There is a glorious moment in Mysterious Cities of Gold, as early as the second episode, while the main characters are crossing the Atlantic in a rickety tall ship.
Esteban is startled by the appearance of a leaping whale which knocks him off balance, almost causing him to fall overboard. “Whales! So many!” exclaims his companion Zia. As we look side-on to the ship, a pod is shown emerging from the sea. Simultaneously, a musical theme, with an initial air of mysteriousness, segues into a melody of wonder.
A diagonal, aerial shot of the ship zooms out. The ship continues onward, accompanied by the seven or so surfacing whales which surround it as the music continues, illustrating the grandeur of the moment.
This incident neither furthers, nor affects the plot in any way. Advancement of the story is in fact put on hold, interrupted for the few seconds this short sequence takes. Though a minor sequence in terms of duration and influence on the series as a whole, it very deliberately illustrates the act, in itself, of appreciating the beauty of an animal.
On the other hand… in a later episode, the main characters land on an island after a shipwreck. They stumble upon a giant tortoise, which none of them has ever seen before, and as soon as their initial puzzlement is gone, they tip it over, and roast it alive on an open fire. They don’t make them like that any more.
When I was a kid, EVERYONE watched ‘Mysterious Cities of Gold.’ I’ve only recently acquired the DVD and haven’t seen it since it was broadcast in the BBC in the eighties. I feel like a kid watching it now. I have yet to see the golden condor in flight, which is the thing everyone fixated on in playground discussions.
I also recall being introduced to the phrase ‘suspended animation’ by this cartoon, and being creeped out by the eerie alien creatures living in pods, inside a mountain, in suspended animation. They had thin bald heads, and red and blue uniforms, and the pods were made of glass. At least, that’s how my addled adult brain remembers it. Perhaps when I get through all 39 episodes the reality of what I saw will be very different.