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How Dungeons & Dragons Inspired the Legend of Zelda Cartoon

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DIC Entertainment’s late-1980s cartoon based on The Legend of Zelda took inspiration from a variety of sources, including the popular television drama/comedy series Moonlighting and, perhaps less surprisingly, the beloved tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.


During an oral history of the Legend of Zelda cartoon published by Polygon, series writer Eve Forward discussed how her experience playing D&D informed her approach to tackling the similarly fantasy-themed Nintendo property. Forward had been convinced to join The Legend of Zelda‘s writing staff by her brother and fellow writer Bob Forward, who served as the show’s story editor.

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“My brother somehow ended up suggesting I try writing an episode, and I was able to turn out a couple of scripts that, with his editing, ended up getting used. I was about 16-17 at the time,” Eve Forward recalled. “The only direction I had was the show bible, which outlined the basic characters and sorts of stories they were looking for. I didn’t have a Nintendo, so I rented one, and the game, and tried to play it, but I didn’t get very far. But the basic relationships were all established in the show bible; Ganon bad guy, Zelda tough girl, Link charming scamp, Triforce MacGuffin, etc.”

She continued, “I did play Dungeons & Dragons though, at the time, and some of that feel made it into the show. [The seventh episode] ‘Doppelganger’ was based on a cursed mirror in D&D. Well, the monsters in Zelda were all based on things from the Nintendo game; same with the weapons, like Link’s boomerang. But in D&D of course you’re always fighting monsters and imagining how cool your character looks doing it, so a lot of the various swashbuckling stuff I liked to put in was based on things that had happened in our D&D games. I always thought of Link as more of a rogue than a fighter.”

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Who Are the Forward Siblings?

After The Legend of Zelda, Eve Forward worked as a writer on such cartoons as the 1989-1992 incarnation of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, MC Hammer’s Hammerman and both iterations of Biker Mice from Mars. She is also a fantasy author, having penned the 1995 novel Villains by Necessity, the 2000 novel Animist and the 2015 novel GyreWorld: Book One – The Turning City, the latter of which she co-wrote with her brother Bob.

Bob Forward himself, meanwhile, is quite prolific in the world of animation, having served as head writer on not only The Legend of Zelda, but also the original incarnation of Biker Mice from Mars, Wild C.A.T.s, Action Man, The Savage Dragon, Beast Wars: Transformers and X-Men: Evolution, among others. He also wrote for shows like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power, in addition to serving as a co-developer on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Like his sister, Bob Forward is an author as well, having written the 1984 novel The Owl and its 1990 sequel. Bob and Eve are the children of late physicist and sci-fi writer Robert L. Forward.

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DIC’s Legend of Zelda Is an Interesting Artifact of the ’80s

DIC’s The Legend of Zelda premiered on first-run syndication in September 1989 as part of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!. The animated series ran for a single season, concluding after 13 episodes in December 1989. It is based on 1986’s The Legend of Zelda and 1987’s Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, the first two games in Nintendo’s Zelda franchise, which has gotten many more entries in the years since.

The DIC cartoon starred Jonathan Potts and Cyndy Preston as the voices of Link and Princess Zelda, respectively. Given the fact that the show came out before much of the modern Zelda canon had been established, its versions of Link and Zelda were more or less built from the ground up. On that note, perhaps the most infamous aspect of the show is Link’s arrogant and whiny personality, which goes hand-in-hand with his prolific catchphrase: “Well, excuse me, Princess.” Zelda, meanwhile, was given a significant upgrade from her first two video game appearances, being portrayed as a hero in her own right, rather than the damsel in distress — something Nintendo would explore in some of its later Zelda games.

Source: Polygon

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