Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light [1987] 1 Season. 13 Episodes

visionaries_05

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.

Hmm, let's see.  Who is the evil Darkstorm and who the noble Leoric?

Hmm, let's see. Who is the evil Darkstorm and who the noble Leoric?

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.

Flint Dille, I really respect your work from that era.  But about that name...

Merklyn was not really a nice guy. That was an interesting and surprising take on the character. BTW Flint Dille, we really respect your work from that era. But about his name...

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.

The bad guy tank-like vehicle was more handy than the others. It had a "magical dungeon" - a chamber that stole the magical powers of those placed within.  Yup.  Handy.

The bad guy tank-like vehicle was more handy than the others. It had a "magical dungeon" - a chamber that stole the magical powers of those placed within. Yup. Handy.

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.

visionaries merklyn

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.

visionaries_cast_07

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.

Fletchen

Fletchen really was a lovely woman. A wonderfully kind, sweet and supportive spirit. The world could use a few more Fletchens (although we doubt the name will catch on).

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).

visionaries_comic_first_issue

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.

Can you determine which of these knights is earnest Galladria and which is the scheming Virulina?

Can you determine which of these knights is earnest Galadria and which is the scheming Virulina?

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!

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7 thoughts on “Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light [1987] 1 Season. 13 Episodes

  1. i have always wondered about the name ‘merklyn.’ my only guess is that the writers try to make the name sound as unfamiliar as possible, since its another universe and all.

    but…

    ‘merklyn’ sounds like a girl’s name. there, i said it.

  2. Time was, they took the time to create a whole fantasy world and not a parody of it. Granted, many of the elements were recycled from existing Arthurian legends, history, fantasy novels, RPG, etc. but the whole thing worked to our 12-year old sensibilities. I remember my school-mates and I memorising and reciting the words for the spells in school… 🙂

    • Oh yeah! That sounds fun. To their credit the voice actors said them most of the time with compelling intensity.

      Good points about the recycled elements, but you are also right about how they brought them together forming their own fantasy world. (Although as an adult we wonder if perhaps they borrowed too much from Arthurian legends regarding the name “Merklyn”.) Ha.

  3. Being a huge visionaries fan (even with all the competing shows back in fall of ’87) I can honestly say, it was one of the best cartoons out there. At the time, many cartoons were in the process of being creatively neutered (thanks to the P.C. “anti-violence” watchdog groups). Apparently Sunbow/Marvel didn’t recieve the message. Great times, great fun, dynamic and exciting (also funny)show. BTW The name Merklyn was just a play on “Merlin” I believe (pure & simple). I don’t think their was any other thought behind it. That kept w/ the Arthurian theme (Mortdredd would be a good example). Other “communities” w/in the Visionaries world had their own themes as well (their was one that was similar to Cambodian villages, as well as those who were stereotypical English peasants.) It was definitely one of the more creative shows on at that time. It shows how great things were, and how far American cartoons have slid in the last 15-16 years. Oh well, we still have the old memories. Peace to the old fans. Take care, all of ya!

    • You are probably right about “Merklyn” just being a straight take on “Merlin” as evidenced by your “Mortdredd” example. Still, I wish I got that question to Flint.

      It is true that American cartoons hit a non-action bust again after the 80’s boom. Perhaps that fueled the rise of the anime importing of the 90’s. It has been a long road back but I think we are well along it now with all the new ways to get animation out there.

      Thanks for the great comment.

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