MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD
Street Date: April 7
It is 1532 and Esteban, a Spanish orphan, is on a quest to find his father. He joins a party of Spaniards as they search for one of The Seven Cities of Gold in The New World. Zia, An Incan girl named Zia, and Tao, the last descendant of the sunken empire of Hiva, help Estaban on his search. On their journey, the three of them discover many lost technological wonders of the Mayans, Inca, and Olmecs including The Golden Condor, a huge solar-powered airship, capable of traveling considerable distances under the sun’s power alone. They are constantly pursued by antagonists Gomez and Gaspard, who are also in search of the Cities of Gold.
It is with great pleasure, and probably some bias, that I write this review of The Mysterious Cities of Gold. I have to take you back to the 1980’s when a young cable network started airing shows like You Can’t Do That On Television, Count Duckula, The World of David the Gnome, and Mr. Wizard’s World. This network was Nickelodeon, and before it began producing its own original programming it mostly borrowed shows from other networks and countries. One such show was The Mysterious Cities Of Gold. Originally airing in Japan beginning in 1982, the series premiered in English in the United States in 1986. The series also aired in France, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
The Mysterious Cities of Gold blends the history and mythologies of ancient South American civilizations with elements of science fiction and fantasy. Add to that the greed and zeal of Spanish explorers in search of riches beyond their wildest dreams in the New World. In the first episode, we meet Esteban, an orphan who has little knowledge about his past and a mysterious ability to summon the sun. Esteban meets Mendoza, a Spanish explorer who beckons him to journey to the New World in search of his long lost father and the titular mysterious cities of gold. On the journey across the Atlantic, Esteban quickly learns that Mendoza isn’t always a man of his word as he discovers Zia, an Incan girl taken from her people as a young girl and given to the Queen of Spain as a gift. Mendoza has kidnapped Zia and brought with them on the journey to the New World as he believes she can help them find the cities of gold.
The Mysterious Cities of Gold was created by Jean Chalopin who wrote and produced other familiar animated series from the ’80’s, including Inspector Gadget, Heathcliff, Rainbow Brite, M.A.S.K., and The Popples. Chalopin also created the company which evolved into DIC Entertainment. While watching, I thought my ears were playing tricks on me, but some of the music by the duo of Shuki Levy and Haim Saban was recycled and used on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. The Mysterious Cities of Gold certainly shows how animation could be; comparing it to other cartoons of the late 70’s/early 80’s, its almost like night and day. The Mysterious Cities of Gold draws a lot of parallels with a recent Nickelodeon series, Avatar: The Last Air Bender. Both feature a kid hero with mystical powers who is going to save everyone, fighting against armies of bad guys, and both feature a long, continuous storyline.
We received a screening disc, which only featured three episodes: “Estban, Child of the Sun,” “Crossing the Atlantic,” and “The Ship Solaris.” Still, it’s enough to get a feel for the series. Each episode is followed by a short documentary exploring subjects related to the episode. For a series that is over a quarter century old, Mysterious Cities of Gold has been wonderfully restored and looks and sounds great. The DVD menus are nice and crisp using CG effects to recreate the inside of an ancient pyramid. Unfortunately the extras were not available on the sampler disc, however we were still able to get a peek at what will be available on the official release.
* Series Synopsis
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Intro Sequence – Episode 1
* Realtime Storyboard Sequence – Episode 1
* Realtime Storyboard Sequence – Episode 2
* Original Episode Production Drawings
A special Deluxe Edition of Mysterious Cities of Gold will also be available, which will include a 32-page booklet, a 12-page historical facts booklet, 6 exclusive postcards and a double-sided fold out poster.
I’m not sure what it is about this series that made me remember The Mysterious Cities of Gold so fondly after all these years, but its been a long time coming to DVD. I have to admit, I was not overwhelmed with a wave of nostalgia, but I certainly did enjoy watching again after all these years. With 39 episodes in all, the series is an epic adventure told as one big story arc and is definitely worth a watch.
Extra Features: B
– Chris Lawrence