Cartoons ('interactive cartoon', 'animated cartoon', 'Saturday-morning cartoon', 'cartoony') are terms often used to describe many of the games (or elements of the games) in the King's Quest series by developers, critics, competitors, and fans alike. This article covers the history of this usage.

From King's Quest 1 sierra approached IBM to promote the idea of creating an 'interactive cartoon' game for IBM's PCjr.[1] This game became known as King's Quest (inspired by the non-animated Wizard and the Princess before it.)

Since then King's Quest became known for its three-dimensional cartoon quality overwhelming and delighting its hundreds of thousands of fans.[2] Since then it had been a tradition for Sierra, on up to many of King's Quests, and many of the later VGA Sierra games (until the company dabbled with "full-motion video") that Sierra often categorized their games as 'interactive animated cartoons', with what it called '3-D Animated Adventure Games'. (compare to Sierra's Disney's Black Cauldron for similar influence by Disney on early AGI 3D Animated Adventure style, made in part due to the success of King's Quest on the market)

Ken Williams has stated that Disney animation and humor was always an influence behind the series from the start: "I used to say that Sierra had two role models: Microsoft and Disney. King's Quest was our attempt to replicate in an interactive medium what we liked most about the Disney features."[3] With cute, loveable characters.


Keep in mind that cartoon does not always denote 'unrealistic' or 'silly' but may just be a synonym term for 'animation', so in the case of King's Quest there can be a blend of both 'exaggerated' silly or humorous antics of Merry Melodies, Silly Symphonies, or Looney Toons but also include the more serious elements of Don Bluth or Disney Animated Films (just like those films also tend to include silly along with serious subject matter). Just as you can find different styles of cartoons/animation on TV or Movies to this day. however when 'cartoon' is used as an adjective it is almost always has to do with 'humor/satire/caricature' meaning of the term, rather than necessarily the 'animation' definition (and Sierra has used both meanings throughout its history). But not everyone has the same sense of humor or necessarily sees things in the same light. While interpretations of the amount of silly or humor to the amount of seriousness (or what or how people see things as 'funny') is an entirely subjective matter and determined individually (for example the "Two Guys from Andromeda" viewed King's Quest and most other sierra games at the time as somber and medieval, and they wanted to design a series they considered 'silly', which became Space Quest).[4]

However, humor has always been a part of the series since the beginning, but has generally been of a slapstick or musical and sight gags and sometimes of situational humor varieties, or simply storybook/fable-style humor, as well as puns particularly after the second game (and in the earliest games sometimes ironic or snarky commentary from the narrator) . The humor became more defined over time, picking up in the KQ1 remake, KQ5, KQ6, and KQ7.



King's Quest 1 and the first few up to King's Quest IV (with a slight change to the artistic style with KQ4 SCI, but still relatively the same as the AGI version of the game) were especially intended to look like interactive 'cartoons'. In Roberta's own words on the series in 1988; 'it's the ultimate cartoon - a cartoon they can participate in.'[5] It was this style that later partially influenced the look of later King's Quest 7, when Roberta decided to try to emulate feature length animated movies. But by then the technology had progressed enough to allow for animations as smooth and clean as traditional Hollywood cell animation.[6][7]

Anastasia Salter notes in her academic work (What Is Your Quest?: From Adventure Games to Interactive Books), that from the two major companies that animated adventure games emerged, Sierra and Lucasarts that from the 1980s through the 1990s that both companies went from 2-D cartoon-style graphics of early games to later 3-D games that became standard throughout the industry.[8]

Another academic notes about King's Quest:

"From the blocky cartoon sprites of Sierra's early King's Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, to the full-screen video clips of the Tex Murphy series (which featured recognizable actors such as Brian Keith and Margot Kidder), during the 90s, designers experimented with ways to use the computer's multimedia capabilities to tell engaging stories."[9]

L.A. Times notes a bout the original series;

"...cartoonish fancifulness that marked the franchise’s eight prior core games."[10]

Another writer writers:

"By the late eighties, graphic adventure games--cartoonish quests filled with brain-bending puzzles--were well on their way to becoming one of the most popular game categories available for the exploding personal computer market. Game Publisher Sierra On-Line, having pioneered the genre with ubiquitous King's Quest, continued to grow the genre with titles like Police Quest, Space QUest, and a game called Leisure Suit Larry In The Land of the Lounge Lizards."[11]

Note: For the purpose of this article, the definition they are using and within the context that they were using, was more along the lines of what 'Saturday-day morning cartoons' tended to be during the 1980s usually Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies style, and filled with slapstick, a humorous soundtrack, and other funny physics defying elements. Or closer to the original definition of cartoon as a funny or humorous 'satire' or caricature, or 'comical'. Generally when 'cartoon' or 'cartoony' is used as an adjective it is this humorous or satirical side that is focused on (see also behind the scenes "modern usages").

Cartoon (Adj.)
resembling a cartoon or caricature:
The novel is full of predictable, cartoon characters, never believable as real people.[12]

As opposed to 'animated feature length film' which KQ7 was intending to mimic, which were generally considered to be higher quality and often more serious in nature (though they also included humor elements). Though KQ7 has come to be interpreted to be even more silly with time, but was often interpreted as being sillier than most of the previous KQ games before it at the time of release.

Of course its important to understand that these interpretations are only a snapshot into how the games were viewed or intended to be viewed or marketed at the time of their released, but not necessarily how they came to be viewed with hindsight, or evolution of humor and interpretation of humor over time, especially how the series evolved in relation to itself. Also concept of humor (even more absurd and sillier elements) does not mean that the series is completely devoid of serious and dramatic elements as well, and the series is filled with plenty of those moments and events. It is a dynamic series filled with both humor and serious subject matter, and that is what makes it such a strong series to many of its fans.

Keep in mind marketing often took different approaches than the designers themselves took, or used more than one method. Hence you could have manual artwork or covers go for 'storybook' look, while the game itself had more abstract 'cartoony' from developers and critics perspectives at the same time. According to Josh Mandel, marketing and documentation department was separate game developing divisions, and often the developers didn't have any input on the manuals or boxes.

This becomes true where with KQ4 some of the marketing was pushing for more dramatic atmospheric 'cinema'/'movie' interpretation of the game, or a bit of both 'cartoon' and serious 'live-action film'. But continued the Disney feature inspiration to the series, with its cue, loveable characters.

The Original "Interactive Cartoon" on PCEdit


The Sorcerer

The earliest release of "King's Quest" (King's Quest Classic, the first game) was marketed as a cartoon-style game.

Sierra and IBM's marketing went as far to even included cartoonish depictions of "Graham" (and other characters).

The artwork for Graham is based roughly similar to how he appeared in the game and includes Graham's comically large nose (in a Fractured Fairy Tales style of Jay Ward Productions of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame[13]).

At the time Roberta presented the game to IBM as an 'interactive cartoon' series, and so this style was chosen because IBM wanted something similar to what was seen in Saturday-morning cartoons at the time.

Reviewers at the time (and after) have noted, how the character Sir Graham (Grahame as he was known back then) looked and moved like a cartoon figure.[14] In fact John Williams was out in 1984 promoting the game to the game industry and critics; stating that it was revolutionary and just like an "animated cartoon" (a description that would be rather redundant on its own, but likely refers to both animation and cartoon as an adjective for the series also referring to its amusement or humor as well, as 'cartoons' are generally thought of).[15] It's noted that at the time full animation was revolutionary; there were plenty of action games on the market at the time, but there were no animated cartoons games until King's Quest.[16]

It's noted elsewhere that within computers or computer games, that computer adventure games (as opposed to fantasy role-playing games such as Wizardry or The Bard's Tale) were divided into two broad game types: text adventures (no pictures) and graphic adventures (words and static pictures). King's Quest was an 'animated' adventure. It's hero, Sir Graham, walked, jumped, swam, climbed, fell, fought, and got chased much like a character in a Saturday morning cartoon. Cartoons are passive--A viewer just sits there and watches (and maybe cheer, jeer, or talk back). A player doesn't just 'veg out' with King's Quest. The player becomes one with Graham, controlling his actions, shares his adventures, ponders his problems, and suffers his fates.[17]

Many different individuals noted what they saw as the cartoon flavor to the series in their essays, reviews, books, etc. Including Roberta Williams, John Williams, Lorelei Shannon, Jerry Albright, Peter Spear, Jeremy Spear, Donald P. Trivette, academic writer Anastasia Salter, and many of the fans of the series (as noted by their letters to Sierra at the time[18]).[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

Gary Winnick who worked on Lucasart's Maniac mansion notes about playing King's Quest and Space Quest at the time[31]:

I remember playing King’s Quest and Space Quest, mainly because Ron showed them to me when we were first developing Maniac Mansion. I was very intrigued by the presentation because at that time it felt a bit like I was playing an interactive cartoon.

Exaggerated cartoony elements occur throughout the early games in the series (often in a traditional cartoon influenced 'slapstick' variety). When Graham bows to Edward his hat falls off his head, causing him to have to pick it off the ground. Edward does an amusing twirling dance in the original King's Quest PCjr after Graham returns with the three treasures, before he falls over and dies (this was toned down in later versions). Through the first four games birds or stars circle a character's head if they trip and bump their head, or fall out of a tree (if the fall doesn't outright kill them). In KQ3 for example Gwydion's head even spins 360 degrees while stars sparkle around his head (impossible for a real human being to do). Sometimes the sound of a cuckoo accompanies these pratfalls (especially when the engine allows for more digital sound).

Another example of cartoon exaggeration is the addition of the 'comic' book like spell casting in which sound effects were written out across the screen in comic sans style lettering, such as Manannan's 'ZAP!', or the teleportation stone's 'POOF!'. Other comical elements were in the dialogue such as Manannan's use of puns whenenver he thinks up a punishment for Gwydion, or puns and other jokes that are given when a character dies.

Sierra was also not bound from inserting funny easter eggs, cameos and injokes in the world, and pointing out the characters shock and surprise at finding them within the game's narration. For example running into a cartoon-style Batmobile in KQ2.

King's Quest IV came in two versions one in AGI graphics that looked similar to previous games, and a version updated with the new SCI engine. The graphics were soo good in King's Quest IV that King's Quest I was rewritten using the new interface...and an animated sequence was added to the beginning of King's Quest I.[32]

While King's Quest IV SCI, and King's Quest 1: Quest for the Crown SCI remake, both updated the graphics to slightly more realistic style, they both maintained certain exaggerated cartoon sensibilities. As well as continuing the tradition of often funny 'cartoon slapstick' death sequences such as Graham being flattened like a pancake, fights often depicted as Graham in a cloud of dust (with random arms and legs sticking out), Graham being disintegrated by dragon fire with only his two blinking cartoon eyeballs left to fall into the pile of ash left behind, or leaving a Graham shaped hole after falling from the sky. In a few other examples Graham's eyes 'bulge' out of his head in shock.

Some of Graham's pratfalls result in him falling head over heels (a similar animation was recycled by the King's Quest reboot in 2015-16). Likewise there are a few moments where Graham 'hovers' for a second before he falls through leaving mist, dust, cloud shape behind as he falls straight down to his death, similar to Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff.

These and other events that would better fit in with Looney Toons or Merry Melodies (Disney) than 'realistic' animated movie.

Even the often semi-static backgrounds can be seen as similar to the static backgrounds in 'cartoons' (or 'matte paintings'). It's noted that characters and obstacles such as the trees in KQ4 are "merely small cartoon depictions on the monitor sitting" in front of the viewer. It also noted that the primary image of Rosella that the player encounters is a low-resolution cartoon depiction (which would differ from how a reader might image the character if they were reading the story from a children's book).[33]

The the animated intros and cutscenes are referred to as 'cartoons' in the manual, and in the AGI developer Easter egg as well (but this is being used in the 'animated cut scene' sense of the definition).

"Teresa Baker is the blond with the pony tail. She programmed the beginning and ending cartoons plus a few other miscellanous rooms."-From the KQ4AGI developer Easter egg.
Kings Quest 3 Grey Box B

The fact that Roberta, Ken and John Williams saw the series as an 'interactive animated cartoon', as did the gaming industry, this was reflected on the back of the boxes for each of first four games (primarily the original edition boxes), and even the Sierra catalogues at the time included a quote from "Compute! magazine[34]/Computer Games Magazine[35]" stating that the series; "It's like playing an animated cartoon" as part of its blurbs.

For example the back of the KQ2 (gold) box included this longer description: "King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne takes the technologies initiated in the original King's Quest and refines them into form. "It's like playing an animated cartoon," claims Compute! magazine. The animation and music in the game are unparalleled in the realm of computer adventure."

A Shift in Style?Edit

Sierra continued to market its series as an 'animated cartoon' in certain materials even up into the production of King's Quest 5 and King's Quest 6.

But it might be said that certain elements shifted as early as KQ4, when as the story goes as upon showing the introduction to a packed audience at a game show, that members of the audience were said to have cried, and using this Sierra advertised the game as akin to a 'cinematic motion picture' and even went as far to make a live action ad with Rosella portrayed with a live action actor exploring a cave, and being captured by the Ogre (live action person in a costume).

But at the same time they also continued to market the series as a whole as an animated cartoon.

However, it was King's Quest 5 where it was noted by some that the series cartoon flavor was lost to a more realistic animated 'storybook' look.[36] And that the look and feel of King's Quest VI was an even sharper departure from past quests...[37]

During an interview made for Start Magazine in spring of 1990 (about half a year before the release of KQ5) she was discussing the development of the game, Roberta mentioned that due to the success of her animated game series that studios had approached Roberta in the past to make an actual 'Saturday morning cartoon' based on King's Quest series (perhaps mirroring Dragon's Lair and Space Ace being turned into children's TV programming).

However, by then as Roberta was looking at making VGA games, they turned the companies down because they thought 'Saturday morning cartoon' style looked too cheap, and they wanted to maintain their image (by this time Sierra had started to move towards VGA and high quality scanned graphics). In Roberta's mind since the success of the first game, she had started hoping for quality animation by real cartoonists, and was hoping she would have that technology at her hands as well to use in games[38]. Sierra was also approached to make board games and books based on the series (it wouldn't be until 1995 that the first King's Quest novel became a reality).[39]

Still their are still references within the development material for KQ5 and KQ6 which still markets the animation in the newer games (and particularly in KQ5) as "animated cartoons".[40]

The Narrator introduces King's Quest V in The Making of Sierra Adventure Games documentary (a bonus packed in with the 15th Anniversary collections of King's Quest);

This may look like an animated cartoon, but its actually a five-hundred million industry.

Even development articles around the release of the games still referred to the newer games as 'cartoons', and discussed influences from Disney to Don Bluth, especially in the background artwork.

The process to make the animation was still very similar to the process that Disney or Don Bluth or any number of studios did for classic 'cell animation' (however drawn in the computer rather than 'hand-drawn'), even with newer processes such as 'blue screen/green screen' and 'rotoscoping' being utilized and then recolored for certain scenes and animation. There were still elements that maintained the 'animated cartoon' influence:

"Among the clever, "musical" sound effects created by Chris Braymen, the game's composer, are the clattering bones, twisted xylophone notes, and rattling chains made by a gang of dancing skeletons. The effect is reminiscent of classic Disney cartoons of the '30s and adds a special dimension to the adventure."[41]

Like KQ4 the game and it's developers refer to the cutscenes (including the intro scene) as 'cartoons' (this is even mentioned in the game narrative or credits themselves). (but this was more likely in the definition of being 'animation' scene).

Warning: This is the opening cartoon of the game, and should be viewed to receive an overview of the plot.-From KQ5CD
"Warning: This cartoon contains material that may be necessarily for information or clues to complete this game. Please be sure to check your inventory if you decide to skip."-From KQ5CD
Opening Cartoon by
Stanley Lui & Albert Co.
-From the KQ6 credits.

But many reviewers and Sierra themselves still made the comparisons to the series being like a TV cartoon;

Stuart Cheifet, host of the television program Computer Chronicles noted the 'obviously great graphics' of KQ5, and commented that it was like "watching a cartoon on TV".[42]

All along the development of KQ6 her mind if not on feature-length cinematic cartoon animation she was still thinking towards Hollywood and cinematic fantasy films in general.[43]

While there was humor in previous series games (but certainly not to extent of Space Quest), King's Quest 6 ramped up the humor in many ways from previous games, offering a lot more puns, and not just in the death scenes, but also by misusing the action icons (such as trying to talk to random things on screen, or grabbing random things), as well as using inventory items on random things or on other items in the inventory. In previous games particularly in KQ5 it was simply impossible to click items on items, or on other things, and actions that wouldn't work would just put a red "X" on the screen. KQ6 was the first game to offer this humorous and silly feature, and the last in the King's Quest series (until the reboot). KQ6 still contained cartoon or slapstick-like humor elements as well: such cartoony skeletons dancing to Dem Bones, or knocking out Abdul Alhazred offering cuckoo sounds. In some of the interviews they discuss how they went out of their way to try to add more humor and puns to the game.

The Return to Animated Cartoon RootsEdit


Never judge a game by its box (or a book by its cover). This (1995) variation on the King's Quest Collection box was inspired by the style and artwork of King's Quest VII. It reimagined the various characters from the first six games as they would appear if made to look like a 'feature-film cartoon-style'. It was boxed with a playable demo of KQ7.

The approach for developing the world and story of KQ7 was to create a game full of wacky humor and cartoony characters, and no idea was too wild to consider. The game was to be much more light-heared and even more cartoony than previous King's Quest games. Roberta was always inspired by the Disney movies, and wanted the next King's Quest game to be like them. It was believed that the cartoony approach was bound to attract more children to the series.[44]

As far back as 1984, when Roberta and others were seeing her games as a form of 'interactive cartoon' she was thinking ahead to the time when technology would allow her to go more heavily into animation and sound and eventually look like a real cartoonist type of thing. However technology was more of a limitation, and she wouldn't fulfill her dream until six games later, the 7th game im the series.[45]

King's Quest 7 went especially to emulate a Don Bluth or Disney feature film look. Something they previously did not have the technology to conceive. It is suggested that the cartoon-style of early King's Quest graphic art, may have had an influence on the look of KQ7, when Roberta decided to try to emulate feature length animated movies. But by then the technology had progressed enough to allow for animations as smooth and clean as traditional Hollywood cell animation.[46]

According to Andy Hoyos, who may not fully understood the 'cartoon' inspiration behind earlier games in the series:

"The look of King's Quest VII," says Art Designer Andy Hoyos, is that of an intensely brilliant cartoon. It's different from anything we've done before in the series. We were inspired by the animated feature films of Disney and Don Bluth...particularly "Aladdin." The intensity of the palette used by the "Aladdin" artists was amazing."

Roberta clarified that KQ7 represented a different style of animation than previous games (but was still under the category of animation), that it was what she would call "feature-film style" which was a different thing for King's Quest (as opposed to more 'Saturday-morning cartoon' style in previous games).[47] She believed that it would be viewed more as an interactive "animated feature film", than what people thought of as 'computer art'.[48]

According to the KQ7 Hintbook:

You've never seen animation like this in a Sierra game before. In fact, you've probably never seen it in any other computer game before. It's feature-film quality animation, with characters that are lively, funny, and altogether unique. Lead animator Mar Hudgins had this to say about them: The characters in KQVIII run the gamut, from very 'straight' characters such as Rosella and Valanice to the very cartooned types like the jackalope or the ghoul kids...[49]

Still for some critics the art style of King's Quest VII was too much them, that is to say it looked too 'cartoony' (perhaps in a reverse 'uncanny valley'), and the hi-res graphics didn't leave enough up to the imagination like earlier games did (to fill in the gaps). Ironically some fans even said it looked like a 'Saturday morning cartoon'[50], although by 1994 television cartoons had actually started to reach the quality of many feature length films (Batman: The Animated Series for example), and traditional animation would actually start to be on its way out the following year with the release of Toy Story, and the rise of 3D computer generated movies.

Even Mask of Eternity had a look somewhere between storybook realism of KQ5/6, some Don Bluth inspiration (where the Don Bluth tended to lean on more realistic 'darker' approach than Disney did), with facial and body animation texture styles of 7 mapped onto 3D models.

Anastasia Salter notes in an academic journal article (Adventurers Turned Tale-Tellers: The Emergence of an On-line Folk Art Community) about the change in art styles between the 'cartoony' 2-D to the new generation 3-D style...

Adventure games, with their strong focus on narrative and point-and-click exploratory interfaces, ruled the market of the late 80s and 90s with classic series like King's Quest setting sales records and generating new installments as late as 1994 (Business Wire, 1994). But the genre hit a turning point: graphics-based games, and the rise of 3-D, made the cartoony two-dimensional environments of the adventure games suddenly look dated. Attempts to bring the games into the new style failed, with later releases attempting to embrace action and in doing so alienating the franchises' followers.[51]

The New Animated Adventures of GrahamEdit


The new series of King's Quest: Adventures of Graham, goes back to the series roots with a mix of storybook visuals (similar to King's Quest V/King's Quest 1 SCI remake), a lot of Don Bluth film (see Dragon's Lair game), and a mix between realism for some characters and cartoon silliness for others (Graham stuffing entire person's in his 'inventory' cape). Much like playing an interactive Pixar or later Disney film.

Reviews and articles about the series mirror those that came before even back to the earliest games in the series, again talking about how much its like playing a cartoon.[52][53]

Surprising many of the animations in the game appear to be inspired by his animations in the previous series. Several of the exaggerated animations such as Graham's drowning, his rolling over and over when falling appear to be largely inspired by his drowning and falling animations in KQ1 and KQ2 (and also KQ5). Even his tall/lanky appearance seems to be inspired by the original KQ1/KQ2 sprite on a regular CRT computer. This can be better seen in Chapter 5 when a sequence shows off an 8-bit Graham based on the original game (with an older Graham), or the 8-bit graham that appears in Chapter 3 on the magic canvas (inspired by his appearance in KQ1 and the New Series).

The new universe tends to be less serious than the original games overall, and more self referential, includes particularly anachronistic uses of modern memes, tropes, and catch phrases (lingo), and characters tend to use puns a lot in every day conversations. In a style reminiscent of Secret of Monkey Island, Leisure Suit Larry, or Space Quest. Characters personalities have been tweaked or even completely changed compared to their original versions, and in some cases can be described as 'quirky'. Though physically they are reinterpreted as somewhat exaggerated versions of the original characters inspired by the classic 'slapstick' animations of the classic characters.

However, while there is a more whimsical flavor to the characters, and some of the story events, the stories still tend to be overall serious, and discuss tough and sometimes mature subjects of the human condition: such as loss of friends, family, aging, legacy, memory, death, and even the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance). Perhaps in an even more dramatic and realistic thought-provoking way than the original series ever did. The humor only helps soften the bittersweet melancholy and tragic nature of the subject matter of the series main themes.

The stories are told from the personal perspective of Graham or interpretations of Gwendolyn and thus also fall into the 'unreliable narrator' category, and thus some of the more exaggerated aspects can be considered hyperbole on their parts. The framing story ("present") itself tends to be much more serious in nature, and the characters much more physically vulnerable than they are in the flashbacks or even in most of the original King's Quests (as Graham breaks or spran his arm when he falls as mentioned in the first and 2nd chapter). What you would expect from a man of his age and lack of mobility.

The LA Times noted (acknowledging the 'cartoon' history of the original series, and its influence on the new);

"And with it a return of the cartoonish fancifulness that marked the franchise’s eight prior core games. Tonally, early looks at the Odd Gentlemen’s reboot channels “The Princess Bride” with an air of vintage Disney. Studio co-founder Matt Korba even goes so far as to say the game is influenced by rides at Disneyland, this as he sits in his disheveled office and guides King Graham through Pirates of the Caribbean-looking caverns."

IGN similarly noted in their preview:

"It evokes the whimsy and cartoonish aesthetics of the original games with a modern cinematic flair. Animated sequences wove so seamlessly with the gameplay that the effect was like watching a beautifully lush CG cartoon rather than a game. A side benefit to this fluidity is how it helps sell the franchise’s sometimes slapstick, sometimes wry sense of humor without the aggravating pauses between characters’ dialogue or lag between action and cut-scene.[54]

The Cartoon "Inventory" GagEdit

Another common feature of King's Quest and other animated adventure games is unusual, exaggerated, and unrealistic features of the games: the unfillable Bag of Holding that characters often have on them. Characters often find and stuff items that are bigger than their pockets and sometimes even themselves, or impossibly heavy objects that should not be able to picked up, or even carried effortlessly (the novelization for King's Quest 3 for example points out the extreme weight of the "Treasure Chest", and how it would be a huge burden trying to climb the side of a mountain). Sierra used to play on this sometimes poking fun at it within the games themselves, or in the documentation. The King's Quest hintbooks by Al Lowe or Roberta Williams (for King's Quest I-IV) for example has an answer usually prefaced with the question:

"Where does 'your character'/'Sir Graham'/'King Graham' put all of that stuff he's carrying?"

Followed by the answer:

"The same place that Superman puts his street clothes when he flies!"[55][56][57]
"The same place Clark Kent puts his clothes when he changes into Superman!"[58][59]

In King's Quest: Adventures of Graham, this is played with a flourish as Graham sticks objects larger than himself (including wagon wheel analogues, and even people) into his cape with the KQ5/6 points jingle (to which they seemingly vanish until he's ready to pull them out). Chapter 5's AGI-inspired flashback scenes mentions Graham's infamous never-ending pocket/pockets. The Spears discussed this in greater detail in the King's Quest VII: Authorized Players Guide and The King's Quest Companion, 4th Edition. Ending with the note, the easiest explanation is to not think about, its only a game.

Note: Just where is Rosella carrying the horn and shovel, not to mention the sooty lantern and the like? For that matter, where does Valanice hide her stuff? It isn't as if the horn from the desert is small, or the prickly pear is of the non-stick variety. This is the classic problem of computer adventure games. For us, it reached its logical extreme in Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry V: Passionate Patty Does a Little Undercover Work when, in a pre-release version, it was pointed out that in one sequence, Patti lost her clothes and was forced to ride down a glass elevator completely naked, but carrying a full load of inventory stuff.
The solution to the Classic Problem of Computer Adventure Games is simple:
Don't Worry about it. It's only a game.


  • In KQ2 a heart appears above Graham and Valanice while they kiss, this is a cartoon symbol for love.
  • In KQ3 in particular the Apple IIGS version when Gwydion falls a short distance, the "cuckoo" sound plays while stars fly around his head. This is a standard cartoon gag in Looney Tunes.
  • In KQ4, Lolotte dies with a cartoon heart (symbol for love) over her head, which is shown to explode to indicate her dieing.
  • In KQ6 (often seen as the most 'realistic' of the King's Quest series) when Abdul Alhazred is knocked out with the sword, the cartoon cuckoo sound is heard.
  • In KQ5, Graham uses the classic slapstick pie routine from cartoons and early comedy cinema to defeat the Yeti.
  • In KQ5, Graham throws peas at a monster causing it to trip up, the animation is accompanied by a cartoon style slipping sound. The slipping on peas or a banana peel is also a classic slapstick routine in early cartoons and movies.
  • in KQ6 when falling off the cliffs and in some cases over water Alexander pauses in the air for a short time before waving to the player/camera before falling to the bottom or into water to his death in this a slapstick gag made most famous from Wiley E. Cayote cartoons.
  • In KQ6 when Alexander is killed by the Minotaur in the Dark, his eyes (the only things lit in the room) fall to the ground and funny 'plink plink' sound is they hit the ground.
  • In KQ6, when Alexander plays the xylophones he plays Dem Bones, and cartoonish skeletons come onto the screen dancing to the music. Much like out of the classic Disney, Silly Symphonies "Skeleton Dance" cartoon.
  • In KQ7, the thoughts of Cuddles the dog are shown in thought balloons, a standard comic/cartoon gag.
  • In earliest King's Quest games, sleeping is often indicated with exaggerated comic-style ZZZZZ coming form the sleeping character's head and expanding in size the further they move away from the character.

Gallery of Cartoon GagsEdit

See AlsoEdit

"Listen, kid! John said. "We've got this revolutionary new game that you gotta see. It's called King's Quest, and it's just like an animated cartoon. Trust me..."
...Two things made King's Quest revolutionary in the beginning. First, the game was fully animated. King Graham (the hero) actually moved from place to place; a dragon's flames needed to be avoided, a bean stalk needed climbing, and a lake needed to be swum. Watching where Graham stepped became as important as figuring out what to do next and how to do it. No one had ever done this before in a full-blown graphic adventure game. There were plenty of action games on the market, but there were no animated cartoons until King's Quest.
"One of the reasons for King's Quest's popularity is that it does spring from the fantasies of a child. For adults, it allows them to experience again the stories and fables they loved as children. For children, it's the ultimate cartoon - a cartoon they can participate in. And for both, it is a chance to try to outwit the designer... me."
"Backtrack for a moment to 1983. Home computers were still a hot topic as major companies jockeyed for a forward position in the market. IBM gave Sierra On-Line a PC one full year before releasing them to the business world. With this head start, Sierra On-Line developed the first game for the new platform: The Wizard and The Princess. Then IBM began development on a personal computer for the home called the PCjr (nicknamed "Peanut"). In order to showcase this new product, IBM asked Sierra On-Line to come up with a game that would take advantage of the PCjr's 16-color palette, three-channel sound, and whopping (for the times) 128K of memory. Working with a small team of programmers and artists, Roberta lived up to the challenge. She designed a game in which the player would take on the persona of Sir Graham, a knight in the land of Daventry. The ailing King Edward sends Graham on a quest to recover three lost treasures. Should Graham succeed, he will become the heir to the throne. With its release in the summer of 1983, King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown becomes the first animated, three dimensional "interactive cartoon."
"The three-dimensional quality makes it seem like Sir Grahame is moving through an animated cartoon. He can bump into and go around objects, climb trees and swim in water, duck behind rocks, and jump into the air. If he walks behind a rock, his legs are invisible; if he walks in front of a rock, part of the rock is invisible. When Sir Grahame moves, his arms and legs move, and the background shows between them. While we take that kind of animation for granted in a movie, it is not easily accomplished in a computer program on a machine without sprites."
The adventure starts with an introductory cartoon. You should watch the cartoon at least once, as it provides valuable information you need in completing your quest. To bypass the introductory cartoon, press Return.

External LinksEdit

"For all the annoyingness of King’s Quest’s central family, the games have a certain quirky charm to them, and it’s fun to pick out fairy tale elements that you recognise as the stories progress. Alexander is probably the least annoying hero in general (he’s adopted), and in this game, I don’t remember him annoying me at all. The genie who keeps trying to kill him is equal parts funny and creepy, and the supporting characters are cute in a punny Saturday morning cartoon way – there are grammar jokes with a creature called the Dangling Participle, and insults from a rotten tomato. Wholesome entertainment for the whole family."
"This game plays much like King's Quest II-you have to navigate through a series of mazes, for instance. You can save and restore the game, and put a note into the saved game to show where you left off. There's also a clock onscreen-you have to perform certain actions within a time limit. The graphics are more sophisticated than in earlier games. For example, at one point Gwydion walks toward a mirror that shows his reflection; as he moves closer to it, his image becomes larger, and when he walks away, the mirror shows his back. There are many scenes for the different lands Gwydion comes to, and the graphics seem more involved. There are times when three different characters are moving around. It really is like playing an animated cartoon."
Q. In what direction do you see adventure games going?
A. I would like to think I have some say on how adventure games do go. I'd like to keep ahead of everyone else and if that were true I would kind of set the standard for graphic adventure games. The graphic adventure games are probably going to go more heavily into animation and sound and eventually look like a real cartoonist type of thing.

The graphics are nothing spectacular and not much of an improvement over the last game in the series. Everything is very colorful, but much of it is too cartoonish. The sound effects are pretty good, however, and the is a treat.

"For one thing, the game implemented combat mechanics, doing away with point-and-click elements almost entirely, as well as the cartoonish illustrations that had characterised previous entries."

Behind the scenesEdit

While King's Quest, Space Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry tended to fall more towards "cartoony" fantasy than realism, Police Quest was intended to go into another direction (but was limited by AGI technology as well). While the first game and even the second had some silly and even cartoony moments (including its fourth-wall breaking refrences to the King's Quest universe), or the Japanese version of PQ2 made to look like a Japanese Anime cartoon; it was the intent of the producers of Police Quest 3 to make things less of a 'cartoon', and more cinematic... "In the early stages of production, we decided that an ultra-real game like Police Quest 3 just wasn't suited to cartoon characters. That's why Police Quest 3 has the most extensive use of digitized live actors ever seen. Every character you'll talk to and interact with is a real person."[60] While this is not directly about the influences on King's Quest it shows contrast to how other developers interpreted their own series, and tried to separate itself from the previous 'cartoony' look of their series. Hagatha's appearance in KQ2 may have been inspired by one or more cartoon witch characters of the same name, for example Aunt Hagatha on the 1965-68 cartoon show, Milton the Monster, or Hagatha of the Groovy Ghoulies (1970-1971)[61].

We have been approached to make King's Quest into a Saturday-morning cartoon but we don't think we'll do that because we think Saturday-morning cartoons look cheap. We want to maintain a quality image.
We have also been approached by two movie studios to do Leisure Suit Larry. We're currently in negotiations to see if we want to do anything there. Of course, we don't want to rush into anything. All of our characters are very precious to us and we don't want someone else to have the rights to them and do a bad job. We've also been approached to do board games and books for King's Quest. [62]

It can be argued on which came first King's Quest or Dragon's Lair when it comes to the idea of 'interactive cartoons'. Sierra places the birth and initial release of King's Quest in 1983 the same year Dragon's Lair came out, but the mainstream release for King's Quest is also listed as 1984.

Modern usagesEdit

In modern usages 'cartoon' or rather 'cartoonish' is often tossed around by fans as a pejorative towards newer games in the series. This is usually done by fans who frequent fan message boards or facebook. These fans often interpret the series from a modern lens, which focuses on the serious aspects of the series at the expense of any or all humor. Or simply overlook or ignore the humor, or because the humor is outdated to the point that it is no longer funny to new generations or simply evolution of what is considered humorous or silly. Or fail to acknowledge when the same kind of humor was used in both series (such as attacking most of Graham's 'animations and movements' even overlooking the fact that many had originated from the earlier games). Likewise on the reverse of this some elements intended to be serious, have been interpreted as 'silly' over time, such as some of the material and comments made by Connor during the events of KQ8. There are artistic draws and memes that often mock and satire his 'tis beyond my reach." comment for example. Some fans refer to the more silly or absurd or slapstick aspects of King's Quest as the series 'sense of whimsy' or 'whimsical nature' (note: that whimsical is related to silliness and humor in meaning and are synonyms)<ref></ref>. Others refer to it as 'cartoonish fancifulness'. Which Webster defines as "playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor." But of course how fans interpret as 'whimsical' may vary with each fans personal perspective, and senses of humor. With some of the intended humor completely overlooked by modern players.

IGN similarly describes the original series:

"...the whimsy and cartoonish aesthetics of the original games..."


  1. The Royal Scribe, King's Quest Collection
  6. KQ7 Authorized Guide, pg
  7. The Sierra On-Line Story
  8. pg, 38
  11. Retro Gaming Hacks: Tips & Tools for Playing the Classics, Chris Kohler, Hack 83
  14. TOBOKQ3E, pg 7
  15. KQ7 Authoriced Guide, pg
  16. KQ7 Authorized Guide, pg
  17. TKQC1E, pg xvi
  18. TOBOKQ3E, pg
  20. The Royal Scribe
  23. Games vs. Hardware. The History of PC video games: The 80's, pg 257
  24.'s+quest+interactive+cartoon&source=bl&ots=8uph31zMCJ&sig=w8aFO_opdmpg128gPVYc0WeMIsw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi7iIf799HKAhVGuhoKHXadDJY4FBDoAQg1MAM#v=onepage&q=king's%20quest%20interactive%20cartoon&f=false Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7, 1st Edition, Aaron Reed, pg XIX-XX
  25. The Sierra On-Line Story
  26. TOBOKQ1-3E, pg
  27. TKQC1-4E, pg
  28. KQ7 Authorized Guide, pg
  30.'s+quest+interactive+cartoon&source=bl&ots=6bADWOSWgw&sig=FGgNku_T8kOAbJPZuWnr0sZCanE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwif_52C-9HKAhUIQBoKHTPmDmE4FBDoAQhKMAc#v=onepage&q=king's%20quest%20interactive%20cartoon&f=false What Is Your Quest?: From Adventure Games to Interactive Books, Anastasia Salter, pg 64
  32. TOBOKQ3E, pg9
  33.'s+quest+interactive+cartoon&source=bl&ots=6bADWOSWgw&sig=FGgNku_T8kOAbJPZuWnr0sZCanE&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwif_52C-9HKAhUIQBoKHTPmDmE4FBDoAQhKMAc#v=onepage&q=king's%20quest%20interactive%20cartoon&f=false What Is Your Quest?: From Adventure Games to Interactive Books, Anastasia Salter, pg 63, 64
  34. Games vs. Hardware. The History of PC video games: The 80's, pg 257
  35. KQ3 (grey) box
  36. TOBOKQ3E, pg 9
  37. TOBOKQ3E, pg 10
  41. The Quest for King's Quest VI
  42. Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7, 1st Edition, Aaron Reed, pg xx
  46. KQ7Authorized Guide, pg
  47. KQ7 Hintbook, pg 1
  48. pg 3
  49. KQ7 Hintbook, pg 7
  54. "
  55. KQ1 Hintbook, pg
  56. KQ2 Hintbook, pg
  57. KQ3 Hintbook, pg
  58. KQ5 Hintbook, pg
  59. KQ4 Hintbook, pg
  60. Sierra-Dynamix News Magazine - Volume 4 Number 2 - Summer 1991, pg
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