boy Color. Issued by NewKidCo, the game allowed players to take on the role of a novice dragon that was learning the secrets of flight at Quetzal's School in the Sky. Players moved through 15 levels of obstacles available in three difficulty levels. Reviews were mixed at Amazon.com, with an overall rating of 3/5 stars from ten reviewers. Many praised the graphics and fun of the game, but also felt that the game was too challenging for most younger players and did not offer much educational value.[45]

On July 28, 2001, a third video game titled Dragon Tales: Dragon Adventures was released for Game Boy Color. Also issued by NewKidCo, the game included journeys to familiar locations from the show including the Stickleback Mountains, the Singing Springs and Crystal Caverns. The game included multiple skill settings and the option to play as Cassie, Ord, Emmy or Max, the title having been issued before the addition of Enrique to the series.[46] The Game Boy Advance version was later released in 2004, which also makes Zak and Wheezie playable in that version.

The show's official website also included a number of tie-in games, such as "Finn's Word Game" and "Dragonberry Surprise," though following the discontinuation of the site, such titles are no longer available.[47]

Marketing and merchandise

In addition to the various books, music albums and video game releases, numerous merchandise items featuring the characters of Dragon Tales were made available for purchase throughout the program's run. A total of six different designs featuring scenes from the program were featured on Welch's jam jars.[48] An official board game for the series titled Dragon Tales: A Dragon Land Adventure, featured obstacles and memory games, with the goal of completing a puzzle. It was released by University Games and overall reviews were generally positive, though also expressed that the game was not very challenging.[49] Other merchandise released for the series included plush toys for most of the major characters, such as Cassie and Quetzal though Enrique, seen only in the program's third season, was never released in plush form and was largely absent from merchandise releases. As early as January 1996, Hasbro reached an agreement for a line of plush, puzzles and board games related to the series to be released beginning in spring 2000.[9]

For the program's video debut, multiple licensees, including Hasbro, Random House, Sony PlayStation and New Kid Toys promoted in tandem a "Dragon Tales Family Fun Getaway." Promoted via stickers on Dragon Tales merchandise and home video releases, the promotion was a contest with a grand prize of a four-day, three-night trip for four to San Diego, including a visit to the San Diego Zoo.[50]

In 2001, Mott's ran a five-month Dragon Tales promotion with its apple juice packs. Dragon Tales character stickers were offered on 50 million packs. Additionally, 20 million bottles offered an instant win game with the top prize as a Dragon Tales themed party with the pink dragon Cassie and an additional 10,000 prizes of Dragon Tales books.[51]

In October 2004, Scholastic Parent & Child selected the CD-ROM game Learn & Fly With Dragons as teachers' pick for best new tech.[52]

Live events

Ord, Max, Emmy, Cassie, Zak & Wheezie in Dragon Tales Live!
Ord, Max, Emmy, Cassie, Zak & Wheezie in Dragon Tales Live!

A musical stage show called Dragon Tales Live! features the characters and concepts of the show. It toured nationally in the United States. It featured performers playing the dragons in full body costumes and two real children in each production playing the roles of Max and Emmy. Shows included the "Missing Music Mystery",[53] "Journey to Crystal Cave" [54] and "The Riddle of Rainbow River."[55]

Dragon Tales Live! toured from January 2002[56] until at least March 2006.[57] The program was never modified to include the character of Enrique, who was not added until the program's final season, one year before productions of the stage show ended.

References

Citations

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  1. ^ Known as Children's Television Workshop for the first season
  2. ^ Known as Columbia TriStar Television Distribution for seasons 1-2