Dragonriders of Pern

The Dragonriders of Pern. A science fiction classic series by Anne McCaffrey. Beloved by millions of readers worldwide.

The beginning of development for Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders?

Hard to believe though it may be, in 1993 this was where Jewel Riders started its conceptual journey. In retrospect, there are elements of Pern that – if you know what to look for – still exist in the final version of the show.

  • Bonded Riders and telepathic, fantastical mounts.
  • Pern’s dragons can travel through space, called going Between, a similar idea to traveling through the Wild Magic.
  • A strong musical connection, as Tamara’s original name was Melody, a play on Menolly, the harper and singer of Pern.
  • Craft Masters and and an apprentice system.
  • Mischievous small dragons called fire lizards, very reminiscent of the small dragon Windy or Tamara’s baby animals.

Mennolly – does this seems at all familiar with Tamara?

Pern is a universe that has struggled for years to get a screen adaptation off the ground. For years, the special effects just weren’t there (or were stunningly cost-prohibitive) for doing live action CG dragons in the 1990s. Think about the film Dragonheart, the difficulty of bringing just one dragon to life. Now multiply that by hundreds and you begin to see the difficulty.

Enter Robert Mandell.

Robert had produced several cartoon series, most notably the 1986-1989 space western Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. He worked with Anne McCaffrey for several years to bring an animated version of her space fantasy to life. There were plans for an animated movie or series, tie in comic books and children’s books, all in an effort to bring the adventure of Pern to younger readers and viewers.

But it was not meant to be. Anne McCaffrey pulled out of the animated development, leaving the Pern series, and taking the rights with her.

But what about the development that had already gone into this adaptation?

The team appeared to continue with a series development based on these concepts. Without Pern though, what setting would be appropriate?


Pern Animated Series Development Documents




We even asked Greg Autore, Art Director for Jewel Riders, to confirm the Pern connection, and here’s what he had to say:

Q: At what point did you join the team, do you know anything about the original project of the “Dragon Riders of Pern” adaptation (we’ve read that was the original intent of the series and that it morphed into something different when the Enchanted Camelot idea came around), was it coincidental that the same company previously made King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, and were you also involved with the Galaxy Rangers like so many of the others (Robert Mandell)?

GA: Ironically, the Dragon Riders of Pern was optioned over at Mattel when I was there before Kenner. For a few days, I was told I would be working on it. I am a HUGE Mcaffrey fan so I was very excited. Somewhere in that time period, Anne backed out from what I remember Robert telling me. I still have a promotional T-shirt from that Dragon Riders effort. The only other project I worked with Robert came after Gwenevere where we worked together to create a new property for a cartoon series. It was very fun and hope it comes to life some day – so I cannot mention the name. Dragon Riders did morph into Enchanted Camelot/Gwenevere. There were a few remnants left in the show like some of the background paintings.

Some of the backgrounds that looks particularly Pernese to Chris:

As a follow up from previous podcast discussions, Greg recently shared this story:

“Remember I told you the story about how I reviewed the script for the Dragonriders of Pern series when I was at Mattel? And I recommended [it be adapted as a show] but then it was evidently dropped. [During that period] someone left a Dragonriders t-shirt on my desk and I never knew who. I remembered that I kept it, but just didn’t know where it was. I just ran across it!

This would have come inadvertently through Robert Mandell. Robert later said that Anne McCaffrey backed out of the project so they had to end it but they wanted to use some of the work they had already paid for and turn it into Gwenevere.”