If you grew up in the early 80’s with Nickelodeon then chances are you’re familiar with the Mysterious Cities of Gold; and the adventures of Esteban, Tao, and Zia as they flew around South America in their giant solar powered Golden Condor in search of the 7 Mysterious Cities of Gold.
The series came to end after discovering the first city of gold, and in turn, leaving it in a pile of rubble. (If you’re yelling SPOILERS, it’s been thirty years. You had plenty of time). Esteban, Tao, and Zia got into the Golden Condor one last time and took off in search of the remaining cities of gold. That’s where they left us three decades ago.
Throughout that time the series could only be picked up through bootlegs. I bought a VHS set off ebay in 2000, and a VCD set in 2003. Then FINALLY they gave us the series on DVD in 2008, including the educational segments that were removed from the Nickelodeon run.
Along with the DVD release, rumors of a movie and possible new series sprouted all over the internet. Like most things they died a quiet death and were never heard from again.
About a year ago rumors of a second season came up again, but by that point I learned to ignore it. Then one day someone told me a trailer was put up for the new series. So I did what any good geek would have done; I put down my beer and pulled out my Samsung Galaxy.
This is what I found.
The series aired in France (of course), and then came to England a few months later on some cable channel I didn’t have. I figured that I waited thirty years for a season 2, I could wait another few months for an official Blu-ray release.
The series was released on February 17th, but only in England for some reason. And since I live here, I have easy access to it on Amazon.co.uk. WOO-HOO!
I binged on the series with my girlfriend, whom I introduced the first series to a few months ago, and we both came to the same conclusion. While the series is definitely a lot of fun it was different enough that it took a few episodes to get used to the new feel of the show. But to be fair it’s been thirty years and to expect the same type of show (or anything to not change after thirty years) would have been ridiculous.
First thing that took a while to get used was the voice acting. Most of the main characters voices a VERY different. Mendoza didn’t emanate the same sense of dominance and arrogance with this new voice, and Tao’s and Esteban’s voice comes off as generic (sometimes cocky in that modern youth sort of way) and not as unique. It was a little off putting, but after about six episodes in I got used to the new voice and it wasn’t an issue anymore.
Other minor points of difference are Tao’s ancestor’s were no longer called The People of Hiba, and instead called the People of Mu. Esteban is no longer called Child of the Sun and is now referred to as the Son of Sun (even a flashback to season 1 has changed a line to Son of Sun). I can’t imagine why these minor changes were made, but I’m guessing there is some legal copyright reason behind it.
The other difference is the feel of the show. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but season 2 feels more like an adventure while the first one had more of a sense of mystery. This is just my gut reaction of it.
But like I said, it’s been thirty years and things do change. And once I was a few episodes into it, I was used to this new show and could appreciate it for what it was.
First off, it’s an absolute blast to see Esteban and his friends fly around in the giant golden condor once again on a new adventure. The animation is slick, the story is intriguing, the characters are interesting, and just when you miss it most, the 80’s style synth music kicks in to fill the episode with a sense of mystery and wonder. And of course the intro song is still there!
There are plenty of moments that hark back to the first series, be it a flashback, or a moment that only true fans will pick up on, such as Esteban being mesmerized by a butterfly, and Mendoza doing his Mendoza style laugh.
The show REALLY picks up towards then end when they get close to their goals and start to connect the original series to this new series in ways I never expected. I even jumped out of couch and gave my a geeky squeal at several moments. These choice moments and elements helps bridge the gap between the two series that was missing in the earlier episodes, but thinking back it needed to be held off until the end for it to work properly. Showing them too early and it would have come off and pandered fan service.
The ending (without giving anything away) leaves it wide open for a 3rd Season, which makes me very happy, especially with the direction the series took in the last 4 episodes, creating much larger scope to this world.
Definitely give this series a go, but be forewarned that it’s been thirty years. Times have changed and Mysterious Cities of Gold have changed with it. But once you get over that initial adjustment period it’s a great series that deserves your attention if you’re a fan of the original.