YARRRRR, MATEYS! It be September 19th, International Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day!
And as a special treat, we'll take a look at what I consider to be the greatest tribute to 80's Saturday Mornings that the 90's ever created, THE PIRATES OF DARKWATER.
(Yes, I know that this cartoon didn't even start till '91, but it's relevant I swear!)
The water world of Mer is being devoured by a gloopy substance known as "Dark Water". Only Prince Ren can stop it by finding the lost Thirteen Treasures of Rule. His loyal crew of misfits that help in his journey are Tula the Ecomancer, Niddler the monkey-bird, and a treasure-hungry pirate named Ioz. The evil pirate lord, Bloth, will stop at nothing to get the treasures for himself and provides many obstacles for Ren and his crew.
Depending on who you talk to, there were either 21, 26 or 19 episodes of this show produced between 1989 and 1992. This was the last original show to be produced by Hannah-Barbera before being devoured by the Turner Broadcasting conglomerate, which I think gives it a bit of a special distinction.
So about the inconsistency of Episode count...
The original run was a simple 5-episode Toy Commercial, not unlike the original GI Joe, Transformers and other toy commercial TV shows of the 80's. Simply titled "Dark Water", the show was notable for the fact that legendary actor Roddy McDowell voiced the monkey-bird Niddler (after these 5 episodes it would be voiced by Frank Welker). At the time, Dark Water was seen as being a "Hail Mary Pass" of a cartoon that they put everything in to in order to avoid a buy-out - all they needed was one new, solid hit to keep the studio going.
...And then the multi-market merchandising deal fell through :( No extensive toy-line, no lunch boxes, no sheets, no board games (though most of these would come later, under different circumstances)... it just all kind of fizzled-out during a series of corporate buy-outs. The five BEAUTIFUL episodes, featuring some of the finest watercolor backgrounds and full figure animation the studio had ever produced, ended up being sold off to the lowest bidder, the fledgling FOX network.
Those first five episodes aired on FOX, while Turner Broadcasting was ironing out what to do with all the previous contracts and whatnot. The episodes were slightly retooled and condensed in order to make them fit in to a "Movie" format, which was then split in to individual half-hour episodes for a full series that was sold to ABC.
The show was abruptly cancelled at approximately 21 episodes, never reaching the promised conclusion :(