Weird, Old Cartoon Week: Day 1
When I was a lad, summer time was a weird thing when it came to TV viewing. Sure it meant more time to watch cartoons, but I soon realized that there was no channel that showed The Transformers or G.I. Joe in non-stop rotation. So when outdoor activities got old, I had to find something on TV to watch.
And that’s how I found The Mysterious Cities of Gold on Nickelodeon.
The series was set in the glamorous world of Spanish controlled South America in the 1500’s, a time when anyone with a galleon and some guns (and a dose of small pox) could sail to the New World and really fuck with some natives. Back then men were men and genocide was a spectator sport. Seriously, I read once that when Spanish nobility got bored they would just walk through the jungle until they found some hapless civilization to eradicate. Or maybe Logan told me this, I don’t know. It was all good. Add to that how the Spanish loved torturing the Hell out of the natives to learn the secret location of El Dorado, the city of gold, and all of a sudden South America becomes the tourist hot-spot of the 16th Century!
Anyway, The Mysterious Cities of Gold took place in this romantic world, and followed the adventures of a kid named Esteban. Esteban was an orphan of sorts and really wanted to find his father, whom we would later learn lived in one of the cities of gold. Esteban wanted to strike out into the jungles to achieve his objective, but of course, he needed some help.
That help came in many forms. First up, there was the conquistador Mendoza, a take no bullshit kind of guy who was questing to find the city of gold, and his two half-witted helpers, Pedro and Sanchez. I don’t remember much about the hired help save that I always wondered why in God’s name and otherwise capable man like Mendoza would even keep them around, let alone pay them for their services. If memory serves, they screwed up quite a bit. And Pedro had a face that looked like a scrotum. But Mendoza? Ah, there was a hero in the most classic sense. Dark and mysterious with chiseled good looks, what wasn’t to like about that guy? Not only was he a hard-ass, but he wore a cape, and young Chris thought anyone in a cape was instantly cool. Mendoza was no different. I bet he also killed lots of heathen, idol-worshiping natives too, though censors being what they are, the kids never got to see that. Ah, well…
Esteban then got some help in the form of a couple of native kids. One was this cute little Incan or Mayan (I can’t remember) girl named Zia and an Incan or Mayan (I can’t remember) boy named Tao. Zia had some power to read knots or something else way too specialized while Tao was just fucking annoying (but he did live in a sweet tree house).
Then, my friends, there was the golden condor. What, pray tell, is the golden condor, you ask? A bird perhaps? WRONG! The golden condor was a frick’n jet! Yes, back in the 1500’s, the native peoples of South America had managed to build a jet airplane made of gold in the shape of a giant golden condor. Not only that, but it was much easier to fly than any modern jet. Don’t believe me? Well how do you explain how kids with no working knowledge of aeronautics could figure out the controls in about five minutes? I rest my case.
Oh, and least I forget, there were also NUCLEAR DEVICES made by ancient South American civilizations. Yeah, that’s kind of hard to swallow, but keep in mind they had help from Atlantis. And as everyone knows, Atlantis wasn’t exactly populated by a bunch of stooges.
To wrap this up, suffice it to say that the kids eventually do make it to one of the cities of gold (of which there are seven and validating all that genocide the Europeans were so good at) and Esteban meets back up with his dad. But then a volcano erupts and covers the whole damned thing in molten lava. The end. I think the kids survive, but I don’t remember that much.
Ah, yes. I have such fond memories of this show, but the pain is that only three people I’ve ever met know exactly what I’m talking about whenever I reference this show. My wife and a cop in Statesboro, GA. That’s it. Everyone else treats me like some kind of ass whenever I bring it up.
In all seriousness though, I do recall that this show was pretty cool. It was different that other cartoons and I don’t ever recall feeling like I was being talked down to. Even as a kid you can tell when writers think kids are idiots, and I never got that feeling from this show. Looking back, it did some cool stuff with out-there ideas of ancient cultures with powerful technologies that may well outstrip what the modern world has. And it looked pretty, which when you’re a kid, goes a long way.