The animation boom of the 1980’s often will bring a wistful smile to any who experienced it. Sunbow Productions, the company behind many of the most famous shows added an unusual entry in the twilight of the era. Visionaries was action packed and based on a fantastical premise.
If we may try an entertaining one sentence description (as we often do) it would go like this: The three suns of the far off world of Prismos aligned rendering their technology useless and forcing society back to the era of knights where two great now magically powered factions arose. Not bad.
The knights are given their magical powers by a great old wizard called Merklyn. No, you read it right; M-e-r-k-l-y-n. Not Merlin. We once peripherally worked with Flint Dille who was the lead writer on Visionaries. We had two questions to ask him and one was, “What the heck was up with naming that guy Merklyn?!” Sadly we never got to ask and thus can only imagine the “mind-expanding” answer.
There were some vehicles that worked by magic and power staves that packed a punch, so there was more to the combat than just swords. Making it more interesting was the ability given to the knights to transform temporarily into the animal totem inscribed on their chest piece.
One criticism we have of the show is that the bad knights always seemed to have the upper hand until the very end. Conniving and willing to do anything nefarious, they were steps ahead of the good “Spectral Knights” who always had to play catch up. This portrayal of the good guys got old and made them seem incompetent – or suckers.
It honesty is not that much fun to have the good guys behind the 8-ball for 29.5 minutes and only barely emerge victorious in the last 30 seconds. We have said it before; it is easier to destroy than to create.
The bad guys called “Darkling Lords” had very tangible and often destructive powers. The good guys tried to combat these with their own less fun highbrow ones “wisdom” and “knowledge”. Although they did have one for speed and one that shot a giant arrow which were quite cool.
The cast was large. 6-7 knights on each side plus Merklyn. This hindered character development a little. Had the show lasted longer than 13 episodes more could have been done, but even so they made a good effort and you got a feel for most of them. They even took the time to fan two romances (one quite touching); Cryotek with Galladria, and Leoric with Fletchen.
On the good guys side their totems were much more practical. Lions and bears are much more useful and fearsome than mollusks and armadillos. The two female knights often faced off against each other but got burdened with the water animals dolphin and shark. Yeah that is handy (there was a number of conveniently placed bodies of water).
Some of the plots were a little dark, and the tenor of the show was serious. The voice acting was great. Some of the best voices of the era; Jonathan (Dr. Smith) Harris and Peter (Optimus Prime) Cullen amongst them. Plus more you would recognize by ear.
Your journey through one of animations greatest eras is not complete unless you watch Visionaries. It is a bold vision, has entertaining moments, and one of the catchiest theme songs in animation history. Go ahead, we dare you to get it out of your head!