Western Animation: Dragon Tales
was an animated Sesame Workshop and Columbia TriStar
/Sony Pictures show on PBS Kids
. Its original run lasted from 1999 to 2005. Repeats were also seen on PBS Kids Sprout
, but are no longer being broadcast, though a number of DVD releases remain available. As of January 2013, it is now available on Netflix instant streaming.
Max and Emmy find a magical dragon scale upon moving into their new home. By reciting the rhyme, "I wish, I wish, with all my heart, to fly with dragons, in a land apart," the magic sends them to Dragon Land
. Once there, they meet and play with their new magical dragon friends: Cassie, Ord, Zak and Wheezie (the latter two are a two-headed dragon
). They are also often accompanied by the Cool Old Guy
dragon Quetzal, and in later seasons, they are joined by their friend Enrique.
The show has a considerable Periphery Demographic
, as it resembles an 1980s
cartoon that was trapped in a time warp. Well, it's colorful, fantasy themed, and is enjoyably trippy at times. Sound familiar
? (Note that Sugar Apocalypses
are not part of the package on this show - although, amusingly, this show shares some talent with the latest incarnation of that show
Not to be confused with Dragon Tails
Provides Examples Of:
- Absentee Actor: Cassie is missing without any explanation in 7 episodes including "Wheezie's Last Laugh". Ord is missing without any explanation in 2 episodes "Zak and the Beanstalk" and "Out With the Garbage". And Zak and Weezie were missing without any explanation in 9 episodes.
- Agony of the Feet: Zak in "Calling Dr. Zak" after stepping on the spinypine thorn, though it's Wheezie's foot that hops up and down while his foot, with the thorn in it, stays off the ground.
- A Head at Each End: Meow the CopyCat.
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The dragons come in all colors of the rainbow.
- Animation Bump: Some episodes such as "The Fury is Out on this One" and "Bully for You" have much more expressive and less stiff animation than most of the others, which makes it even more glaring when the Stock Footage mentioned below is used.
- Annoying Laugh: Mr. Pop's laugh in "Wheezie's Last Laugh".
- Anthropomorphic Personification: The Grudge in "The Grudge Won't Budge" and the Fury in "The Fury is Out on this One".
- Anything But That!: One of the very few things Wheezie h-a-a-tes; "No no no! Anything but the...Alone Cone!. For context, the Alone Cone is a special cone that a two-headed dragon uses when one head (Zak) doesn't want to listen to the other (Wheezie).
- Argument of Contradictions: In "Tails You Lose," Zak is conducting a game of freeze dance with the song "The Wings on the Dragon," a variation of "The Wheels on the Bus." He conducts and sings the song very slowly, leading Wheezie complain that fast music is better for the game. Zak responds "Is not," she says "Is too!" and they're off, until Wheezie snatches the baton and conducts the game to a fast version of the song.
- Awakening the Sleeping Giant: "The Giant of Nod" centers around this. Then it turns out the giant is hardly giant to the main cast.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Princess Kadoodle.
- Be Yourself
- Big Eater: Ord.
- Bilingual Bonus: Because everything is better bilingual.
- Breath Weapon: Subverted. Fire breath is rarely used as a weapon and more like a tool in the series.
- Broken Aesop: One episode features Cassie showing off her new anthropomorphic crayon that is capable of bringing anything you draw with it to life. She has to learn to share it with everyone else, even if it means she gets no time with it. The problem is that it never once occurs to her to draw more crayons. That's not what makes it this trope though; what does is that the episode very clearly demonstrates this as being a possible solution when the crayon draws clones of himself to help clean a mess.
- The Bully: Spike is one in "Bully for You," until the problem is solved. Also, "Teasing is Not Pleasing" is about a dragon-basketball team that teases Emmy.
- By the Power of Grayskull!: The kids use a rhyme to get to Dragon Land and back, so yes, this counts.
- Butt Monkey: Zak. It's very subtle, but watch the series carefully and you'll catch all sorts of little abuses happening to him.
- Catch Phrase: "Definitely!" for Emmy, "LOoOoOoOve it!" for Wheezie, among others. The latter is often the tipping point for older viewers.
- Character Development
- The Clan: Cassie. She's got a bigger family than me and you. Her brothers and sisters total seventy-two.
- Clueless Aesop: Occasionally. See Inspirationally Disadvantaged immediately below. There was also a very odd episode where Wheezie must learn patience and to wait her turn for a roller coaster. Thing is, one of the reasons humans enjoy and built roller coasters is because they are lacking in the wings department.
- Compressed Vice: Usually, the show can get away with averting this (generally the morals are assigned to characters it would fit the best on, and when it won't, they typically introduce a side character to take care of it), but when it happens, it shows. Probably the worst example is "Tails You Lose" — Emmy, clean out of nowhere, gains a Sore Loser trait with no buildup or explanation at the beginning of the episode. She had never shown any signs of this in any previous episode, even when she did lose a game.
- Cuddle Bug: Ord often tends to give Max and Emmy a big hug when they arrive in Dragon Land, much to their chagrin, as he's much bigger than them and tends to squish them a bit.
- Dragon Rider:
- Emmy and Max get to ride on the dragons at least Once an Episode.
- Zak and Wheezie usually don't have anybody to ride them, at least until Enrique comes around. Played for laughs when he is introduced — he thinks that he's about to ride Zak and Wheezie like a horse, not realizing they're about to get airborne.
- Edutainment Show: Generally of the pro-social values or personal growth type, i.e. learning to be a good sport, overcoming a fear of the dark, etc. However, the show also taught a lot about things like colors, counting, music and shapes.
- Efficient Displacement: Ord likes to do this a lot in the show.
- In "Forest of Darkness" he leaves a nice clean outline in the ground when a gigantic gum bubble pops.
- Ord does this through several clouds in "Stormy Weather".
- "On Thin Ice" sends Ord sliding into a wall of snow when he slips.
- Max and Eunice the Unicorn do this with a tree in "A Tall Tale".
- Max does this a second time with Enrique when they crash their sled in "Super Snow Day".
- Mondo Mouse sees it fit to send the entire gang doing this through rainbow in "Max's Comic Adventure".
- Establishing Shot: Almost every episode begins with a street view of Max and Emmy's house. It appears to be in the southern United States, with a Mexican architectural design and palm trees. This outside view and the interior of the kids' playroom is all we ever see of the human world, save for a few small peeks of the hallway when somebody opens the door to the playroom.
- The Faceless: The dragon parents, such as those of Ord and Cassie, make appearances in some episodes; however, their faces are never shown and they are only viewed from the neck down.
- Face Palm: Zak does this in "Knot a Problem" when Wheezie asks who she can be with when they go to search for the missing pony, Winnie, and Zak indicates himself, then Wheezie acts like she got a brainwave and says she can be with him.
- Dragons Don't Believe in Humans Either: Before meeting Emmy and Max, Ord and Cassie had only seen kids in fairy tales. Later, Spike didn't know what Emmy and Max were until Cassie told him they're children.
- Fantastic Flora: All of the characters loved the dragonberries, though Ord was definitely the biggest fan. Also, Dragon Land is loaded with unusual plants in general— the third season story "A Small Victory" features all of the main characters (and guest Lorca) searching for unusual flowers.
- Fear of Thunder: Poor Ord...
- Feud Episode: Max and Ord begin fighting with each other about which color to use for the castles they were making whilst pretending to be kings. Eventually, they lament about how they're going to stop fighting. In the end, they solve the problem by combining their preferred colors to make one big castle.
- Also, in "Tails You Lose," Emmy actually wishes herself back home for a while after getting into an argument.
- Floating in a Bubble: Ord in one episode, after he overshoots his use of bubble soap. The others have to freeze the bubble by heading the coldest part of Dragon Land in order to get him out.
Ord: (shivering) It's freezing!
Everyone else: Good!
- Forgotten Birthday: "Ord's Unhappy Birthday". Jaw Drop when his friends surprise him.
- Four-Fingered Hands on the dragons, five fingers for the humans.
- Freakiness Shame: In one episode, where the gang meets Priscilla, a dragon who is embarrassed by her abnormally large wings.
- Free-Range Children: Subverted, averted, and played straight, with even frequency.
- Gender Bender: Zak and Wheezie. If they have two heads, and only one body...how can they possibly be of two separate genders?
- Gentle Giant: Mungus, fortunately for the True Companions.
- There's also that unnamed troll like Giant who is also quite gentle.
- The Giant of Nod also counts, as he is only trying to protect his little people.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Priscilla, the manager at the lost-and-found, who during her first appearance, was feeling embarrassed because her wings (often called "feathers") were bigger than other dragons'. She eventually realized that boy dragons like girl dragons with big wings and raises her self-esteem.
- Also, the show got away with "stupid," which is normally taboo on shows like this.
- A subtle example: Cassie has a massive number of siblings—72 siblings, actually! Exactly how often were Cassie's parents, um, madly in love with each other that they had that many babies?
- Don't forget one of Max's first lines in the show.
Max: I don't like our new house! It's dumb!
- "Hate" was also gotten away with as well, as far as words being used, which is generally just as taboo as "stupid" or "dumb."
- Gratuitous Spanish: Quetzal and Enrique. And sometimes, the original kids too.
- At one point they decided to sing "Are You Sleeping?" in Spanish, despite it being a French song.
- Green-Eyed Monster: In "Cassie the Green-Eyed Dragon," Cassie takes her cute little baby brother Finn to school and gets jealous when everyone pays him attention and doesn't notice her achievements. As this is one of those shows that teaches kids how to handle their emotions, Quetzal helps her by explaining how we all feel jealous sometimes and gives her some help to feel better.
- Growling Gut: Happens to some characters like Zak, Wheezie or Cassie, but mostly Ord as he is gifted with a stomach bigger than himself!
- Grumpy Bear: Zak, to a certain extent.
- Hammer Space: The dragons have marsupial like pouches that they can store just about anything in.
- Harmless Villain: Cyrus the Slinky Serpent, included to function as a "bad guy". The worst things he does are done almost exclusively to find food. For example, he takes Emmy's detective kit to find Dragongull eggs to eat, which is seen by the cast as more of an immoral act than the actual theft itself.
- Not only that, he gives up very easily, mostly stalking off in a huff.
- Hey, That's My Line!: The Grudge in "The Grudge Won't Budge" when Wheezie says that she and Zak are pals forever.
- Holding Hands: Max and Emmy do this to go home together.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: "More fun than a barrel full of dragonmonkeys." Probably plenty of other instances as well.
- I Have This Friend: Used in one episode by Emmy when she breaks Wheezie's trumpet.
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Lorca. We get what they were trying to do with him, but it's still a little jarring to see a dragon in a wheelchair.
- To be fair Lorca doesn't have seem to have wings, which makes him having a wheelchair make much more sense.
- Inevitable Waterfall: Subverted, Ord is upset when the group's boat has to be refitted for him. He gets a chance to shine when the waterfall comes, blocking the water long enough for the others to fly away.
- Leitmotif: The Grudge in "The Grudge Won't Budge" has one that plays each time he speaks to Zak, wheedling him to hang on to him, along with his feelings of anger and resentment towards Wheezie.
- Licensed Games: Two for the Game Boy Color, one for the Game Boy Advance, one for the Playstation...
- Limited Wardrobe: Like Arthur, this show makes a direct connection between wardrobe and setting. The kids each have helmets, pajamas, winter clothes, and swimsuits.
- Magic Carpet: "Max and the Magic Carpet", natch.
- Make a Wish: Wyatt, a wishing well in the shape of a walrus who grants wishes when coins are thrown in.
- Massive Numbered Siblings: Cassie's family.
- Moby Schtick: One episode has the group helping an air pirate capture a whale.
- Multiple Head Case: But they're two entirely different individuals.
- Mundane Utility: Fire breath is often used as a substitute oven or microwave.
- Narnia Time: Can get confusing at times. It may be sunny outside when they leave for Dragon Land, and then when they get back, it'll be pouring rain. Also, it seems possible that the reason their parents don't notice they're missing is that the magic of Dragon Land / the dragon scale has a sort of Invisible to Normals effect, so that any time anyone starts to wonder where they are, they find themselves thinking about something else instead.
- The Nicknamer: The Grudge in "The Grudge Won't Budge." "Zackarooni, Zackmeister," pretty much a different one each time it addresses Zak.
- No Means Yes: The Grudge in "The Grudge Won't Budge" to Zak, the first time he tries to tell him to leave. "Your lips say 'Yes, yes,' but there's a 'No, no' in your eyes."
- A rare justified variation of this trope, however: the Grudge is a magical creature and will not leave unless Zak actually loses his grudge against Wheezie. The first time Zak tells the Grudge to leave, he's only doing it because he's told to, and the Grudge senses Zak's insincerity since Zak is still mad at Wheezie.
- The Only One Allowed to Defeat You
- Only Zak can choose to get rid of the Grudge in "The Grudge Won't Budge." If anyone else tries to remove it by force, it just clings on all the tighter.
- In "The Fury is Out On This One" from the first season, only Max can defeat the Fury. It feeds off his anger and grows larger, but if Max calms down, it shrinks until it's small enough that he can stuff it back in the shell he accidentally released it from.
- Another one involving Zak and Wheezie: Emmy tries to teach them to jumprope, but they accidentally toss the rope upwards, sending it through the open window of the school, where it hits a cabinet, causing Quetzel's special mixture to pour onto it—bringing the rope to life! Quetzal states that the only way to change the jumprope back to normal is that the ones who caused the rope to come alive (Zak and Wheezie) must jump over the alive rope three times in row. Lucky for Zak and Wheezie, Quetzal has another rope that they can use for practice, while Max, Emmy, Cassie and Ord try to chase and get the live jumprope back.
- On the Next: "Coming up next on Dragon Tales...!" This was dropped in later airings as PBS Kids kept adding in more of their own interstitial programming.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
Ord: Can we eat later? *friends gasp* What. What?
- Other World of Adventure: Dragon Land itself, of course.
- Our Dragons Are Different: One with the stomach of a bottomless pit, a little shy one from a extremely reproductive family, a two headed one, one in a wheelchair, a few Hispanic ones, one that is essentially an organic roller coaster... enough variety for you?
- Our Gnomes Are Weirder: There are quite a couple. There's Simon, Norm the Number Gnome, and a few others.
- Pajama Clad Hero: One episode starts at dawn, and another starts at sunset.
- Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Cassie and Ord, respectively. Zak and Wheezie sort of count too as a green boy/purple girl.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The Giant of Nod, who is only giant to the nodlings but miniature to the dragons and humans. Despite this, he's capable all of the three main dragons and the siblings up at the same time and chucking them into a tree off in the distance.
- Primal Fear: Ord and his fear of darkness.
- Pungeon Master: Sid Sycamore. His schtick is very specific — all of his puns use terms related to trees — i.e. "leaf / leave," "bark," etc.
- Remembered I Could Fly: In "A Liking to Biking," Ord bicycles off the edge of a cliff and is left dangling from a tire swing, scared out of his mind that he's going to fall, until Cassie reminds him, "Ord! You're a dragon! Use your wings!"
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent:
- Mostly averted in the show itself, for obvious reasons. But Cyrus, arguably the most reptilian character in the series, is portrayed as a thief and a liar.
- There's a child psychologist who warns parents against letting young children watch Dragon Tales because "they may get the idea that reptiles are okay to play with." Never mind that the series is set in a Magical Land and the dragons don't even look particularly reptilian.
- Riddle Me This: One of the trolls.
- Rummage Fail: This happened with Ord when reaching for items in his tummy pouch.
- Sometimes he will even scarf he things he accidentally pulls out of his pocket.
- Running Gag:
- Max and Emmy return home, and Max promptly falls asleep.
- Max and Emmy come home full, and immediately are told to come into the kitchen and eat.
- Scout Out: Cassie invites Emmy to her Dragon Scouts meeting as a guest.
- Shameful Shrinking: Cassie had a tendency to shrink when she felt upset or ashamed about something.
- Shaped Like Itself: Wheezie's standard "I just love X. It's so... X-ing!"
- Shorter Means Smarter: Cassie is the Smart Girl, and she becomes even smaller when frightened.
- Sibling Seniority Squabble:
Wheezie: I'm older! My head hatched out of the egg first!
Zak: Only by three little seconds!
- Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Despite being added on equal status with Max and Emmy, Enrique wasn't put in the show intro.
- Slumber Party: Max and Emmy need to get home, and Cassie is nervous about her first one. They agree to leave together at bedtime.
- Sore Loser: The theme of "Tails You Lose," which centers around Emmy's inability to tolerate losing.
- The Speechless: The doodle fairies can only communicate by drawing.
- Start My Own: Boy, oh boy. Fun house, puppet show, treehouse...
- Stock Audio Clip: Max and Emmy reciting the rhymes to go to and leave Dragon Land almost never changes, in fact the only times it really does are when it needs to be subverted, such as when they interrupt it.
- Stock Footage: The dragons flying off the wall and circling around Max and Emmy has the same animation in almost every episode, especially the early ones. Some later episodes did change it up a bit though.
- Sugar Bowl: Dragon Land fits this trope perfectly.
- The number one rule in Dragon Land is: "You can never hit anyone." This makes it possible for Dragon Land to be a place with no violence. (We first learn about the rule in "No Hitter" when Max hits Ord out of frustration: Dragon Land is enough of a sugar bowl that this is treated in-universe as something heinous.)
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Personified by characters such as the Grudge in "The Grudge Won't Budge." Used frequently in other instances as well.
- Three Little Pigs: The characters perform this in "Four Little Pigs," though as the title indicates, with their own special twist.
- Three Shorts: Dragon Tunes is the B in an ABA format.
- Title Drop: Emmy with the title of the episode in "The Grudge Won't Budge."
- At the end of the last episode: A Storybook Ending.
- Title Theme Tune: "Dragon Tales, Dragon Tales! / It's almost time for Dragon Tales...!"
- Theme Tune Roll Call: For the first two seasons. Max and Emmy are mentioned first, then each of the main dragon Characters (Ord, Cassie, Zak and Wheezie)
- Toilet Humor: Not even this show was immune; in "Snow Dragons", there was the Burping Rock.
- Token Minority: Lorca, the dragon in the wheelchair.
- Uncanceled: Sort of. There was a four year gap between the second and third seasons. Many people thought the show was gone for good, until Sesame Workshop announced the third season as a sort of Re Tool, featuring Enrique and an emphasis on Hispanic culture and folk songs.
- The Voice: Max and Emmy's parents always call to them from elsewhere in the house (downstairs?) but we never see them, or the rest of the house besides the playroom. (This includes their bedrooms.) Their mom is heard more often.
- Walk Into Camera Obstruction:
- "Not Separated At Birth" with Zak and Wheezie as they're flying around after being back together again then fades to Max and Emmy's room.
- "The Talent Pool" with Ord as he runs over to Max and Emmy to hug them.
- Water Is Dry: Whenever Max or Emmy fall in water.
- Widely Spaced Jail Bars: In "Max's Comic Adventure," the gaps between the bars of Mondo Mouse's cage are clearly big enough for him to just walk through, but nevertheless, Max, Emmy and the dragons have to rescue him by figuring out a code to raise up the bars, making it a serious example.
- Wild Card Excuse: Several occur in "Ord's Unhappy Birthday", such as this one:
Max: We can't, we have to go meet Cassie to set up for the par-
Emmy: Picnic! (Beat) Uhh...Max and I are having a picnic with Cassie, so uhh... Happy Birthday Ord...bye!
- Winged Unicorn: Eunice in A Tall Tale. She even has a golden horn. And, was voiced by G3 Pinkie Pie. There's also a bunch of young unicorns in "Making it Fun" and they're all winged too, so maybe all unicorns in Dragon Land have wings.
- Worthless Treasure Twist: Captain Scaliwag's treasure in "Sky Pirates" turns out to be pictures he drew as a little boy.
- Written-In Absence: Emmy, Cassie, Zak and Wheezie are each absent for at least one episode.