Western Animation / The Pirates of Dark Water


Short-lived but fantastic 1991-1993 Hanna-Barbera cartoon series which switched off between syndication and ABC. It began as a five-part miniseries which aired on Fox Kids as simply "Dark Water". It's well known as one of the first animated television shows for children to have legitimate high-stake adventures and an epic storyline.

Ren is the prince of a fallen kingdom, and he has to find the Thirteen Treasures of Rule to restore it to its once pristine glory. Rounding out his "unlikely but loyal crew of misfits" are ecomancer Tula, roguish Ioz, and the monkeybird Niddler.

However, Ren learns that his quest is far more urgent than simply personal career advancement; the menacing substance called dark water that consumes everything it touches is spreading and it threatens to destroy the world. Only the thirteen treasures can stop it and Ren must find them before it is too late.

The high production costs and drop in art quality after it's Channel Hop dealt the series a fatal blow and it was canceled 21 episodes into its run (only eight of the thirteen treasures had been collected). All 21 episodes were later released on DVD on August 31, 2010, listed as The Complete Series. Additionally, in 1991 Marvel Comics released a comic book series based on the show.

The series was created by David Kirschner, producer of Child's Play and writer of An American Tail. It was also Hanna-Barbera's first animated television series to have a far more substantial budget and more streamlined animation.

No relation to the Japanese horror film Dark Water (or its US remake). Also no relation to Candle Cove. Also no relation to Gothic 5 Risen 2: Dark Water (which shares a pirate themed setting).

This series provides examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Guns filled with Dark Water.
    • And a gun with a venom-spitting lizard contained inside.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: The tunnels inside the Maelstrom are literally large enough to hide a small civilization, and a giant sea monster.
  • Action Figure File Card: The toys had them.
  • Adventure Towns: Adventure Islands, to be specific.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Of a sort. In "The Dark Disciples" Ren needs Jenna to tell explain very forcefully that by "the key" to the chamber where the treasures are meant to be placed she means his sword. Somewhat strange because he'd used his sword as a key to open the room where the treasure on Andorus was hidden without anyone telling him to.
  • Amazon Brigade: The female warriors in "The Living Treasure".
  • Ambiguously Human: Many inhabitants of Mer who aren't Human Aliens, including several in Bloth's pirate crew.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Ioz has a younger sister Solia, depending on the interpretation she is either this or the follower of the Rule of Cool.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Tula's outfit. Rather, the slightly different outfit she gets after the first story arc.
  • Big "NO!": Episode 3, Tula after Ren is knocked out. Also, episode 13 when Tula falls into the Dark Water.
  • Chained Heat: Ren and Bloth in one episode.
  • Combat Tentacles: Morpho's left arm is a tentacle, he uses it for fighting and strangling people.
  • Cool Boat: The Maelstrom, Bloth's huge ship made of bones.
    • Sea Monster bones. The Wraith, the main characters' ship, has a detachable sail-glider.
  • The Corruption: The titular dark water
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Bloth's crew ride around on dragon-like creatures called...dagrons.
  • Channel Hop: The Five-Episode Pilot was a miniseries that aired on the Fox network (called simply "Dark Water", with Niddler originally voiced by Roddy McDowall), then that and eight new episodes showed on ABC, then the next (and final) season showed up as part of a syndicated block.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: Ren. Heck, most of the characters are pretty dark-skinned yet hair colors tend to run the gamut.
  • Disney Death: Tula is devoured by the Dark Water. She does not die, however, as the Dark Dweller decides to use her as bait for Ren.
  • Doomed Home Town: Octopon.
    • It gets undoomed in the first season finale and shows signs of being a viable seaport again in the second season.
  • Dumb Muscle: Most of Bloth's crew, but especially the Lugg Brothers.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The source of the Dark Water.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bloth, surprisingly enough, although it could double as The Only One Allowed to Defeat You in some cases. Notable examples include:
    • "A Drop Of Darkness"- Bloth won't kill Ren until after he's performed Ren's supposed wedding (albeit, the woman who arranged this promised Bloth the compass and treasures in exchange for this).
    • "The Game"- Bloth helps Ren defeat the Korb monsters hunting them after they are no longer chained together as payback for Ren not abandoning him when he had the chance to earlier in the episode (and just after said chains had been broken).
    • "The Dark Dweller"- Bloth captures Ren just after the latter has lost Tula to the dark water and is in the midst of a Heroic BSOD. Does he throw him to the Constrictus? Heck no! Instead he keeps Ren around as a ship slave because he "would rather watch Ren die a thousand deaths by guilt..."
      • Also in the same episode, when Bloth forces Ioz to battle one his pirates, he decides to "be a fair man" and tosses him a sword. All Ioz has to do is get past the pirate to reach it... who has four arms and a weapon in each hand.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Niddler, a monkey-bird.
  • Evil Albino: Bloth is pretty pasty. The Pale/White Warriors from the second episode are a subversion, as they were aggressive but not evil. They were also much taller and more muscular than any of the other characters.
  • Fantastic Racism: Monkeybirds were used and the first miniarc even went so far as to show the slavemarkets. While it was swept under the rug later on Niddler does mention on occasion that he can't enter certain pubs because monkeybirds aren't allowed there and characters in general seem to consider Niddler a lesser being even before he has a chance to prove himself as the Small Annoying Creature.
  • Female Misogynist: The female warriors in "The Living Treasure" appears to hate outsider women as equally as men in general. A woman is one of the slaves. Granted they (or at least their queen) will welcome a female outsider who openly voices her hatred for men.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief
    • Ren = Fighter
    • Tula = Mage
    • Ioz = Thief
      • Unusual because Ren (despite being the fighter) is quick, agile and tricky rather than particularly strong, while Ioz seems to be the physical powerhouse (and is the Mighty Glacier in the video game). Also Tula has her thief-ly moments as well, and was trained as a warrior (though this doesn't really come up much after the miniseries and in the Amazon Land episode).
  • Five-Episode Pilot
  • Flanderization: In the first episode, Niddler is concerned about getting something to eat because Bloth starves him. It doesn't come up in the rest of the miniseries after he is free from Bloth. After the network jump, Niddler possesses an all-consuming desire for food.
  • Food as Bribe: Niddler loves minga melons and can be bribed into doing almost anything with the promise of them.
  • Fountain of Youth: The alchemist Cray was able to restore her youth using a potion she created, Unfortunately the dark water she used in it causes her body to eventually break down into Dark water itself.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Bloth switches bodies with Ren (and Konk with Niddler) thanks to a powder by Morpho, it has to be noted however that their voices stay the same so the audience has Ren bellowing Curse my eyes! through the entire episode.
  • Functional Magic
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Ioz smacks Tula on the rear in the first episode. Also see Pardon My Klingon below.
    • Later in the series, he turns down a pirate ghost captain's amorous advances by bluntly stating that he prefers his women live.
  • Gold Makes Everything Shiny: Several outfits have gold decorations.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The 13 treasures of Rule.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Morpho is half human, half sea creature.
  • High Fantasy
  • Human Aliens: Many of the inhabitants of Mer
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: The ghostpirate captain captures Ioz for this purpose, stressing her appreciation for his looks several times and going so far as to say that while being a ghost may be unpleasant the sex will make it better.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Tula lowers Ren's body temperature to the point where he dies so he can fight a gang of ghosts. He gets better.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Most of them look like they were designed by Kit Rae.
  • Island Base: many.
  • It Was a Gift: Ren's sword plays an important role in the show. It once belonged to his father and was given to Ren by Jenna, his caretaker.
  • Jerkass/Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ioz. More the first.
  • Karma Houdini: Because the show ended prematurely Bloth and his crew were never permanently beaten and as such got away with their countless crimes.
  • Large and in Charge: Bloth, bigger than all.
  • Lighthouse Point: Ren lived in a lighthouse before he found out about his heritage.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Tula's hair goes to her waist.
  • Made of Evil
  • Magic Compass: Ren's amulet shoots a blue beam in the direction of nearby Treasures of Rule.
  • Mordor: Any place contaminated by Dark Water.
  • Murder Water: The titular Dark Water.
  • Myth Arc: The quest to find the thirteen treasures stop the Dark Water from spreading across the world. Notable as one of the first kid shows to actually have an over-arching plot. Sadly the show was Too Good to Last and it got cut short with only eight of the treasures found.
  • No Ending: The show ended with only 8 of the 13 treasures recovered.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Ioz. So much so that one of the dislikes on his official character sheet is 'independent women'.
  • Off Model: The fact that two companies on opposite sides of the spectrum worked on this (Madhouse and Kennedy Cartoons)note  makes it it more jarring than it should have been.
  • Opening Narration
  • Orphaned Series
  • Organic Technology: Making a submarine from a baby leviathan! Starfish as shuriken. etc.
    • The gun-like device containing a venomous cloud-spitting lizard is a particularly awesome example.
  • Ocean Punk
  • Other Darrin, The: In the pilot mini-series, Niddler was voiced by Roddy McDowall and spoke perfectly clear English. When the show switched to syndication however, Frank Welker took over the part and Niddler started to speak with a squawking voice with bird screech accents.
  • Our Dragons Are Different
  • Pardon My Klingon: "Noy Jitat!" seems to be a version of "damn", and is often shortened to the adjective jitatin (probably "damned") as in "that jitatin monkey-bird".
    • Also Chonga and Chongo-longo.
    • "Naja dog" seems to be the strongest as is said less frequently.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Tula's outfit is pink.
  • Pocket Protector: Ioz is saved from a crossbow bolt by a stolen golden goblet in the second episode.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Stated outright in the Opening Narration.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Ren, and his father King Primus before him, both quite the adventurers.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: A lot of background characters.
  • Sand Worm: The Golquin, though it is referred to, rather inaccurately, as a crab and a crustacean, definitely fits this trope, being a large, burrowing, aggressive worm-like animal.
  • Say My Name: Often.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Dark Dweller in the backstory. Unlike other sealed evils, he actually managed to free himself and the Dark Water.
    • Kiroptus, one of the servants of the Dark Dweller was also sealed in the backstory. And like The Dark Dweller, he managed to free himself with a little help from Ren - only to be sealed again by the end of the one episode he appeared.
  • Secret Legacy: Ren discovering he is a prince.
  • Ship Tease: Ren and Tula had a few moments, but the series came to an end before anything could really go anywhere.
    • Ioz and Tula had a fair amount of it, too, though with far more sniping. But, again, the series ended before anything could happen in that regard.
  • The Starscream: Yellow-wing, possibly Konk.
  • Translation Convention: The odd-sounding swears and plant names and whatnot are meant to give the impression that the characters aren't actually speaking English, but we hear English for our own benefit.
  • Unreveal: Cartoon Network aired a brief segment during commercial breaks in which they were asked about the ending of the show. It then cut to the opening sequence of the show until we finally see... that it has been taped over.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Lugg Brothers just sort of disappear after leaving Zoolie's gamehouse with Konk in the miniseries. Konk is later delivered to Bloth in a barrel by some woman, and the Lugg Brothers are never seen or mentioned again.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: The first time the entire cast meets, it's in an inn.

Alternative Title(s): Pirates Of Dark Water, The Pirates Of Dark Water