Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a horror anthology television series. The original series aired on Nickelodeon from 1992 to 1996; the pilot episode aired respectively on YTV and Nickelodeon in 1990 and 1991. It led to two revival series, with the first airing from 1999 to 2000, and the second debuting in 2019.
The original series was distributed worldwide by D. J. MacHale and Ned Kandel and was picked up by Nickelodeon in 1991. MacHale, Kandel, and Nickelodeon teamed up with the Canadian company Cinar, and as a part of the deal the show was filmed in Richmond, British Columbia, and in the Greater Montreal area of Quebec. The production teams were respectively represented by the ACTRA and SCTVQ (Syndicat des techniciens du cinéma et de la vidéo du Québec) labour unions. It premiered with the episode "The Tale of the Twisted Claw" as a pilot on October 31, 1990, on the Canadian television network YTV. The pilot aired on Nickelodeon on October 25, 1991, as a Halloween special. The series premiered the following year on Nickelodeon's SNICK on August 15, 1992, and on Family Channel on September 2, 1992. The series moved from Family Channel to YTV on September 6, 1993. The original series ended on April 20, 1996.
The first revival series, with new directors, writers, and a cast, was produced by Nickelodeon from 1999 to 2000 and also aired on the SNICK block. The sole member from the original lineup to return for the first and second seasons of the revival was Tucker (Daniel DeSanto), although Gary (Ross Hull) returned for the concluding show, which notably broke from the show's established format by blurring the line between story and "reality".
On November 13, 2017, it was announced that Paramount Players would make a live-action feature film adaptation. However, the film was later removed from Paramount's schedule. On February 14, 2019, it was announced that the series would be revived again for a limited series, which premiered on October 11, 2019. On February 19, 2020, this revival was renewed for a second season, titled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows, which premiered on February 12, 2021, featuring a different cast. In March 2022, the revival was renewed for a third season, which premiered on July 25, 2022.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? was filmed in Montreal by CINAR and created by producer D. J. MacHale, an American television producer. The show is a co-production between Montreal-based CINAR Films and the U.S. Nickelodeon network. It had its American debut on Nickelodeon in the United States during August, while Canada's Family Channel had the series premiere in September 1992. By 1993, the series had moved from Family Channel to YTV.
Both series of Are You Afraid of the Dark? revolved around a group of teenagers who referred to themselves as "The Midnight Society". Every episode, at a secret location in the woods at night, one member would tell a scary story to the group. The actual story, rather than the telling, was displayed to the television viewer. The story was shown between the group's arrival at the site and their departure.
Each storyteller would begin their story by saying "Submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society, I call this story '(story name)'", at which point they would toss a handful of "midnight dust" (actually Coffee-Mate) from a leather pouch into a campfire to heighten the flames and produce an eerie white smoke.
MacHale wrote the line "submitted for the approval of" as a nod to The Twilight Zone, in which creator Rod Serling would, after introducing the episode, say "submitted for your approval." The storyteller would continue by announcing its title (The Tale of...). The themes of the stories usually revolve around a variety of paranormal phenomena, such as demons, ghosts, magic, haunted houses, magical curses, aliens, witches, vampires, werewolves, and the like coming into contact with average youths. Usually, the episodes were either filmed in the woods, in abandoned houses, or in public places like schools or libraries. Sources of these tales vary in different ways; many were adaptations of public domain fairy tales and short stories or urban legends. For example, the episode "The Tale of the Twisted Claw" is an adaptation of W. W. Jacobs' short story, The Monkey's Paw.
Sometimes, the stories were inspired by a certain event in the life of the storyteller. In the episode "The Tale of the Crimson Clown," for instance, Tucker blackmailed his brother Gary with a poem he had found, which Gary had written for Samantha. Gary then told a story in which a naughty younger brother was punished cruelly for his evil deeds. At the end of the episode, Tucker gave the poem back to his brother. The majority of the horror stories on Are You Afraid of the Dark? had happy endings (or at least endings in which their characters were in decent places), but some of them (albeit a very small number of them) had either bad endings or twist endings like "The Tale of the Lonely Ghost," "The Tale of the Dark Music," "The Tale of the Chameleons," "The Tale of Vampire Town," and "The Tale of the Pinball Wizard."
At the end of most episodes, one character (usually Gary in the first run and Tucker in the second run of the show) would throw a red bucket of water onto the fire, stating, "I declare this meeting of The Midnight Society closed", and the group would leave the campsite, thus ending the storytelling. Sometimes, the story would be related to an event (e.g. in "The Tale of Laughing in the Dark," Kristen, who was afraid of clowns, ran off when Eric put on a clown mask. Then, everyone chased after her). This would cause either Gary or Tucker to hurriedly dump the water on the fire, and The Midnight Society would run off to wherever they go after meetings.
Each member of The Midnight Society from 1991 to 1996 has a distinct personality, and a notable trend in their storytelling. Though not all of their stories have similar styles and plots, in many of the stories, each character carries a unique aspect that reflects the nature of the storyteller, and what they find to be the most important to themselves. In the second generation, the characters derive their stories more from events that happen during the days leading up to the society meetings instead of from their personal interests and views. Many of the later episodes were simply given to a random society member to tell.
Several years after the last meeting of The Midnight Society, Tucker returns to reinitialize the meetings, inviting his own circle of friends to reform The Midnight Society.
In 2019, a second revival of the show began. The first season is known as "Carnival of Doom", the second season is known as "Curse of the Shadows" and the third season is known as "Ghost Island".
The Midnight Society:
The Midnight Society:
The Midnight Society:
One of the more significant recurring characters was Sardo (Richard Dumont), owner of "Sardo's Magic Mansion" (a magic shop). He would often attempt to sell a character a "prized" item, succeeding almost every single time. He often had items in his shop that contained real properties of magic, yet did not know until it was revealed in the story. One of the most memorable recurring jokes in the series occurred when someone would address him as "Mr. Sardo." He would then get irritated and exclaim: "That's SarDO (Sardôh)! No mister; accent on the doh!"
Another recurring gag is Sardo attempting to sell a series of cheap novelty items before revealing the magical artifact, culminating with fake vomit, asking the protagonists, "Have you seen our vomit?" Additionally, when selling someone an item, he would often ask a rather high price. The main character would mention how much money they had, and Sardo would grab the money saying, "But I'm losing on the deal." Although he rarely got what he wanted, he would often end up helping the characters, often unintentionally. He appeared in Gary's stories, although in the later seasons, he appeared in two of Tucker's and one of David's in the episode "The Tale of The Dark Dragon."
Sardo's character is revived in the second season of the second revival, "Curse of the Shadows." Sardo's son (Ryan Beil) is the owner of "Sardo's Magic Shop". Richard Dumont appears in the finale as Sardo.
Another recurring character was Dr. Vink (Aron Tager). He was a physically imposing man who would often appear as a mad scientist, sorcerer, and the like. When he enters, he introduces himself by saying, "Vink's the name. Dr. Vink." He would also get his name mispronounced, usually something like "Dr. Fink?" When this happened, he would respond "Vink. With a va-va-va!" Often, the protagonist would call him a "nutbag" behind his back, assuming he could not hear him, only to have him reply later, "...and I am not a nutbag".
Unlike Sardo, whose character was set in a magic shop, Dr. Vink had many 'unique endeavors' as he called them, for his stories. These ranged from living deep in the woods conducting strange nature experiments, being a retired filmmaker, owning his own restaurant as head chef and lastly a barbershop. His activities were usually villainous, designed to put the characters in peril and allow him the last laugh. However, in his last appearance, "The Tale of Cutter's Treasure" (which was told by both Frank and Gary), he allied himself with Sardo and the main characters without his usual maliciousness. He appeared in Frank's stories. Aron Tager also played the carnival worker who stands in front of the Funhouse and invites people to go inside in the episode "The Tale of the Laughing in the Dark".
The character of Zeebo the Clown, also played by Tager, who appeared in "The Tale of the Laughing in the Dark" is referenced in several other stories, for example, in the episode "The Tale of the Whispering Walls", two children mention seeing him at a fun park, in the episode "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror", a girl says she will look like Zeebo if she wears too much lipstick, and in the episode "The Tale of the Crimson Clown" in the boys' room a video game called Zeebo's Big House can be seen on the desk with a picture of Zeebo on it as the title character. The video game was also mentioned in the episode "The Tale of Train Magic." Finally, in the episode "The Tale of the Night Shift," the teenage janitor is called Zeebo by his supervisor a few times at the beginning of the episode.
The villain, the "Ghastly Grinner" (star of "The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner"), like Zeebo the Clown, appears in a comic book that "Dark" characters read. In "Tale of the Ghastly Grinner", The Grinner is shown as being the star of a comic book.
The show became a weekly staple for children and tweens in the 1990s. Kids “were old enough to stay up but not old enough to stay out, so [they] spent nearly every Saturday night huddled around television sets with friends or siblings, pretending not to be terrified by that week’s tale.” As written by Matt Melis,
“But there’s also a lot to admire in the care that went into trying to frighten us. We saw the protagonists encountering the creepy and supernatural in the same suburban settings we hailed from. They were remarkably vulnerable and insecure kids, too, ones with problems we could relate to; they were new kids, outcasts, rival siblings, and children experiencing rough patches like deaths in the family or parents filing for divorce.”
Said series co-creator D.J. MacHale, “I wanted stories about real kids who were facing challenges that had nothing to do with the supernatural situation they ended up in.” He added, “But I'd like to believe that by depicting kids taking charge of difficult situations, it opened up kid-viewers to the idea that they aren't powerless in their own lives.” The show has also been hailed for its diversity in characters and stories. “I write about kids who find themselves in challenging situations, and ultimately solve the problems themselves ... no matter their sex, race, or age. We wanted to depict a wide variety of stories, characters, and situations. It was all about diversity,” says MacHale. “We didn't play to stereotypes.” The series was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 1996. The show has also been seen as helping to create a generation of feminist horror fans, as it showed kids a world “where girls got to be the imperfect heroes as often as the boys did.” According to MacHale, “in the first season alone, half of the scripts focused on female characters and were written by female writers.”
Three VHS tapes were released by Sony Wonder. Ghostly Tales, which included the episodes "The Tale of the Shiny Red Bicycle" and "The Tale of the Frozen Ghost" plus a bonus "Feel the Fear" music video, was released on March 22, 1994; Nightmare Tales, which included the episodes "The Tale of the Final Wish" and "The Tale of the Dream Machine", was released on May 31, 1994; and The Tale of Cutter's Treasure was released on June 13, 1995.
In addition, episodes of the series were included on two compilation tapes of SNICK programming, both of which were released on August 31, 1993; "The Tale of the Lonely Ghost" was included on Nick Snicks Friendship, and "The Tale of the Hungry Hounds" was included on Nick Snicks the Family.
Direct Source released all seven seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark? on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time between 2006 and 2008. The first five seasons were released in Canada and the United States, while seasons 1 and 2 of the revival series were released in Canada only. The company also released a joint collection of seasons 1–2/seasons 3–4 as a box set. These releases have been discontinued and are now out-of-print.
On April 8, 2013, it was announced that Berkshire Axis Media had acquired the rights to the series (Canada only) and would be re-releasing it. Season 1 was re-released on May 28, 2013. Season 2 was re-released on October 15, 2013.
In Region 2, Revelation Films released the first four seasons on DVD in the UK in 2007/2008.
Nickelodeon also re-released the series on DVD in the US through Amazon.com's CreateSpace service beginning with two random-episode "volumes" released in 2013. However, those releases were canceled and were followed by proper season set releases beginning in 2014.
On December 1, 2014, it was announced that Madman Films had acquired the rights to the series in Australia, and would be releasing the series through Via Vision Entertainment. In 2015 Via Vision released seasons 1–3 individually. It was announced on September 22, 2017, that Via Vision Entertainment have no plans to release the remaining seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The first five complete seasons of the series have been released (non-sequentially) across ten volumes in digital format on iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu:
In September 2016, all seven seasons of the first two series were made available for free on YouTube for non-United States viewers. On November 6, 2017, Season one was released for free on Canada Media Fund's Encore+ YouTube channel. As of 2021, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is available on Paramount+. However, there are some missing episodes: "Tale of the Super Specs", "Tale of the Dark Dragon", "Tale of the Midnight Ride", "Tale of the Dream Girl", "Tale of Quicksilver", "Tale of the Long Ago Locket", "Tale of the Fire Ghost", "Tale of the Closet Keepers", "Tale of the Unfinished Painting", "Tale of the Chameleons", "Tale of C7", and the revival seasons six and seven.
On February 14, 2019, it was announced that the series itself would be revived for a miniseries to air in October 2019. On June 10, 2019, the cast for the miniseries was announced with Sam Ashe Arnold as Gavin, Miya Cech as Akiko, Tamara Smart as Louise, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Graham and Lyliana Wray as Rachel as the New Midnight Society and Rafael Casal as The Carnival of Doom's ringmaster, Mr. Tophat. The miniseries aired on Friday, October 11, 18, and 25, 2019 and was a ratings success. Brandon Routh guest starred in part two.
On February 19, 2020, it was renewed for a second season, titled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Curse of the Shadows. On October 29, 2020, the casting for a second season was announced with Bryce Gheisar, Arjun Athalye, Beatrice Kitsos, Malia Baker, Dominic Mariche and Parker Queenan as the new Midnight Society. The second season premiered on February 12, 2021.
On March 24, 2022, the series was renewed for a third season, subtitled Ghost Island. Telci Huynh, Conor Sherry, Luca Padovan, Dior Goodjohn and Chance Hurstfield joined the cast as new members of the Midnight Society, while Julian Curtis joined the cast as a hotel manager. The third season premiered on July 30, 2022.
A music video with the horror-themed dance song “Feel the Fear” was aired on Nickelodeon and included as a bonus feature on VHS tapes. The television series also spawned multiple licensed products. A PC game based on the show titled Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Tale of Orpheo's Curse was released in 1994. A board game titled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Game was also released. They also released a series of audio cassettes entitled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: More Tales From The Midnight Society which were narrated and voiced by actors from the show who reprised their respective characters. Perhaps the most prominent of products from the franchise's merchandising was a series of books written by various authors between 1995 and 1998.
On November 13, 2017, it was announced that a film adaptation of the series was in the works at Paramount Players. It writer Gary Dauberman was set to write the screenplay with Matt Kaplan producing and D.J. Caruso directing. The film was scheduled to be released on October 4, 2019. However, on February 27, 2019, Paramount removed the film from their schedule.
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