Mysterious cities of gold; the greatest cartoon ever made
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 god on a mountain trail
High in the Andes.
They dream of following the path
That leads to El Dorado, and
I have to say that that was the most awesome introduction to the greatest animated show ever made; that's right, I'm talking about the Mysterious Cities of Gold. If you don't believe that it's my favorite show of all time, just look at my username and you'll see. I remember when I first watched this show when it aired on Nickelodeon in the late 80s, when I first saw it, I thought to myself, I think it'll be good; I was more into cartoons like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and M.A.S.K.; they were great, but not as great as this.
It took me awhile to get to get use to watching this show but I got used to it very quickly. I never knew anything about the historical accuracies until later on. Along with the story, the animation and music are another masterpiece that made this spectacular; it was like nothing I ever seen before and was all so breathtaking. It had a tremendous impact on my life and gave me the inspiration to get a history degree. I am gonna graduate college pretty soon, in case most of you are wondering.
The story is set in the year 1532, at a time when Spain was conquering the lands of the native tribes of the Americas; there are also a lot of famous historical landmarks and conquistadors that make appearances throughout the story.
One of the famous conquistadors was Francisco Pizzaro, who conquered the Incan tribe, he is portrayed as a ruthless, greedy man who cares about nothing and no one but gold. I didn't know that he was actually an historical figure until when I studied about him in the 7th grade; I was still very young to realize that this was mostly educational until I watched it later on.
One of the famous historical landmarks seen is the Incan fortress, Machu Picchu as seen above.
Another famous landmark is the designs on the plains on the plateau in Nazca.
Other than the Incan civilization, it also views the Mayan civilization as well. Now I'm gonna go over the main characters. There are three main characters that each plays an important role in the series. Other characters soon follow.
The main character of the story is about a 12 year old boy named Esteban, he's an orphan who was raised in the cathedral in Barcelona, Spain by his adoptive Father, Father Rodriguez, the dean of the cathedral; he has a strong spirit and positive attitude throughout the whole series. One of his favorite things to do is to sneak inside the local tavern and hear stories about the sailors and their journeys; he hides behind barrels as he is not allowed inside the tavern. One day, the people try and find him as he is needed to help out with the next voyage because the people believe that he has a special power to call out the sun. He denies this and as a result, he suffers from vertigo. As the people hoist him up in the air, surprise, surprise, the sun comes out and stops raining. He is then rushed back to the cathedral to the dying Father Rodriguez who is on the verge of death; he tells Esteban that he was rescued in a shipwreck during one of Magellan's voyages to the new world; he was saved by a sailor, who is Mendoza, during a terrible storm and it was only him and his father on a shipwreck; as Esteban was saved, his father drifted away, Once he was saved, the sun came out and the storm subsided. Father Rodriguez' final words are that god had given him a power, and that he must use it to help those in the new world, then he dies. He wears one of the medallions that are said to open the doors to the cities of gold, only he wears the moon part as the sun part was taken by Mendoza after he was saved and has held it ever since, Mendoza convinces Esteban to join him on his next voyage in the new world to search for his real father who is said to be at the cities of gold but Mendoza uses him to only get to the cities themselves. Esteban is very brave and courageous and whenever someone is in trouble, he is always willing to help them out of trouble; I think that's one of the reasons why god made him the child of the sun.
The second main character is a young Incan girl named Zia; she is the daughter of an Incan priest named Papacamayo. When she was 7 years old, her village was under attack by Pizzaro and she was kidnapped and brought back to Spain as a present for the princess Marguerite; when she was 12, she was kidnapped again, this time by Mendoza and was to be brought before Pizzaro because she has the ability to read knotted message strings called quipus, which is their form of writing. She met Esteban on the ship and they struck up a good friendship. When she was brought before Pizzaro, he had a golden quipu that was said to tell the exact way towards the cities of gold, she had refused to read the string to Pizzaro only when her friends were in danger, she was forced to translate the message. Later on, she does get back to her father, but he is injured and they do have a short time together and he tells them exactly where the cities of gold are, and then dies. She is very kind and cares about her friends. I think that's common since she is a girl. She wears the other medallion identical to Esteban's that was passed down to her by her father. Like Esteban, she is brave and willing to help out at any time.
The third main character is Tao; he is the smartest and obnoxious member of the group. He comes from an ancient civilization called the kingdom of Heva, he is said to be the only living descendant. He has lived on the Galapagos Islands all alone living is a set of tree houses that were started by his grandfather and almost finished by his father, when both passed away, he had finished the work himself. He believed in a legend that one day, a girl with dark eyes will come and lead him to the lands of the east, when Esteban and his friends landed on an island adjacent to his, he believed that Zia was the girl of the legend so he disguised himself as a god and took Zia to his home; Esteban had followed him to his home and he believed that he was part of another legend, so he soon befriends them both and joins them on their quest to find the cities of gold. He is not all alone, his pet parrot, Kukapetl, is very intelligent as well and can speak very clearly. Tao's intelligence often gets his friends out of trouble and can understand different languages as well as the writing of the Mayas. He also carries a golden jar that has been passed down in his family for generations, he keeps this because it is the only treasure that he ever had from his ancestors, once he and his friends reach the burning shield, the jar begins to glow to a reaction to the light coming from the burning shield. It's soon discovered that it's part of the sun unit. Along the way, Tao finds some great machines that were left behind by his ancestors.
The first is the solar ship, Solaris. It's said to have very special powers. It is powered by a solar sail that runs on sunlight but if it's overloaded, it will explode; this can be seen when Tao's friends are in about to be fired on and he has no choice but to destroy the ship to save his friends.
The other is the golden condor. It is found in the halfway point of the series. Esteban always seems to have control of it but Mendoza flies it only for a brief moment but can't seem to control it very well.
Together, the three children make a tight knit group and are there for one another. I have to say that has to be something I always wanted but never got, I had few close friends growing up and I tried to do the best I could to be like these three.
Other than the children, they are joined by three adults.
Mendoza is a navigator and was the man that saved Esteban's life when he was a baby. He took his half of the medallion and kept it with him. He overhears Father Rodriguez tell Esteban about how he was saved by Mendoza. After he dies, Mendoza goes to Esteban and tells him that he can go with him to find his father, in truth he wants to find the cities of gold. Esteban agrees and accompanies him to the new world. Along the way, he kidnaps Zia, who can tell Pizzaro about the location of the cities of gold. During the progression of the series, it's not clear where Mendoza's true allegiances lie with, whether they're with Esteban and his friends or with the Spanish but he is cocky and has a few tricks up his sleeve. Over time, Mendoza has finally come to truth that he does indeed care about the children and starts to help them out whenever in need or whenever they are in trouble. He is accompanied by two other sailors, Pedro and Sancho and he pinpoint the exact location of any course.
PEDRO AND SANCHO
The dimwitted duo throughout the entire series, they are comic relief in the whole show. Pedro appears to be monkey faced and Sancho is overweight and stutters a lot. They are very greedy and want to find the cities of gold. Sometimes, their greed gets the whole group in trouble and their clumsiness as well. They seldom follow Mendoza who can get them to the cities of gold. These two always make me laugh, even today; I can't get enough of these guys.
Now let's switch gears and talk about some of the main baddies in the story.
The ultimate baddie in the series, Gomez is the most hated in my book. He is ordered to bring Zia forward to Pizzaro. He has Mendoza take Zia prisoner and have him navigate the ship through the straights of Magellan. Once through, he then lets his second in command, Gaspard, kill Mendoza but a hurricane forms and Mendoza is needed once more. He and Gaspard make on and off appearances throughout the story, it's not until later on they are seen once again in the land of the Mayas, having left Pizzaro's army due to their recent failures. They manage to finally reach the cities of gold but both are killed when the city starts to crumble.
The captain of the guard and the most stupid, Gaspard seems to be the comic relief for baddies in the series. He is mostly seen with Gomez and devotes his loyalty to him. I have to admit that he is so stupid, there are parts where he is almost killed but faints when he is about to. I remember he always made me laugh as a kid. He and Gomez seem to survive mostly any natural disaster and they finally reach the cities of gold, only their fate is doomed when the cities of gold is destroyed, both don't seem to get out of that.
Doctor Fernando Leguerra, or just called doctor, he is mostly the mad scientist in the series. He is a good friend of Hernando Cortez; he also can make poisons that can kill slowly but surely. He is assisted by his beautiful associate, Marinche and her bodyguard, Tetiola. He also wants to find the cities of gold and will do anything to get them. He is killed along with his comrades when the mysterious Olmec people's flying machine starts to destroy parts of inside their temple and they all fall to their death. I always figured he was a cross between William Shakespeare and Indiana Jones.
The true baddest female villainess, Marinche is seen to be cold and very cruel. She helped Cortez conquer the Mayas and the Aztecs and knows the land very well. She assists Doctor Leguerra in helping him find the cities of gold however, she plans on betraying him somewhere down the road so she can have the gold for herself. She, along with the Doctor, and Tetiola are killed when Olmec's machine starts up. Marinche's character was said to be the inspiration behind the real life Dona Marina who had helped Cortez conquer the Aztecs. I was always afraid of her, and I had always imagined that she would slap one of the children if they didn't speak when they were spoken to.
The creepiest of all MCOG villains, Menatour is the leader of the ancient dying race of mysterious people called the Olmecs. The olmecs have more advanced technology and have a crystal that can collect energy from the sun. He is said to be over a hundred years old and is trying to figure out a way how to save his people. A long time ago, his people were a part of a war that took place that scarred most of his people, those that survived hid in a mountain they call the burning shield. They could not bear any children and they started to vanquish, so most of them were put in suspended animation until Menatour could find a cure that will ensure their survival. When he kidnaps the children, he has them tested and discovers that their blood cells were the key to preserving their lives. He also is searching for the cities of gold and he doesn't know that he is only a few hours southeast from its actual location, he is not after gold but what's more important inside and that is a power unit that is the power of the sun, he succeeds in getting it and once he has it running, it soon overheats and causes a cataclysm of earthquakes and other natural disasters. He is killed along with his second in command, Kalmec when the burning shield begins to get destroyed. Personally, I found it very peculiar to know that there were alien like men in this; I guess that's what the producers wanted since this was an anime.
Commander of the Olmecs, Kalmec is Menatour's second in command. He, like Gaspard, is loyal to Menatour at all times and will do anything into helping him succeed in saving their people. He is very dangerous and kills at will. Once they have discovered the cities, the high priest of the cities pleads that he will assist the Olmecs any way he can. Kalmec, thinking he understands him, stabs him and says that Olmecs take and show now mercy to anyone. After he retrieves the power unit from inside the tower, he sets off a security system that destroys their ship. Only Menatour survives and he and Kalmec take off in a part of the ship. As they rev up the unit, they think they have succeeded but it begins to overheat and starts a deadly earthquake, as Kalmec is clueless on how to stop it, Menatour cannot help him as he has probably died the base begins to crumble and meet their fate when the floor shatters and fall in. I have always hated Kalmec, whenever he got the upper hand over Esteban; I had always pretended to beat him up.
There are a few minor characters I will talk about now.
The High priest of the Incas and the cities of gold. Right after his daughter, Zia was taken by Pizzaro; he set out on a journey to find the location of the cities of gold. He had finally succeeded. He settled with a tribe of Mayans called the village of the new sun and took in a young girl named Myena and raised her as his daughter, believing that he would never see Zia again. His village was under threat by the Olmecs and he stays there to make sure they never find the sun unit. After the Olmecs latest attack, Papacamayo, although sick, helps fight to save the village, he is mortally wounded in the battle. After Esteban scares the olmecs with the golden condor, Zia is finally reunited with his daughter. On his deathbed, he tells him on why he wasn't present at the time of Zia's capture, he was needed at another village and Pizzaro knew that he could translate the message in the golden quipu. When he came back, Zia was already taken and left at port in Lima; Papacamayo reached them after they were long at sea. With the bits of life he has left, he finally tells her that the cities of gold are in a square formed the mountain of the burning shield and three ruined cities. After that, he dies. I have to say that his death was an emotional moment in the show; I remember I had cried myself when he died, it also goes to show how every character felt.
THE HIGH PRIEST
The high priest to the cities of gold, he is portrayed as tall, kind and mysterious. He kinda reminds me of a good Darth Vader, in fact people I have talked to say that Darth Vader was the inspiration behind the character. He helps Esteban and Zia and puts them in beds; just outside the cities is a massive library that holds every document since man learned to write. He tells Esteban and Zia that only they can decide if they want to enter the cities of gold, he tells the story about the ancient civilizations Heva and Atlantis, and how they came to war and how both had used the weapons of the sun in the end. He says the emperor of Heva had predicted that the war would take place and to ensure the survival of his people he had built 7 cities of gold and placed a sun power in each of them, only the medallions Esteban and Zia wear can open the doors and the emperor decided to leave the fate of the world in the hands of children. Esteban and Zia decide to enter only to save their friend, Tao, who is held prisoner by Kalmec, and despite Tao's refusal. Once inside, the priest is guarding the way inside the tower where the sun unit is and decides he will assist Kalmec, as the priest embraces him thinking he came to his senses, Kalmec stabs him. As Kalmec succeeds, the priest says that the cities defend themselves if they're attacked. Giant solar panels start to pop up and a beam of light fires on Menatour's ship. Menatour survives and he and Kalmec escape inside a part of the ship not fully destroyed. Esteban wants to know more about the man that traveled who would predicted he would arrive, Esteban believes that its his father but the priest says he has no idea and that he left to find the other cities of gold a long time ago. As the priest makes his journey to shut down the unit with Tao's jar, Mendoza learns the truth about him, he is not the actual priest, the real priest had died three years earlier and this man took over the duties of the high priest. He had stayed because his son would come to find him by the medallion that was given to him. Mendoza now understands that this High Priest is Esteban's father; Mendoza believes that Esteban should never know the truth about him and his father would want the same. After shedding a few tears, he makes the ultimate sacrifice by installing the jar into the unit, struggling with his previous wound, he succeeds but dies in the process, the blast knocks him back knocking off the mask and melting it.
I never knew that that was Esteban's father and I was always led to believe that Father Rodriguez was his real father, now that I have watched it recently; I have a clear picture what really happened. Now, that was a real heartbreaker, I was always shocked to know why he never told Esteban the truth about him and another thing that comes to mind is did he know the truth about him, or didn't he? Anyway, after Esteban, Zia, and Tao wave goodbye to Mendoza, they fly off in the sunset in hopes that they will find the other 7 cities. Personally, I think that that is the ultimate greatest ending I have ever seen, because it goes to show that Esteban, Zia, and Tao can take care of themselves pretty well, but I always wondered why he left Mendoza. Maybe it was because he got some gold just before the city went down and is enough to make him a rich man.
All in all, the characters are what makes this show very special. A true unique blend of adventure, history, archeology, science fiction, and a bit of adult content, not going to tell you what kind... it's like everything a child likes in a cartoon. At the end of every show was a 3-minute documentary, that would be the subject of the show, I never knew these aired and they weren't aired on Nickelodeon. I have seen them and I know now that most of them were graphic, I guess that's one of the reasons why they never aired them.
I have to admit that I was in love with Zia, even though she wasn't real, and I always wanted to go on Esteban's adventures, I actually had a dream that I was on one of their adventures I was flying the condor but almost crashed, that's when I woke up and wet my bed.
The Mysterious Cities of Gold has been a huge success over the internet and has gotten positive reviews from fans and people alike. There was once a petition to try and get the series released on DVD but since no one owned the rights at the time, they had no success. Just recently, there has been an official DVD release of the English version in the U.K. and recently, Australia has gotten a release; over here in the states, we still await our turn to get a release and there is also talk about a full length 3D movie in the works also. If you go to Wikipedia, you can find this information there.
Currently, I hear that there are going to be three new seasons that will come out in a couple years. Some fans I talk to are very tense that they hope it will have the same storyline and same tone. I for one, am tense myself because I hope they don't mess it up.
I would like to thank Sailor Heva for the pics and I took some of these pics myself.
Anyway, take care, and I might write about a Christmas article if I can think of anything good. So merry Christmas.