The Mysterious Cities of Gold series has been aired for the first time in France on September 28, 1983 at 4.28 pm (!) on TV channel Antenne2 (now France 2). The show was "Recre A2", presented by Dorothée, who was very famous at this time. More than twenty years later, nobody has forgotten the universe of Esteban, Tao and Zia and the series is still broadcasted in many countries (see music and videos sections). What can explain such a success that has surprised even its creators? At that time, Jean Chalopin had created his own production company DIC, in Tours (France). For cost reasons, he decided to go to Japan and took with him Bernard Deyriès and his designers. There, in co-production with the Japanese TV channel TMS, they began to produce Ulysse31 in 1981, which was a huge success.
One year later, the Japanese want to continue their collaboration with Bernard Deyriès (as director) and Jean Chalopin (as producer): the Mysterious Cities of Gold series was born! This project was proposed by the Japanese TV channel NHK. In The Mysterious Cities of Gold series, the quest for (Esteban and Zia) father appears again, as in many other animes produced by Bernard Deyriès (remember Ulysse31, Jayce and the Wheel Warriors or The Twins of Destiny series).
The project is divided equally between the Japanese, who brought the idea, and the French who are responsible for the realization: they suggest the characters to be more "european", as can be seen with the features of the characters! As a result, the series will experience a mixed success in Japan, where is is known as Taiyo no Ko Esteban: Esteban, Child of the Sun. [Ko: child; Taiyô: sun].
Bernard Deyriès will also cause changes in the technology of the Solaris and the Great Condor, and suggests to use solar energy.
They are many reasons for success in Europe. Particular attention is given to drawing: the landscapes, faithful to the 16th century, and the characters. The artistic director is Mitsuki Nakamura (who is also responsible for the design of ships and the Great Condor) and the creator of the characters is Toshiyasu Okada. Apart from the visual aspect, the soundtrack which ponctuate every important moment of the series is just amazing, with more than thirty titles (see Section music section). The music composers are Haïm Saban and Shuki Levy.
Do not forget the documentary at the end of each episode, which makes this series unique. They allowed us to learn more about the pre-Columbian culture and (in my case) were the source of my passion for the history of these civilizations.
The cartoon is based on the book by Scott O'Dell: "The King's Fifth" (1966) but there is little connection between this book and the series. The Mysterious Cities of Gold series relates the adventures of Esteban, a young Spanish orphan. He sails for the New World in search of his father but his fate is tied to the secret Incan Cities of Gold. En route, he meets Zia, a young Inca girl kidnapped by the Spanish and Tao, the last descendant of the prestigious empire of Hiva (Mu in French). The story obviously takes place during the Spanish conquest (16th century) and we can (re)discover the Inca, Maya, Aztec and Olmec peoples. The atmosphere is stunning and the landscapes are faithful to many archaeological and historical places (eg. Chichén-Itzá). During the latter part of the series, with the arrival of the Olmecs, science fiction is slowly replacing the historical reality.
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