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DVD Review

The Mysterious Cities of Gold


Starring (voice): Adrian Knight, Howard Ryshpan, Kelly Ricard, Matt Berman and Janice Steinberg
Fabulous Films
RRP: £54.99
Certificate: PG
Available 23 June 2008

It is the sixteenth century. From all over Europe great ships sail west to conquer the New World, the Americas. Three children - Esteban, Tao and Zia – set out on an adventure across the Americas to find the Mysterious Cities of Gold. Neither Esteban, a Spanish orphan who can command the sun, and Zia, an Inca girl kidnapped from her people, have any interest in gold. Their only dream is that their quest will lead them to their missing fathers, and they hope the strange medallions they both wear hold the key to the cities location...

For a whole generation The Mysterious Cities of Gold was one of the highlights of the week on Children's BBC way back in 1986 (although the majority of the episodes were repeated in 1989). The show was screened as 39 episodes and chronicled the adventures of a group of friends who were trying to track down the mysterious cities of gold.

When his adoptive father dies, young Esteban discovers that, as a baby, he was rescued from a sinking ship in the ocean. The mysterious medallion that Esteban has always worn appears to have originated from somewhere in the New World. Thinking that it may have originally come from the Mysterious Cities of Gold, Esteban leaves Spain to find his parents and discover who he really is.

On his journey, Esteban meets a young Inca girl called Zia. Zia's parents are also unknown to her, as she was kidnapped from her people when she was very young. Like Esteban, Zia has a strange medallion that seems to have come from her real parents. A third child called Tao, the last descendant of the Empire of Heva - whose people are believed to have built the Cities of Gold - joins them on their quest as they following the star which is carved into their medallions. The three children are helped by Mendoza, a navigator, and his associates Sancho and Pedro, who themselves are in search for one of the seven cities of gold in the New World.

The series has been released as a six disc DVD box set by Fabulous Films and contains many rare, as well as specially produced, features.

Disc one contains episodes 1-7; Series Synopsis; Deleted Scenes; 2 x Realtime Storyboards; and Original Episode Production Drawings.

Disc two houses episodes 8-13; Interview with Dubbing Cast (29 min, 30 sec featurette that contains interviews with the original voice actors on the English dub); Dubbing Scene Recreation (1 min, 47 look at the cast as they recreate one of the scenes from the show); Dubbing Cast List; Realtime Storyboard Sequence; Character Biographies for the Cast; Original Character Drawings; and Voice-over Cast Biographies.

Disc three includes episodes 14-20; Interview with Mitsuru Kaneko (a text based interview with the man responsible for the original concept and scripts); Realtime Storyboard Sequence; Episode Stills Gallery; and Opening Sequence Gallery.

Disc four contains episodes 21-26; The Story of the Production (6 min, 29 sec featurette that interviews the original producers about their experiences getting the show made); Production Crew Biographies; Original Drawings - Machines and Props; and Various Images.

Disc five houses episodes 27-33; Deleted Scene; Original Episode Production Drawings; Original French Sales Brochure; and Original Japanese/English Sales Brochure (although I couldn't make out any English text on it).

Disc six includes episodes 34-39; Realtime Storyboard Sequence; Original Episode Production Drawings; Opening Theme Tune Karaoke (which is basically the opening credits with subtitles - subtitles that seem to ignore the "Ahhhhh!" and "Do! Do! Do! Do! Do!" sections); and Phillip Schofield Clip - From the Broom Cupboard (1 min, 15 sec closing titles sequence with Schofield singing badly and then a brief couple of seconds footage of him at his control desk, before he's cut off mid-sentence).

To be honest, as numerous as these extras are, most are a watch once only affair and the quantity far out weighs the quality. Having said that, it's impressive that Fabulous Films have bothered to go that extra mile to try and collect together as much material as they have - including new features with cast and crew.

Additional content includes a mini-poster (which has a map on the reverse which plots the course of the adventure); six postcards; and a 32 page booklet that offers a synopsis on each episode as well as giving a brief synopsis on all of the characters. Also included (although we didn't receive it with our review discs) is a 12 page historical facts booklet.

Sadly, and I do mean sadly, the series won't live up to everyone's memories. For a start, animation has improved a lot over the years, with better vocal acting and slicker animation (just check out any of Genndy Tartakovsky's shows if you doubt me).

While the DVD producers have really gone out of their way to provide plenty of value added content, at the end of the day this collection was only ever going to be as good as the episodes. And time has not been overly kind to the show.

I'm sure that parents will buy this and watch it with a new generation of children who will love it, but personally I was a little disappointed with how cheesy this show actually was.


Pete Boomer


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