Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a Canadian horror fantasy-themed anthology television series that was on YTV. It aired from 1990 to 1996, and for a second run from 1999 to 2000. The original series was created 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, including their suburbs.
|Are You Afraid of the Dark?|
|Directed by||David Winning|
|Starring||(See list of cast)|
|Theme music composer|
|Country of origin||Canada|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||91 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||22–25 minutes|
The series premiered with the episode "The Tale of the Twisted Claw" as a pilot on Halloween 1990 on the Canadian television network YTV and aired until June 11, 2000. The show also premiered on Nickelodeon's SNICK on August 15, 1992, and aired until April 20, 1996. The show was both a critical and commercial success, garnering numerous awards as the series progressed.
A revival series with new directors, writers, and a cast was produced by Nickelodeon from 1999 to 2000 and also aired on SNICK. The sole member from the original lineup to return for the sixth and seventh seasons 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 removed from Paramount’s schedule. On February 14, 2019, it was announced that the series itself would be revived for a limited time with a limited miniseries premiering in October 2019.
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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 he or she would toss a handful of "midnight dust" 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. Many, but not all, of the horror stories on Are You Afraid of the Dark? ended with a "happy ending" whereas some of them have either bad endings or twist endings like "The Tale of the Lonely Ghost", "The Tale of the Dark Music", "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.
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|YTV (Canada)||Nickelodeon (US)||YTV (Canada)||Nickelodeon (US)|
|1||13||October 31, 1990||August 15, 1992||June 19, 1991||November 14, 1992|
|2||13||September 25, 1991||June 19, 1993||January 22, 1992||October 2, 1993|
|3||13||October 28, 1992||January 8, 1994||January 20, 1993||April 16, 1994|
|4||13||November 17, 1993||October 1, 1994||January 19, 1994||January 21, 1995|
|5||13||October 7, 1995||April 20, 1996|
|6||13||February 27, 1999||May 15, 1999|
|7||13||April 2, 2000||June 11, 2000|
Characters and castEdit
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Each member of the Midnight Society from 1991-96 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 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.
|The Midnight Society (1991–1996)|
|Gary||Ross Hull||1991–1996||Appeared in "The Tale of the Silver Sight", 3 episodes, in 2000.|
|Betty Ann||Raine Pare-Coull||1991–1996|
|Frank Moore||Jason Alisharan||1991–1995|
|The Midnight Society (1999–2000)|
- Gary: An unassuming, bookish-looking boy and the founder of this generation of the Midnight Society. Gary has a distinct fascination with magic, especially where the magician Houdini is concerned. His stories tend to revolve around cursed or enchanted objects with supernatural properties, and how – in the wrong hands – they can cause disaster, for both the holder and those around them. His stories have the recurring character "Sardo" in them; most of his stories have the main character buying an enchanted item from Sardo's shop. In the 3-part episode, "The Tale of the Silver Sight", Gary reveals that his grandfather was the founder of the Midnight Society and that it was his grandfather's stories that inspired him to recreate the group.
- Betty Ann: A vibrant girl who has an open and eager passion for the bizarre and twisted. Her stories often include themes where an alien or supernatural force is either trying to break into the world of the characters, or else trying to drag them into their own unnatural realms. Her stories tend to have twists reminiscent of Twilight Zone episodes, hinting that the protagonists of her stories have not yet escaped danger.
- Kiki: A spunky, tomboyish girl who often makes fun of others. Many of her stories involve plots where the danger of carelessness or deceitfulness, as well as the danger of the past, repeating itself. Also notable is that a large number of the characters in her stories are also of African descent, though the trend dies off later on in the series. One story she came up with had to be read by Gary due to her suffering from laryngitis at the time.
- Frank: A punkish teenager with an in-your-face attitude. Though his stories don't often have a running theme, they do often have the recurring character Dr. Vink appear as the villain, or at least, the creator of the story's antagonist. In season five, he and his family moved away.
- Tucker: Gary's younger brother and the youngest member of the Midnight Society. Due to his age, he is often portrayed as youthfully obnoxious. His stories tend to involve family relationships that are at first sour but grow in strength in the face of adversity, possibly reflecting his relationship with his brother Gary. There is also a running theme of the characters accidentally unleashing evil upon their world. After Gary left, he took over his place as the president of The Midnight Society. Once Tucker is in charge, he's less of a brat and more of a serious leader like his older brother. He is the only character to appear in both generations of the Midnight Society.
- Sam: A shy girl with an obvious mutual crush on Gary, which becomes one of the highlighted arcs of both their developments in the series. Reflecting this affection for Gary, Sam's stories tend to have more of a strong theme of love, and its endurance even beyond death.
- Kristen: A girl who, though squeamish about much else, has a fondness for ghost stories and fairy tales. She has a growing crush on David, and their affection for each other is a developing arc in the first few seasons. She loves to dress up for her stories or bring something for effect, sometimes to scare the others with and her stories almost always deal with ghosts from the past who have unfinished business that they cannot complete without the aid of the living. In season 3, she left the Midnight Society due to her and her family moving.
- David: A quiet boy with a mysterious expression. Reflecting his introverted nature and need to deal with his crush on Kristen, David's stories tend to be less about malignant outside forces, and more to do with the evil of past events left unresolved, or the darkness inside normal people, and the consequences of not dealing with their actions. In season 3, he and his family moved away.
- Stig: His nickname may come from the term stigma, as he is marked an outsider for his notable lack of hygiene. Stig is the last member to be initiated into this generation of the Midnight Society. As such, he has only two stories in the series before the cast is changed. Due to the aversion people seem to have against him for his looks, both his stories seem to revolve around outsiders judged for their appearances and tastes.
- Eric: Eric is portrayed as a diminutive teenager with visible Irish ancestry that influences his first story. As he has only had two stories in the first season before his character was cut, there is no visible theme in his storytelling but they seem to be about incredibly powerful evil forces (ones never proved innocent or misunderstood like some others). In his short run on the show, Eric was shown to be rather snide and negative, spending most of the time making sarcastic remarks and antagonizing the other members, especially Frank. He is the only character to leave the show without any explanation for his departure.
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.
- Quinn: Quinn is usually getting in trouble at school and at home, but he is a smart kid that likes to make fun of Andy teamed up with Vange.
- Vange: Vange (short for Evangeline) is the youngest of the New Midnight Society. She is a tomboy and doesn't have a problem with speaking her mind. Teamed up with Quinn she makes fun of Andy a lot.
- Andy: Andy is very sweet and kind. He is always being made fun of by Quinn and Vange for having more muscle than brains. He lives on a farm with his family. He often works there before and after school. Andy is closest to Megan.
- Megan: Megan is a rich kid who is not very comfortable in the woods. She would rather hold the New Midnight Society Meetings in her own, well-managed, backyard. Tucker, not being the stickler his brother was, lets Megan refurnish the campfire with some comfortable old couches. She seems to have a soft spot for Andy.
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! No mister; accent on the doh!" Another recurring line was: "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."
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 and 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. Christian Tessier who appeared in "Laughing in The Dark" (1992) also appeared in "The Curious Camera" (1994).
The television series spawned multiple licensed products. A PC game was made for the show titled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of Orpheo's Curse. A board game was made titled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Game. Perhaps the most prominent of products from the franchises merchandising was a series of books written by various authors between 1995 and 1998.
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 US while season 6 & 7 were released in Canada only. The company also released a joint collection of Season 1 & Season 2/Season 3 & Season 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.
Nickelodeon is also re-releasing the series to 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 thought Via Vision Entertainment. in 2015 Via Vision released season 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?
|Release name||Ep #||Region 1 (US)||Region 1 (Canada)||Region 2 (UK)||Region 4 (Australia)|
|Freaky Favorites||6||December 8, 1999||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|The Complete 1st Season||13||June 23, 2014||18 April 2006
May 28, 2013 (re-release)
|N/A||February 4, 2015|
|The Complete 2nd Season||13||June 26, 2014||November 28, 2006
October 15, 2013 (re-release)
|N/A||March 11, 2015|
|The Complete 3rd Season||13||September 24, 2014||April 24, 2007||N/A||April 10, 2015|
|The Complete 4th Season||13||October 2, 2014 ||November 13, 2007||N/A||N/A|
|The Complete 5th Season||13||October 15, 2014||February 26, 2008||N/A||N/A|
|The Complete 6th Season||13||N/A||April 29, 2008||April 29, 2008||N/A|
|The Complete 7th Season||13||N/A||August 19, 2008||August 19, 2008||N/A|
|The Complete Series 1 & 2||26||N/A||N/A||March 5, 2007||N/A|
|The Complete Series 3 & 4||26||N/A||N/A||April 7, 2008||N/A|
The first five complete seasons of the series have been released (non-sequentially) across ten volumes in digital format on iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu:
|Release name||Ep #||Release date|
|Volume 1||7||October 17, 2011|
|Volume 2||7||January 30, 2012|
|Volume 3||7||April 30, 2012|
|Volume 4||6||August 6, 2012|
|Volume 5||6||August 20, 2012|
|Volume 6||7||October 1, 2012|
|Volume 7||4||September 30, 2013|
|Volume 8||8||March 24, 2014|
|Volume 9||8||March 24, 2014|
|Volume 10||5||March 24, 2014|
In September 2016, all seven seasons of the series were made available for free on YouTube for non-US viewers.
Postponed film adaptationEdit
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 is 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.
On February 14, 2019, it was announced that the series itself would be revived for a limited time with a limited miniseries premiering in October 2019. On June 10, 2019, the cast for the miniseries were announced with Sam Ashe Arnold as Gavin, Miya Cech as Akiko, Tamara Smart as Louise, Jeremy 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.
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Cuthbert appeared in the original series for one episode, going on to become a regular when the show was revived.
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