Bone is an American fantasy-adventure comedy animated television series created by Jeff Smith, based on his comic book series of the same name. The show was produced independently at Cartoon Books Entertainment, a division of Cartoon Books. It premiered Saturday night, September 5, 1998 on Cartoon Network.
The series centers on the Bone cousins, white, bald cartoon caricatures. In the pilot episode “Out from Boneville” the three Bone cousins, an avaricious and greedy Phoncible P. "Phoney" Bone, a goofy cigar-smoking Smiley Bone, and an everyman character Fone Bone, have been run out of their hometown of Boneville after Phoney's campaign for mayor went awry. After crossing a desert, the cousins are separated by a sea of locusts and individually ending up in the mysterious Valley and must make their way across the fantasy landscape pursued by rat creatures (Fone Bone uses a mysterious hand-drawn map that Smiley had found). They joyously reunite at a local tavern called Barrelhaven, where they are taken in by a mysterious girl named Thorn and her even more enigmatic grandmother. Fone Bone instantly develops a crush on Thorn when he meets her, and repeatedly attempts to express his love through poetry. As they stay longer in the Valley, they encounter humans and other creatures who are threatened by a dark entity, the Lord of the Locusts. The Bones, trying to escape to Boneville, are quickly drawn into the events around them, compelling them on a hero's journey to help free the Valley.
Although Boneville is never actually shown in the comics and series (but only depicted and seen in flashbacks of the show), it is implied as technologically contemporary: Fone refers to its extensive downtown and has comics for Smiley and a copy of Moby Dick in his pack, Phoney carries dollar bills, and Smiley refers to a PizzaInACup™ and a CornDogHut™. In contrast, the Valley is depicted as somewhat medieval, in as much as its citizens employ a barter system, weapons, and modes of transportation similar to those of the Middle Ages, and Phoney persistently refers to the valley people as "yokels".
- Fone Bone: The most courageous and leader of the Bones. He and his cousin Smiley Bone help their other cousin Phoney Bone escape from Boneville after he upset the villagers, and get stuck in the Valley. He is passionate about his favorite book, Moby-Dick, and is the most level-headed and the smartest of the three Bone cousins. He has an unrequited crush on Thorn Harvestar. Fone Bone is very wary of his cousin Phoney's schemes, and always suspects him of something. The suspicion usually turns out right, and Fone is often angered by Phoney not seeming to care about the Valley, (or the people in it) as Phoney constantly tries to leave to return to Boneville. After the Hooded One realizes Phoney Bone is not the person she needs to complete her ritual to revive Mim, the queen of the dragons, and realizes that Thorn was too powerful for her to control, she then seeks Fone, for in Ghost Circles, Vol. 7 of the series, it is revealed that Fone has the Locust inside him too, which likely came from either his encounter in Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border, when he is knocked off a cliff, or in Old Man's Cave, when he rescues Thorn from the locusts by putting the Dragon Necklace on her. It is later taken out in Ghost Circles by Thorn, who took it herself, because she was told to by her dead mother in a Ghost Circle. This remains unknown by Fone until Crown of Horns, when they try to destroy the locust by touching the sacred Crown of Horns. He saves the day by touching the Crown of Horns while holding Thorn's hand, who is incapacitated on the ground, stuck in Kingdok's jaws, whom she killed. There they are given a choice to live or die, (there is a bright light; the light is supposedly the afterlife/heaven) both who choose 'live'. Thorn and Fone are both given pieces of the Crown of Horns as teeth which were knocked out in a fight with Tarsil's followers. The teeth apparently cause rapid healing of the two's injuries. His name is derived from Fonebone, the recurring surname that Don Martin gave to many of the characters that appeared in his Mad magazine strips. Wizard magazine ranked Fone Bone as the 28th greatest comic book character of all time. IGN also ranked Fone Bone as the 60th greatest comic book hero of all time stating that his good nature and his unrequited love for his ally Thorn make Fone the heart and soul of this fantastical book.
- Phoncible P. "Phoney" Bone: Manipulative and greedy, Phoney Bone is the least courageous of the Bones and he will do anything to get rich. Run out of Boneville by an angry mob of villagers after trying to run for mayor of Boneville, his greediness and selfishness makes an enemy of anyone who crosses him in the Valley. Referred to as "The One Who Bears The Star" (due to the star on the T-shirt he wears) by the Hooded One, Phoney is sought after by the Rat Creature army though he does not know why (later it is revealed that the Hooded One erroneously believed a giant balloon of Phoney used in his campaign for mayor of Boneville that fell in her lair to be an omen that Phoney could be used to fulfill her agenda). Though he is selfish, he is very protective of his cousins when he needs to be and shows he really cares about them. For example, when he is approached by The Hooded One who proceeds to threaten Fone Bone, Phoncible becomes angry and warns The Hooded One to stay away from Fone. He also shows a courageous side, because despite his complaints throughout the story and appearing to run away in the last battle, he comes back in armor with reinforcements ready for battle. To his dismay, they arrive right as the battle ended. However, he still claims he is a hero.
- Smiley Bone: The tallest of the Bones and arguably the least intelligent, he plays a one-string instrument resembling a lute (but variously referred to throughout the series as a "banjo" or "guitar"). Smiley is often seen smoking a cigar, and often irritates characters with his simple-mindedness, even when seeking to help people, as when Lucius refers to Smiley's help as "torture".[volume & issue needed] He takes kindly to a Rat Creature cub, whom he names Bartleby, and through his nurturing of Bartleby, depth is revealed in his character. When he and his cousins were children, Phoney made him steal pies off windowsills, because he was the tallest, and apparently they were poor to the point where they couldn't afford food. Phoney mentions that when he became rich, Smiley made him pay everyone back. Phoney Bone always employs Smiley in his scams, like in the great cow race (The Great Cow Race). Sometimes Smiley shows a penchant for intelligence, as when, in Bone Vol. 9 Crown of Horns, he devises a plan during the siege of Atheia. The plan is to feed the two stupid Rat Creatures (whom Smiley captured as they tried to infiltrate the city) quiche, then let them go "accidentally", so the Rat Creatures would tell their leaders that Atheia could withstand the siege, under the logic that if they could feed their prisoners quiche, they presumably have enough food to feed themselves making a siege hopeless. Smiley also has his serious, sad moments, as when, at the end of the story, he mourns Lucius, and expresses sadness at leaving the Valley.
- Thorn Harvestar: Seemingly a simple farm girl, it is soon revealed that she is heir to the throne of Atheia. She is also a "Veni-Yan-Cari" (the awakened one), one who can see into the "dreaming", a kind of parallel existence, or "spirit world". Thorn has been shown to have excellent courage, as well as fantastic powers, such as escaping through a landslide blindfolded, flying, and jumping a castle wall without injuring herself. In a sense she can do anything if she can "concentrate her dreaming." Fone Bone falls in love with her at their first meeting. She starts off sweet and innocent, yet later in The Dragonslayer when the seriousness and reality of everything dawns on her she takes on a more mature and tougher personality.
- Rose "Gran'ma" Ben (born Rose Harvestar): Thorn's grandmother, a tough-as-nails farmer who races against cows on foot as a hobby, and always wins. An immensely strong person, it is revealed that she is the former Queen of Atheia who escaped to Barrelhaven with Lucius Down in order to protect and safeguard Thorn.
- Lucius Down: A large, gruff, older man who was described as over seven feet tall and over 300 pounds. Lucius was so powerful he could scare even Euclid into submission. He runs the Barrelhaven Tavern, and was the foil for almost all of Phoney Bone's schemes. In the later books we find that Jonathan Oaks was like a son to him. He was previously Captain of the Queen's guard and it was hinted he had a history with Gran'ma Ben, only to reveal later that he had 'picked the wrong girl', instead falling in love with her sister, Briar, whose motive in the affair was to hurt Rose. He was later in love with Rose Harvestar. Before the Rat Creatures destroy his tavern, he relocates to Old Man's cave, where he becomes Captain of an ill-equipped infantry of Barrelhaven farmers. After the volcano erupts, he leads the farmers and Veni Yan south, arriving in time for the battle on Sinner's Rock. When the Hooded One prepared to kill Rose, Lucius grabs onto her just as her master, the Lord of the Locust, is destroyed; the resulting surge in power incinerates Briar and kills Lucius. His body is later taken north and buried behind the rebuilt Barrelhaven Tavern.
- The Great Red Dragon: The son of the great dragon Mim, The Great Red Dragon is often Fone Bone's last-minute savior. The Red Dragon appears when he is most needed. Gran'ma Ben does not trust him, regardless of how many times he has saved her or her friends from harm. The Great Red Dragon seems to be incredibly ancient. In a sequence that shows the land during the Dragons' reign, supposedly the beginning of time, the Great Red Dragon can be seen fighting Mim along with other dragons. As said in the prequel Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails, he is Mim's son and he was part of the group that trapped her in stone when the Valley was made. He took care of Thorn during the Great War while Rose searched for a place for them to hide. He is also seen at the end of Stupid, Stupid Rat-tails during the time of Boneville's founding by Big Johnson Bone. Fone Bone indicates that he has a baritone voice.
The dragon itself does not appear to have a name, beyond "The Great Red Dragon". If he has one, it is unknown to anyone but himself.
- Jonathan Oaks: A small, often outspoken villager who works for Lucius at the Barrelhaven, and views Lucius as a hero. Though he was saved from an ambush from the rat creatures in Old Man's Cave, it is revealed that he died subsequently, in the Veni Yan infirmary.
- Wendell: One of Lucius' tough "bar-room boys" and the tinsmith of Barrelhaven. Outspoken in the early issues (he and Euclid have more than once threatened to trounce Phoney Bone), he became more introverted once the reality of the war presented itself. He often changes sides and his mind. He goes from hating the Bones and stick-eaters to following them and then hating the Bones again. He seems to be a powerful ally to have in his village and is often followed by the villagers when he changes sides. Despite his skinny appearance, he is implied to be just as strong as Euclid.
- Euclid: Along with Jonathan and Wendell, one of the "bar-room boys". He is depicted as very large and muscular, and often wishes to resort to physical force to solve problems. He is consumed by a ghost circle after the volcano explosion, but returns after Thorn destroys the ghost circles.
- Rory: A third bar-room boy. Is almost always present near Wendell, Euclid, and Jonathan, but rarely speaks. None of his comments give much of a hint to his personality. It is implied that he is a total follower with little or no influence.
- Ted: A helpful Acanalonia bivittata, or planthopper, who appears as a recurring supporting character. Often mistaken for a leaf, Ted is the first creature Fone Bone encounters when he enters the valley and the two become fast friends. He harbors a strange link to the Red Dragon and has an older brother who is several hundred times his size. He is able to perform magical enchantments and has the ability to detect Ghost Circles.
- Miss Possum: A female opossum who is the mother to the three possum kids, she is likewise a caring, motherly figure to everyone in the valley. She often has something to give to Fone Bone when she sees him, such as sealing putty, which Fone mistakenly eats a little of.
- The Possum Kids: Three young opossums with a thirst for adventure. They have a knack for getting into trouble which then Fone Bone saves them, but they are resourceful and cunning, and play a significant part in Rock Jaw. The possums look suspiciously like Pogo the possum from Walt Kelly's comic strip.
- The Hooded One (Briar Harvestar): Servant of the Lord of the Locusts, Kingdok's superior, and the main antagonist. It is implied that The Hooded One is a former Veni Yan warrior, as she wears a similar robe and hood. It is later revealed that the Hooded One is Briar Harvestar, the elder sister of Gran'ma Ben and the grand-aunt of Thorn. It is heavily implied that her antagonism is based on nothing more than jealousy of Rose, who was apparently her mom's favorite between the two and had the affection of Lucius. When the Rat Creatures invaded in the great war, she betrayed the Royal family by showing the Rat Creatures the secret escape passage Thorn had used to escape the palace. When the King, Thorn's father, learned of this betrayal, he cut her in half with an abandoned harvesting scythe, which the Hooded One now carries as a weapon that can now cut through steel and rock. Briar was possessed and resurrected by a swarm of locusts. She is killed when her master, the Lord of the Locusts, is destroyed. It is suggested by some of her actions throughout the storyline that being the servant of the Lord of the Locusts drove her insane.
- Kingdok: A giant rat creature, ruler of the horde of rat creatures and lackey of the Lord of the Locusts. Although he is ego-maniacal and cruel, he is prone to superstition and easily manipulated by The Hooded One. He carries a golden spiked club around with him, until Thorn cuts off his right arm. Roque Ja at one point attacks Kingdok and rips out his tongue, which he keeps as a trophy. A possible continuity error is that while Roque Ja is bragging about owning the tongue, Kingdok cannot speak, but later speaks clearly to the Hooded One; after that, he attempts to say "kill you", and it comes out "gill yoo", just as one would speak without a tongue. This may be an effect of the Hooded One's power; while the Hooded One is alive he can speak, but after she is destroyed he cannot. Afterwards, Kingdok spends most of his time lumbering about underground to reach the Crown of Horns. At the end of the novel, he faces Thorn before she can touch the Crown of Horns. Having been stripped of his authority, dignity, and physical health over the course of the series, he demands that Thorn face him in a life or death battle. He reveals that he had been the one to kill her parents by eating them, and proceeds to bite Thorn's leg when she tries to get around him. He dies when Thorn stabs him shortly thereafter.
- Fone Bone's Two Rat Creatures: Two rat creature soldiers, one blue, one brown, who have a particular interest in devouring the Bone cousins, and Fone Bone in particular. The two are rather incompetent, once deserting the army after their disobedience costs Kingdok his arm and later allying with the Bones briefly before returning to their own side. They address each other as "comrade". Fone Bone is the one who dubs the two "Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures" (Most commonly when they are hanging off the side of a cliff. Occasionally other characters also refer to them as such; Fone Bone is also usually credited with coining the term "Rat Creatures" itself; however, he actually got the name from the possum kids). In Rat Creature tradition only royalty are allowed to have names, but in the spin-off novels "Quest for the Spark" two young Bones gave them the names "Stinky" and "Smelly".
As it stands, the proper name of their species appears to be Hairy Men. Named after some incidents where one, or both, clearly emphasize their title, they in turn call Fone Bone "Small Mammal". In a running gag throughout the series, the brown rat creature often suggests cooking Fone Bone in a quiche. The other rat creature then flies into a rage, insisting that 'dainty pastry foods' are 'unfit for monsters', and that they should eat him in a stew — though he did once in a fit of anger declare an intention of eating Fone Bone raw, and on another occasion, when they were starving, told his comrade that he wouldn't mind some of his home-made quiche. Later, Fone Bone himself delivered to the two some 'piping hot quiche' when he found them shivering in a bush after the Hooded One's defeat. They also have a major role in Quest for the Spark.
- Bartleby: A purplish baby rat creature found by Fone Bone and adopted as a pet by Smiley Bone (who also gave him his name). After the Bones' first encounter with Roque Ja, Bartleby returns to the fold of the Rat Creatures, though is out of place there and returns to the Bones later after growing a little. He became a good friend to Smiley and when they left for Boneville, he went with them. Bartleby was named by Shaenon K. Garrity, for the title character in the short story "Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville. Unlike the other Rat Creatures, Bartleby has round ears. He explains that the Rat Creatures are supposed to get their ears cropped and that he ran away before they could do that to him. Bartleby also explains that the first time he ran away from the Rat Creatures was after he got his tail chopped off. He states that all Rat Creatures are born with beautiful, long, hairless tails, but all the Rat Creature cubs have their tails chopped off around the time they turn one year old. This is due to their belief that a sort of boogie man named 'The Jekk' will drag them away in their sleep by their tails. In the prequel book Stupid, Stupid, Rat-Tails, we learn that the Bone cousins' forefather 'Big Johnson Bone' is the fabled boogie man they fear, having come to the Valley hundreds of years earlier and fighting the Rat Creatures by swinging them around by their tails. In a sequence depicting the land during the Dragons' rule, Rat Creatures with long tails can be seen in the distance.
- Roque Ja (Rock Jaw): A huge mountain lion and an adversary to Kingdok who views himself as neutral in the conflict between the humans and the Lord of the Locusts despite lopsided affiliations. He is the guardian of the Eastern Border. His personal views are that there is no such thing as "good" and "evil", only that power matters above all and that friendship and love are meaningless. He despises both Dragons and Rat Creatures but works for the Hooded One in exchange for land and spoils of war. His name is mispronounced as 'Rock Jaw' by the Bone cousins. His size also varies in the books sometimes being smaller than Kingdok to being large enough to fill a huge gap in the mountain side.
- Roderick and the Orphans: Roderick is a young raccoon whose parents were killed and eaten by the two stupid rat creatures. He is the leader of a large group of orphaned animal children living in the mountains. Roderick is the only one named, and the complete group consists of a beaver, a boar, a second raccoon, two birds, a rabbit, a porcupine, a turtle, two snakes, a squirrel, and a chipmunk. Roderick the Raccoon is a main character in the Quest for the Spark, though he is now older and friends with Tom Elm, another main character in the trilogy.
- King Agak: The new Rat Creature king in Bone: Legacy, who replaces Kingdok following the latter's death. Like Kingdok, he hates the two Stupid Rat Creatures. After the duo steal a dead squirrel from him, he becomes obsessed with revenge. Agak and his army are starving, and are convinced that they can cure their hunger by eating the Bones.
- The Lord of the Locusts: The unseen dark lord who serves as the source of all conflict in the series. He is an evil, formless "nightmare" trapped inside a mountain, and appears in the form of a locust swarm to his henchmen and followers. He is powerless on his own, and relies on possessing others in order to accomplish his goals. He is even capable of reviving the dead, seen primarily with Briar. He is killed when Fone Bone and Thorn, bearing a piece of the Locust themselves in their souls, touched the Crown of Horns.
- Mim: The benevolent queen of the dragons, believed to be the creator of the valley. The myth states that she once kept the world in balance by putting her tail into her mouth so that her body forms a circle, and perpetually spinning. She was later possessed by the Lord of the Locusts, turning her irrational and violent. The other dragons were forced to turn her to stone to seal the Lord of the Locusts. Her awakening was said to be the end of the world, but when the Lord of the Locusts was destroyed, an aged Mim returned to her function followed by all of the other Dragons besides the Great Red Dragon.
- The Veni Yan ("stick-eaters"): A mysterious clan of hooded warriors, who respect dragons as the supreme rulers of the land. Distrusted by the townsfolk (who came up with the derogatory term "stick-eater") but trusted by Lucius, though often they do not trust him in return. They are loyal to the royal family even after Grandma Ben and Thorn went into exile and immediately recognizes Rose's authority upon her return to the capital. For much of the series, they serve as a channel of communication between the capital, Lucius, Grandma Ben, and Thorn.
- Headmaster: The leader of the Venu and most powerful soldier. He is distinguished with a fur vest with bronze tokens. In the series, two appear. The first is the current one who has a feeling that the world is ending. The second one is retired in the city of Atheia and is the headmaster that appears in "Rose".
- Tarsil: The ruthless leader of the Vedu. He is missing an arm and has a large scar down the length of his face, injuries he claims to have obtained while fighting dragons. He wears a large earring on one ear, and his beard in two separate parts each wrapped in a piece of cloth. He does not respect the monarchy of Aethia claiming that the throne is dead, even when Rose and Thorn return. He is killed by Briar in front of his own people, effectively ending his rule.
- The Vedu: A separatist group of Veni Yan who are led by Tarsil. Although they wear similar hoods to the Veni Yan they are distinguishable by the eye that they wear on their hoods. The Vedu do not worship, or even respect, dragons, claiming that they have all gone into hiding or are uncaring enough to ignore their people. They have kept order in Aethia for much of the time that Rose and Thorn were in exile, and claim that things are better that way. However, some people disagree and continue to set out dragon shrines, which are forcibly removed by the Vedu.
- Ryan Drummond as Fone Bone
- Andrew Chaikin as Phoney Bone, Ted the Bug
- Doug Boyd as Smiley Bone
- Drew Barrymore as Thorn Harvestar
- Julia Roberts as Rose Harvestar
- Paul Newman as Lucius Down
- Charlie Adler as The Hooded One
- Jennifer Hale as Briar Harvestar
- Sean Schemmel as The Great Red Dragon
- Fred Tatasciore as Ted's Big Brother
- Jim Cummings as Roque Ja: Master of the Eastern Border
In the late 1990s, an attempt was made through Nickelodeon Movies to produce a film version of Bone. Jeff Smith said in a 2003 interview that Nickelodeon had insisted on the Bone cousins being voiced by child actors, and wanted the film's soundtrack - like those of previous Nickelodeon films such as The Rugrats Movie and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius - to include pop songs by the likes of N'Sync. Smith's response was that one would never insert pop songs in the middle of The Lord of the Rings or The Empire Strikes Back, and therefore pop songs should not be placed in Bone either. Smith then decided to abandon the movie idea and instead developed this cartoon series based off his Bone comic stories entirely.
Ryan Drummond (Fone Bone), Andrew Chaikin (Phoney Bone) and Doug Boyd (Smiley Bone) played the voices of the Bone Cousins respectively. Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts are both the voices of Thorn and Rose Harvestar. Lucius Down is played by Paul Newman. Sean Schemmel is the voice of the Great Red Dragon.
Animation is handled overseas at Wang Film Productions in Taiwan, Tama Productions in Japan and Rough Draft Studios in Seoul, South Korea. For the entirety of the series, this show utilizes digital ink-and-paint.
The score for this series is composed by Shawn Patterson. The instrumental theme song is composed by Terry Scott Taylor.
- The show's theme originally intended to have song lyrics, but Smith insisted that he would rather go for an instrumental score instead for a theme song to maintain its original darker and edgier nature from the comics.
- Ted's voice was pitched up to be closer to his tiny size.