They really don’t know how to make good cartoons nowadays. So here are my top 3 kids’ shows from bygone times…
1. The Mysterious Cities of Gold
This is undoubtedly the best cartoon ever made, and if you disagree with me, it means you never watched it 😉
MCoG is set in 1532 and follows Esteban, a twelve year old orphan boy from the Americas. He is taken to Barcelona, where he is known as The Child of the Sun due to his ability to make the Sun shine. The Spanish are beginning their conquest of Peru, and Esteban is persuaded by Mendoza, the fleet navigator ‘who would do anything for gold’, to come along. Esteban hopes to trace his father, who he believes may still be alive, as does Zia, an Inca girl, kidnapped by the Spanish from her family in Lima.
A third child, Tao, joins the group when Mendoza is betrayed by the ship’s crew and they get shipwrecked on the Galapagos. Tao is the last of the people of Heva, a fictional Atlantis-type civilisation. Together with Mendoza and his two rather silly sidekicks, Pedro and Sancho, they set off to find the legendary cities of gold, encountering plenty of danger on the way.
The show combines superb animation, a powerfully moving soundtrack and history of the Spanish conquest of South America. The short documentaries at the end of each episode were not shown here in the UK (and the last two episodes were not shown by the BBC either on the second viewing in 1989), but I still learned so much from watching this: the history of the Incas, the ruthlessness of the Spaniards and why the straits of Magellan are so perilous. Unlike most other cartoons, MCoG’s 39 episodes are not stand-alone, but tell one continuous story. This is a show that leaves a strong impression on anyone who watched it. And if you didn’t, then you really don’t know what you’re missing.
This has been listed on play.com as ‘coming soon’ for some time. I don’t know if it really is, no one else seems to be listing it. I really hope it will be released in English soon! ETA: It’s out in June!! YAY!!!
Tom’s Unfinished MCoG Page – pester him to finish it and sort out the screenshots!
MCoG at RetroJunk.com
2. Captain N – The Game Master
Ah, who didn’t wish they could be Captain N? When Mother Brain tries to take over Videoland a special kind of hero is needed to thwart her plans. Step forward Kevin Keene aka Captain N – The Game Master. This dude gets sucked into his TV screen while losing to King Hippo at PunchOut on the NES. Suddenly he finds that not only is he now 2D, he also has a cool zapper, and a powerpad that allows him to jump extra-high, make spiffy dodges and even pause time. Of course he falls for the pretty Princess Lana and has to compete with the ego on legs, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, for her affections.
A lot of viewers were miffed that the characters’ transition from NES to TV wasn’t so accurate (apparently this was something to do with licensing and copyrights and suchlike). Amongst other things, Kid Icarus is supposed to be called Pit, Megaman is supposed to be blue, not green with a mask, and which game did Lana come from (Edit: Kid Icarus – she’s a rip-off of Palutena)? Never having a NES or indeed any other game system in my youth, these errors weren’t a problem for me. Besides which, the 2D Kevin is kinda cute 😉
In any case, Captain N was and still is a very enjoyable cartoon, with a host of colourful familiar characters, and plenty of humour for young and young-at-heart alike.
3. Galaxy High
Doyle was the high-school star. Everybody thought he’d go real far, but he didn’t get the things from the classes he took, you know he just wasn’t interested in his books. Aimee was the smartest girl at school. Not very popular not very cool. Two kids will be chosen from Earth to go to school at Galaxy High…
So went the theme tune. Of course it turned out that everybody loved Aimee – and Doyle found he was not so popular there as he was on Earth. There was an anti-drugs episode, which supposedly taught kids the dangers of drugs, but it seems so OTT, I don’t know, it didn’t seem to teach very much. At least, I didn’t even know what drugs were when I watched it as a kid. And another thing, why does everyone in the galaxy speak Amrikan?!!
But these things aside, Galaxy High was funny and funky and totally crazy and yet only 13 episodes of this were ever made, which is a shame. It’s currently released on Region 1 DVD, but there doesn’t currently seem to be any plans to release it this side of the pond.
Other super lucky best cartoons and stuff
- Pole Position – Oh the theme tune! Pole Pos-ishu-un! What’s behind this stunt show? In fact it was the same people who did the soundtrack for this, Captain N, Ulysses 31 and my favourite and best MCoG. Cool stuff. Check out the intro, you’ll be humming the song all day! This was never released on video either, except the French version, which I don’t think is available anymore.
- Captain Planet – I used to think this was so cool when I was a kid. Watching it now, I’m left thinking WTH? Some of it is just plain ridiculous – I mean people wanting to destroy the Earth for the sake of it… why? However, my little nephew loves it, and it does teach him to respect the environment, and hey, what’s a little credibility when you’re 4?
- Teddy Ruxpin – I loved this, especially the bit in the theme tune where the last note lasts forever, I used to practise doing it myself, but never got very far
- Pro Stars – Now come on, seriously, with a lyric like ‘Wayne’s hot, slam shot’ what else do they want me to think?!
- The Legend of Zelda – I don’t think they made that many episodes of this, but they did migrate over to the second series of Captain N. It was funny, the way Zelda hated Link, and then in one episode there was a clone of her and she liked Link and that’s how he knew she was an impostor.
- Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors – I’m sure I used to watch this, but actually remember nothing of it but the name
- Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures – This was a well cool cartoon. They travelled through time in their rockin’ phonebox and always passed their history tests/essays/projects. Cheats!
- Denver the Last Dinosaur – He’s my friend and a whole lot more!
- David the Gnome – I think he, or one of the main characters, died at the end, and I was really upset. This is available on DVD now. yAy!
- Ulysses 31 – This was by the same dude who wrote MCoG. It’s based on Homer’s The Odyssey, though there are quite a few differences in the storyline. Pretty cool stuff, though I don’t remember much about it first time round, cept the ‘It’s me NoNo small robot, you know’ bit :S
- Dungeons and Dragons – Who’s the hunk in green? Yum 😉
- Count Duckula – the vegetarian vampire duck. The intro rocks, check it out if you can!
- Alfred Jonathan Kwak – He lives in a lovely little town, a lovely town in Waterland, where life is grand!
- California Raisins – I remember they did the Jackson 5 song once, ‘ABC… easy as a 123’ and we couldn’t figure out why high school raisins would not know their ABC and 123.
- Maxie’s World – Maxie, Maxie, the girl on the go. Maxie, Maxie, her own TV show! Like Jayce and the Nintendo cartoons, this was one of those shows made purely to promote a toy, in this case, the Maxie doll. The thing is, I never even heard of the Maxie doll until a few months ago.
- The Dreamstone – Hiiiiigher than the mooooooon, haaaazy like a beautiful illusion…
- Alvin and the Chipmunks and Chipmunks go to the Movies – the new CGI one looks stoopid, I hate it when they try to modernise the classics. I’ll stick with the good old 2D version, thanks
- Knightmare – This was state of the art VR at the time. It was every kid’s dream to appear on that show with the cool viking-esque VR headset thingummy.
- Pugwall – this was about some dude in a band. Very early 90s-esque: terrible fashion, if I remember correctly.
- Why Don’t You? – Why don’t you – why don’t you?
- Little Rosie – this was a cartoon about Rosanne Barr when she was a little kid. I can remember two of the episodes, one where she becomes a Super Mom or something like that, and the ‘World Without Decimal Points’. Very moralsy, I think it was.