(1. They provided a reality-based anchor in a fantasy world.
(2. Young viewers had young heroes to relate to. Viewers could learn from their mistakes, or be encouraged by their successes.
(3. Matt and Sally served as foils, or “straight men” to a comical dragon. Often they had to help Dudley from his own predicaments.
But as the show progressed, problems would inevitably arise with child actors.
(1. They were growing up. Would they lose viewer identification?
(2. They were professional actors. What if they committed to another project between seasons?
(3. They were, after all, human. What if, in real life, they became sick, or suffered an injury, or worse? Or what if ego problems developed and they became difficult to work with?
Because the show was aimed at kids 3 to 6, the actors were cast for “age appropriateness.” As the original kids grew older, younger actors were introduced as Season Three approached.
Terry (Robin Weekes) made his first appearance in episode 24, “Dudley Meets the Alien,” though he was formally introduced (with a front-end credit as a “special guest star”) in episode 25, “Imagine That!” He was a smart lad who operated a wrist computer, with a knack for inventing things like magnetic claws.
In the beginning, Terry had an antisocial personality, a bold move on the part of the producers. Dudley’s world was upbeat and optimistic. Terry was the opposite. He was a loner, a skeptic and a fault-finder. Grandpa Robin would say, “I’ve been around the world seven times plus two,” and Terry would point out, “That’s nine.” Nevertheless, soft-hearted Dudley befriended him.
Hey, Terry’s no fool. If an 8-foot talking dragon wants to be your friend, let him. And so, Terry joined the gang as a recurring character.
Episode 26, “The Living Doll,” was the real start of Season Three, as it introduced two new humans to the cast, a modified costume for Dudley, and a new performer for Dudley, Kirk Dunn (voice-looped by Alex Galatis). This episode would later be reclassified as part of Season Two.
But Sally and Matt were missing. As Mr. Crabby Tree would say, “What th- ?” Until this episode, viewers had come to expect these kids to be mainstays in the series. Viewers had shared in their adventures. Suddenly, they were gone. The show opens with a new kid, Mickey (Daniel Tordjman Goodfellow), playing a game of hide-and-seek with Dudley. They find a doll—a “living” doll by the name of Julia (Natasha Greenblatt). Who created her? Unknown. Why did she exist, and for what purpose? Unknown. Essentially, she’s a female Pinocchio. She wants to be human. With the help of Dudley and Mickey, she’s magically transformed into flesh and blood. She, too, becomes a recurring character.
But with Dudley as a surrogate parent, how would she mature? Can you imagine a child raised by Dudley the Dragon? This could have been the first time that a child had to raise a parent!
Would we see Sally and Matt again? Oh, yes. In the very next episode.
What happened after that was another matter.
Photos © Breakthrough Entertainment Inc.
Special thanks to Peter Williamson.