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Thursday, August 01, 2019

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin, in which I watch a movie I own and blog about it.  We're going back into my VHS tapes for today's entry, Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light.  This is in my  notes at May 5, 2019.

We just passed another Star Wars Day, and Star Wars Day always makes me nostalgic for VHS.  I first saw the original trilogy on VHS.  I bought the original trilogy twice on VHS.  The first time was in 1995, as part of the last official release of the original trilogy, and the second time was in 1997, and the first official release of the Special Editions. 

So on Star Wars Day I always find myself cranking up the VCR and getting my Star Wars tapes out of the closet.  Yeah, I still have all my old VHS tapes in a box in my closet.  Some of these Star Wars VHS releases have exclusive featurettes at the beginning, so I usually wind up watching the featurettes.  In 2018, I got caught up in the whole thing and wound up watching Phantom Menace on VHS.  But with Star Wars Day winding down, and as I was putting everything away, I found my old tape of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light

Visionaries was another toy from Hasbro, who were kicking ass back in the 1980s.  For the boys, they gave us G.I. Joe and Transformers.  For the girls, they gave us My Little Pony and JemVisionaries was another one they made.  The whole gimmick of the toy line was holograms.  Our heroes and villains had a hologram on their chests depicting their totem...an animal that they could magically turn into.  They also came with a magic staff...which was just a big hologram sticker on a stick. 

It wasn't as successful as Hasbro's other properties.  The toy line only ran one series, and the cartoon only ran one season of thirteen episodes.  But man o man, did I love it.  It was so dark and unique.  Only ever got one of the figures, but I watched that cartoon religiously on Saturday afternoons. 

So, back when I was in college, I was perusing the video section of Music World in West Edmonton Mall...one of my favourite places to buy movies back in the day.  With Disney starting to dominated the home video market with their straight-to-video sequels, other companies started getting in on it.  Here in Canada, an outfit called Malofilm struck some kind of deal with Hasbro, and started re-releasing a bunch of their old cartoons on VHS.  So when I saw that they had edited together the three-part premiere episode of Visionaries and released it as a straight-to-video movie, of course I snatched it up! 

Part one of this three-part episode is called The Age of Magic Begins.  (Malofilm never edited out the title cards.)  This first episode sets up the mythology.  The distant planet Prysmos lives in an advanced age of technology.  But then, one day, everything just stops.  Cars grind to a halt.  Planes fall out of the sky.  For those who remember the late 1990s, it's what everyone said Y2K was going to do.  Society soon devolves into something resembling medieval times, with knights and kings. 

Our story focuses on two factions:  one led by the brave and noble Leoric, and one led by the brutal tyrant Darkstorm.  The wizard Merklynn comes to both factions, and explains what's going on.  With the alignment of the three suns of Prysmos, the Age of Technology has come to an end, and the Age of Magic has begun anew.  Merklynn offers to bestow the bravest knights in the land with magic powers...all the have to do is go on a quest to Merklynn's shrine atop Iron Mountain. 

And this is pretty much the plot of part 1, as our heroes and villains embark on the quest, earning their totems and magic staffs along the way. 

Part 2 is called The Dark Hand of Treachery.  The evil knights -- dubbed the Darkling Lords by Leoric -- soon rally around Darkstorm, and start hunting down the good knights one by one.  The plan, of course, is to steal their magic staffs and possess all the magic powers.  Darkstorm succeeds, and soon Leoric and the good knights are all imprisoned in Darkstorm's dungeons.  Leoric knows the only way to defeat the Darkling Lords is to form an alliance of their own, so the good knights band together as the Spectral Knights, dedicated to using their magic to protect the innocent from Darkstorm and bring back enlightenment to these new dark ages.  By working together, the Spectral Knights are able to escape and defeat the Darkling Lords. 

Part 3 is Quest for the Dragon's Eye.  With the Darkling Lords safely locked up, the Spectral Knights get to work.  First up:  it's been a rough growing season, and the kingdom is on the brink of famine.  Irrigation and fertilization haven't brought the crops back, so the Spectral Knights decide to seek Merklynn's council to see if there's a magical solution.  But, the Darkling Lords escape with Merklynn's help, and the two factions are soon about to fight it out in Merklynn's shrine.

This is when they discover that their magic staffs don't work.  See, the staffs Merklynn gave them have a limited mana, and they have to come back to Merklynn from time to time to recharge.  In exchange for this, Merklynn will send them out on certain tasks.  Their first task:  bring Merklynn a magical artifact known as the Dragon's Eye. 

Their quest leads them to an abandoned industrial complex, and they discover that the Dragon's Eye is the wand of a wizard name Vulkama.  To claim the Dragon's Eye, the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords have to work together to defeat Vulkama's techno-dragon.  They succeed, but the Spectral Knights and the Darkling Lords fight over the Dragon's Eye.  The Spectral Knights are victorious, and take the Dragon's Eye back to Merklynn. 

When they return to Merklynn's shrine, they blackmail Merklynn.  The Spectral Knights have discovered that Merklynn, too, has limited mana, and needs the Dragon's Eye to recharge.  They promise to give Merklynn the Dragon's Eye in exchange for help with the crops.  Merklynn agrees, as long as the Spectral Knights vow to never reveal to the Darkling Lords this weakness.  Merklynn gets the Dragon's Eye, and gifts the Spectral Knights with magic fertilizer that will revitalize the soil. 

That's the one thing that always fascinated me the most, and they get into it in a few episodes.  The fact that Merklynn is fighting this much more cosmic war among his fellow wizards and he essentially recruited the Spectral Knights and Darkling Lords to be his pawns. 

But man o man, this show was so cool.  It was the holy trinity of the 1980s rolled into one:  the action figures were the same build as G.I. Joes, they turned into other things like Transformers, and there was swords and sorcery like He-Man. 

With Hasbro mining their old IPs these days, there's been some very faint whisperings about bringing back Visionaries.  A few years ago, when Hasbro announced they would be developing their own cinematic universe, Visionaries was on the list of potential movies.  IDW, who currently holds the comic rights to a lot of Hasbro properties, has tested the waters with a Visionaries vs. Transformers mini-series.  I loved some of the new designs of the characters.

I'd love it if it were brought back some day, but I fear it just might be too obscure. 

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