Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mysterious Cities of Gold
The Mysterious Cities of Gold (MCoG) is a cartoon series produced in 1982 by Studio Pierrot. It was a French/Japanese coproduction which originally aired in France as Les Mystérieuses Cités d'Or. It was also shown in Britain on Children's BBC, and a few years later in the United States on the Nickelodeon cable network, and in Australia on the public broadcaster ABC.
There are 39 half-hour episodes, in the typical anime serial style of one continuous story. Each episode ended with a cliffhanger. A small documentary follows, presenting concise, accurate and appealing (for children) information about subjects related to the episode, thanks to funding by the NHK.
It can also be noted that the characters in the series are actually quite complicated and subtle. Several of the main characters switch sides several times in the story or keep ambiguous stances. Under influence of the French team, the drawing style evolved from the traditional "manga" style to a more rounded and less exagerated style.
The story is very loosely based on the children's novel, The King's Fifth , by Scott O'Dell. In the year 1532, a Spanish orphan named Esteban searches for one of The Seven Cities of Gold in the New World, hoping to find his father in the process. He is joined on his quest by Zia, an Inca girl, and Tao, the last descendent of the sunken empire of Mu ("Hiva" in the English dub).
The series is a mix of South American history, archaeology, and science fiction. The characters discover many lost technological wonders of the Aztecs, Inca, and Olmecs, which include a solar powered ship (the Solaris) and a giant golden condor. They are constantly pursued by antagonists Gomez and Gaspar, who are also in search of the Cities of Gold.
The Cities of Gold, of which there are seven, were built by the Emperor of Mu out of fear of a global war which would destroy civilization. Such a war indeed broke out, destroying the Empires of Mu and Atlantis when they used the "weapons of the sun". The Seven Cities of Gold hold copies of books in their "Universal Libraries" as well as powerful artifacts, including the "Great Legacy", a portable nuclear reactor. Other elements of this technology turn up in unexpected places, like the Solaris in Tao's home island, Esteban's and Zia's medallions as keys to the Cities, or Tao's jar as an important piece of the Great Legacy.
- Reminiscences of this ancient story are present in Maya legends written on golden Khipu, which only Zia can read. This triggers an obsessive quest for the Cities of Gold on the part of the Spaniards (Mendoza, Gomez, Perez, Pizzarro).
- Esteban seeks his long-lost father and is tied to Mendoza (who rescued Esteban from a sinking ship): he might know the whereabouts of Esteban's father and holds half of Esteban's medallion. Esteban seems to have a magical ability to make the Sun appear, which proves an invaluable asset all through the series).
- Zia also seeks her father, from whom she was taken as a very young girl. She has a medallion similar to the one Esteban carries.
- Tao seeks signs of his ancestors; he possesses an encyclopedia about their lost technology and a "mysterious jar which no one can open" (the Great Legacy's cooling or control rod system).
- The Olmecs are descendants of survivors of the global war who hid under their mountain. Only their elite were able to survive in hibernation. The Olmecs seek the Great Legacy in order to power their cryogenic systems, as well as samples of healthy cells from the children to combat their mutations and sterility.
Eventually, the Olmecs succeed, at great cost, in taking control of the Great Legacy, but it begins to melt down without the moderation provided by Tao's jar. A Chernobyl-like accident is avoided by the personal sacrifice of Esteban's father who, acting as the High Priest of the Cities, dies replacing the jar.
The English language titles of the episodes are:
- Esteban, Child of the Sun
- Crossing the Atlantic
- Heroes Again
- Adrift on the Endless Sea
- The Abduction of Zia
- The Ship Solaris
- Secret of the Solaris
- The New Continent
- The End of the Solaris
- Secret of the Temple
- Messengers of the Region
- Secret of the Medallions
- Mystery of the Parents
- Esteban's Medallion
- The Subterranean Secret
- The Urubus
- The Great Condor
- Maiden Flight of the Great Condor
- The Nazca Plateau
- The Spaniard's Cannon
- The Amazons
- The Mirror of the Moon
- The Jade Mask
- The Manuscript
- The Lake of Gold
- The Swamps
- The Doors of Night
- The Forest of Statues
- The Burning Shield
- The Escape
- The Village of the New Sun
- Attack of the Olmecs
- The Reunion
- Revolt of the Mayas
- The Olmec Machine
- Aerial Pursuit
- The City of Gold
- The Great Legacy
- The End of the City of Gold
MCoG has a small but loyal fanbase. It has been released in France and Canada on DVD, but not in other parts of the world. It remains unclear who owns the rights to the English version, or even whether the masters still exist. It is rumored that a sequel was attempted, but canceled due to lack of funding. 1
Most of the backdrops in the series are based on real archaeological sites and artifacts, reproduced with near-photographic accuracy. They are, however, often combined and moved to suit the plot. Famous cities and their fictional counterparts include, in order of appearance:
- Chichen Itza, Tiahuanacu , and Uxmal (Opening Credits)
- Ollantaytambo and Sacsahuamán (Fort of the Black Eagle)
- Machu Picchu (City of the High Peak)
- Palenque (First Ruined City)
- Kabah, Labná, and Tikal (Second Ruined City)
- Copán (Forest of Statues)
- Loltun (Third Ruined City)
- Mysterious Cities of Gold site
- Animation Production PIERROT
- Mailing list at Yahoo Groups
- Original soundtrack available from Mix-Image
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