Saturday, January 12, 2008

MCOG, Belle & Sebastian, Nickelodeon’s Golden Age.

I've recently been collecting old cartoon series that I enjoyed as a kid. Some of the best television series made during that time came from a company in France, with Japanese collaboration. And dubbed in English. Nickelodeon started showing two of the series during the late 1980's. The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Belle & Sebastian were both amazing series that, unfortunately, have never been made into DVD's (well, that's not technically true, MCOG was made into a DVD series in France, but there's no English dubbing on it, and it's in PAL format.)

The Mysterious Cities of Gold was a romanticized and sci-fi conglomeration of the Spanish conquest of the South and Central American civilizations. It takes portions of the Incan, Mayan, and Olmec civilizations and mushes it together. Most of the scenes and the people in the cartoon were actually real, although mostly not in the same time frame. Estaban actually did exist, and looked for the Seven Cities of Gold, but that legend came from the Zuni Indian tribes in New Mexico. Pizzaro and Mendoza also existed, of course, as Spanish conquistadors. The series is also loosely based on Scott O'dell's book The King's Fifth.

The idea is that the MesoAmerican civilization actually was settled by the descendents of a civilization called the Heva people. They were a highly advanced (read post-nuclear) civilization that lived on a continent in the middle of the Atlantic. They were at war with the continent of Atlantis, and eventually they both destroyed themselves. As outposts of the Heva Empire, they created seven cities made of gold, and the idea of these cities (which in real life came from the legend of El Dorado), were passed on to the Europeans that explored the mainland. In a series of discoveries, Estaban, Tao, and Zia find ruins that have intricate machines in them, ones that could only have been made by a highly technologically advanced people. A perfect blend of the past and the future, especially when dealing with the enigmatic Olmec civilization, of which little is known. Therefore the writers were able to put the Olmecs in a position of being sci-fi type creatures.

A great set of books to follow up on this series is a now out of print set by Samuel Eliot Morrison, entitled: The European Discovery of America The best place to find this is at

Update: It looks like it will come out in DVD after all:

Belle and Sebastian originally came from a live action series made in France, but was expanded to a whole animated series with the help of Japanese animators. Set in France, or maybe in Andorra, Sebastian befriends a large Pyrenees dog who has been falsely accused of being dangerous simply because of its size. Sebastian, Belle, and Poochie escape from the armies trying to kill Belle and run into Spain, where, it is hoped, Sebastian can find his mother, a gypsy who left him in the mountains because she, as a gypsy, could not have children while on the road. An amazing series of comedy and tragedy, and much like a soap opera for kids. I couldn't wait to get home after school to see the latest episode that my mom had recorded it for me on our BetaMax machine.

It is not available on DVD except for through old TV recordings much like mine. You can find one such recording here:

You can also find copies of both shows on the torrent sites throughout the Internet.

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