In the mid-1990s the supernatural came into vogue on kids TV. Shows like Goosebumps (1995-1998) and Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991-1996, 1999-2000) involved schoolkids getting involved in paranormal adventures. Even The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon participated in the trend. “It’s fun to be scared!” was the message in “The Spooky Castle”, “Dudley and the Cowardly Ghost”, “You and Me and Caveman Makes Three” and “Which Witch?”
“The Spooky Castle”, in particular, used the motif of the Midnight Society from Are You Afraid of the Dark?, in which the gang tells spooky stories to one another. Matt, played by Daniel DeSanto, is the first storyteller. Note that DeSanto played Tucker, one of the regular storytellers in Are You Afraid of the Dark? He also appeared in an episode of Goosebumps in 1995. And, while Dudley was in production, he was doing voiceovers for The Magic School Bus (1994-1997).
With all these other commitments, was DeSanto no longer available to play Matt? This is not publicly known. What is known is that he had only two more appearances in the show.
The four kids—Matt, Sally, Terry and Julia—would appear together again four episodes later, and for the final time together, in “The Wishing Well.” After that, Matt vanished from the series, never to return, except for a glimpse in the final episode. No explanation was given in the show. Was he too busy at school? Did he join a detective agency? Did he die? Viewers could only speculate.
Young Mickey (Daniel Tordjman Goodfellow) replaced Matt. This became evident in “The Unhappy Garden.” “How can a garden be unhappy?” Dudley asks. Mickey pulls out a magnifying glass and examines a flower. “Hmmm,” he says, “looks like a mystery.” Yes, just like Matt. Mickey, too, was a detective.
Asia Viera, as Sally, would remain with the series but her appearances were reduced to five out of fourteen episodes in Season Three, and two out of thirteen episodes in Season Four.
Why the reduced appearances? Again, this is not publicly known. Although at the time, Vieira did become actively involved in a series called Flash Forward, in the role of Christine Harrison, for 26 episodes. This coincided with Dudley’s third and fourth seasons—and potentially, a fifth season.
Did this mean she was unavailable to appear in Dudley?
In the final episode of the third season, “The Royal Crown,” a new character appears. She has the same hairstyle as Sally, and her clothes have a similar orange and red motif, and she appears to be the same age and height. She’s even friends with Dodo! We would learn in the following episode, the opening to Season Four, that she—not Sally—is best friends with Dudley. Her name is Laura.
Was she Sally’s replacement?
To be continued.