The Mysterious Cities of Gold
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|The Mysterious Cities of Gold|
Cover of Region 2 English DVD release, released in March 2008
(Taiyō no ko Esuteban)
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Bernard Deyriès, Hisayuki Toriumi|
|Produced by||Atsumi Yajima (NHK)|
|Written by||Jean Chalopin, Mitsuru Kaneko, Mitsuru Majima, Sôji Yoshikawa|
|Music by||Shuki Levy, Haim Saban|
|Licensed by||Fabulous Films|
|English network||ABC, SBS (Australia)
TV2 (New Zealand)
|Original run||June 29, 1982 – February 5, 1983|
The Mysterious Cities of Gold (太陽の子エステバン Taiyō no ko Esuteban?, "Esteban, Child of the Sun"; French: Les Mystérieuses Cités d'or), is a French-Japanese animated series co-produced by DIC Entertainment and Studio Pierrot. The series premiered in Japan on NHK on 29 June 1982 and ran weekly for 39 episodes until its conclusion on 5 February 1983. Set in 1532, the series follows the adventures of a young Spanish boy named Esteban who joins a voyage to the New World in search of the lost Cities of Gold and his father.
The French version, edited to have different characterization and music, was first aired in Luxembourg on 13 May 1982 by RTL Télévision and in France on 26 September 1983 by Antenne 2, and was subsequently redubbed and distributed in many different countries throughout the world. It is licensed for English language home video release in the United Kingdom, Australia, and North America by Fabulous Films.
In 2007, an animated feature film version of the story was announced by Jean Chalopin's company Movie Plus Group, but plans for the film were later shelved. On Chibi Japan Expo in Paris, Jean Chalopin announced that three new seasons of 26 episodes were planned with a release starting in 2011.[unreliable source?] The time for the release was later pushed back to 2012, with the two first episodes premiering on the French channel TF1 on 9 December of that year. During the spring of 2013, the new series started airing regularly.
It is the 16th century. From all over Europe, great ships sail west to conquer the New World, the Americas. The men, eager to seek their fortune, to find new adventures in new lands. They long to cross uncharted seas and discover unknown countries, to find secret gold on a mountain trail high in the Andes. They dream of following the path of the setting sun that leads to El Dorado and the Mysterious Cities of Gold.
In 1532 a Spanish orphan named Esteban joins Mendoza, a navigator, and his associates Sancho and Pedro, in their search for one of The Seven Cities of Gold in the New World, hoping to find his father. They are joined on their quest by Zia, an Incan girl (who was kidnapped by Gomez, Gaspar, Perez and Mendoza), and Tao, the last descendant of the sunken empire of Mu (Hiva in the English dub).
The series is a mix of ancient South American history, archaeology, and science fiction. The travellers encounter the Maya, Inca, and Olmecs during their journey. They discover many lost technological wonders of the Mu Empire, including a solar powered ship (the Solaris) and The Golden Condor, a huge solar-powered ornithopter (mechanical bird), capable of traveling considerable distances under the sun's power alone. They are constantly pursued by antagonists Gomez and Gaspar, who are also in search of the Cities of Gold.
The Seven Cities of Gold were built by the Emperor of Hiva over fear of a global war which would destroy all civilization. Such a war did break 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 fusion reactor. Other elements of this technology turn up in unexpected places, like the Solaris in Tao's home island, Esteban 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 Inca legends written on golden quipu, which only Zia can read. This triggers an obsessive quest for the Cities of Gold on the part of the Spaniards Mendoza, Gomez, Gaspar and Francisco Pizarro.
Esteban seeks his long-lost father and is tied to Mendoza, who rescued Esteban from a sinking ship when he was a baby. Esteban seems to have a magical ability to make the Sun appear, which proves to be an invaluable asset throughout the series. Zia also seeks her father, from whom she was taken when she was seven and brought to Spain as a gift to the princess. She has a medallion just like the one Esteban carries. Tao seeks signs of his ancestors; he possesses an encyclopedia about their lost technology and a mysterious jar which, according to the legend, only the high Priest of the City of Gold can open and proves to be the Great Legacy's cooling or control rod system. Mendoza, Sancho and Pedro are motivated by their search for gold, though Mendoza appears to be genuinely fond of the three children.
The Olmecs are the descendants of survivors of the global war who hid under their mountain. Only their elite were able to survive, suspended in cryogenic hibernation. The Olmecs do not appear to be human (or if they were once Human, it is implied that they have horribly mutated from the fallout of the nuclear war that destroyed their ancestors); they are short, thin and have pointed ears and enlarged frontal bones. They are highly intelligent but devious and selfish. Led by their king, Menator, the Olmecs seek an artifact called the "Great Legacy" in order to power their cryogenic systems, as well as samples of healthy cells from the children in order to combat their mutations and their sterility. Their technology is generally inferior to that of the modern age, and they use weapons such as spears and swords. They do however maintain some elements of their advanced technological heritage such as the stasis and medical technology used to keep the elite of the Olmecs in suspended animation until an opportunity arises when they can be revived, powered by what appears to be a geothermal power system. This power system is destroyed in an escape by the children and Mendoza, starting a frantic search by the Olmecs for the fusion reactor core (the Great Treasure) hidden in the City of Gold. They also have a single flying machine that appears to use very similar technology to that of the Golden Condor. However, it is armed with some kind of particle beam or focused heat weapon of great power.
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. The resulting earthquakes and volcanism destroy the City of Gold. A world-threatening meltdown is avoided by the personal sacrifice of Esteban's father who, acting as the High Priest of the Cities, is presumed to be dead after replacing the jar. At the end of the series, Mendoza, Sancho, and Pedro, having salvaged some gold before the City's destruction, return to Spain - while Esteban and his friends set out across the Pacific in search of the remaining Cities.
The main cast of the series dubbed into American English includes:
- Esteban (voiced by Shiraz Adam) – An orphan who was rescued at sea as a baby twelve years ago by the Spanish navigator Mendoza. He wears one of the two sun medallions. He dreams of adventure and is extremely impulsive. Esteban has a fear of heights which is confounded by the people of Barcelona who believe that he is the "Child of the Sun" and hoist him up high at the port to call out the sun to aid the departing ships. He joins the Spaniards in their search for one of The Seven Cities of Gold in the New World, hoping to find his father.
- Zia (voiced by Janice Chaikelson) – The daughter of an Inca high priest. She was kidnapped from Peru five years ago, when she was seven, by the Spanish invaders and given as a present to the Queen of Spain for her daughter, Princess Margarita. She met Esteban when she was kidnapped by Mendoza for Governor Pizarro who wanted her to read the golden quipu. Zia wears a sun medallion like Esteban's, with an interlocking sun and moon disc.
- Tao (voiced by Adrian Knight) – The last living descendant of the sunken empire of Mu (Hiva in the English dub). He lived alone on the Galápagos Islands following the death of his father. Initially he is evasive of the others' company when they wash up on his island, but when the ship Solaris was revealed he joined them on their journey.
- Mendoza (voiced by Howard Ryshpan) – A Spaniard, navigator for the Spanish fleet. He rescued a young Esteban from a shipwreck during one of his voyages. An experienced sailor, a proficient navigator and a master swordsman, Mendoza places himself in the role of a leader. It is not always clear, however, where his loyalties lie and he is often at odds with the other characters. He is accompanied by two mercenaries: Sancho and Pedro. Mendoza has spent many years searching for information about the Mysterious Cities of Gold, which eventually led him to the sun medallions — one of which he took from Esteban when rescuing him for safe keeping.
The story was written by Jean Chalopin and Bernard Deyriès, and is very loosely based on the novel The King's Fifth by Scott O'Dell. The series chief director was Hisayuki Toriumi. The producers were Max Saldinger and Atsumi Yajima (NHK). The musical score was composed by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy in the Western version (Nobuyoshi Koshibe in the Japanese version). Shingo Araki was involved with the series as an animator and some episodes were directed by Toyoo Ashida and Mizuho Nishikubo.
Originally Koshibe's score was to be used for the Western version as well. However Bernard Deyriès recalled his reaction to the proposed music he heard from Ulysses 31 in that he felt that the score was rather understated as he was expecting a more adventurous feel, something akin to films like Indiana Jones. At that point Haim Saban and Shuki Levy had met Bernard Deyriès, and became involved with the soundtracks of Ulysses 31 and Mysterious Cities of Gold.
The series originally aired in Japan on NHK (the national public broadcaster) and premiered on June 29, 1982, running weekly for 39 episodes until its conclusion on February 5, 1983. The series also aired in English in the United States on the Nickelodeon cable network from June 30, 1986 to June 29, 1990; and in the United Kingdom, twice on Children's BBC in 1986/87 and 1989; and in Australia, on the public broadcaster ABC from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The series also aired in France on Antenne 2  from September 1983 to July 1984 and in Turkey on TRT. The German version premiered on DFF and was later shown on ORB, MDR and Your Family Entertainment. The series was rerunning on Australia's SBS channel NITV weekdays at 5:30pm and 11:00pm AEST respectively, but moved to SBS Two as of 21 January 2016 weekdays at 4:00pm AEST.
The Mysterious Cities of Gold was released on both VHS and DVD in France, Belgium, Japan, Portugal, Canada (in French) and Germany. On September 15, 2007 Fabulous Films announced that it had acquired the licence to release the series in Region 2 (Europe), Region 1, and Region 4 . All 39 unedited episodes of the series were released in the United Kingdom on June 23, 2008 as a six DVD set with the picture and sound restored. The DVD was released in Australia in August 2008. It was released in North America on April 7, 2009. The English dubbed episodes were also released for free on-line viewing on Hulu. (Note: Hulu episodes have expired, the show is no longer available for streaming via Hulu). It was available on Netflix, but it too has since stopped showing episodes.
Three new seasons of 26 episodes each are in production, picking up the storyline where the 1982 series left off. Unlike the original series, this sequel is produced entirely in France; as a co-joint venture between the French television channel TF1, the Belgian channel La Trois, the French animation company Blue Spirit and Jean Chalopin's company Movie-Plus Group. The first of the new seasons sees the series move to China. The design of the characters are more or less the same, although some subtle changes have been made to their physical appearances. Jean Chalopin and Bernard Deyries act as creative consultants on the new series, with Chalopin concentrating particularly on the scripts (which are written by Hadrian Soulez-Lariviere from Chalopin's own draft for the sequel) and Deyries focusing particularly on the graphical aspects. New background music is composed by Noam Kaniel. A 45-minute special, consisting of the first two episodes of the new series, was released on December 9, 2012 on TF1. The series started its regular airing during the first half of 2013. Like the 1982 series, each episode has a summary of the previous episode, a teaser to the next and a small documentary at the end. The voices for the English-language version were recorded in Paris under the direction of voice director, Matthew Géczy.. The sequel received a premiere on the Kix (UK and Ireland) channel in the United Kingdom on November 9, 2013 before a daily airing due to start on November 11, 2013.
Two games has been produced by Ynnis Interactive. The first, The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Flight of the Condor, was released in 2013 only for iOS users on Apple devices. The second was titled The Mysterious Cities of Gold: Secret Paths and was made in 2013 for PC after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Then the game has been released in 2014 for iOS, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.
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