La Cite D'Arkadia
December 14, 2011 4:06 PM   Subscribe

Here is the pilot episode of Les Mondes Engloutis (Part 2), a French animated sci-fi/fantasy televison series from 1985. Here is its iconic theme song. In English it translates into "The Sunken Worlds," but English-speakers know it better as Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. More information can be found on Tripod fansite The Lost Archives of Arkadia.

It originally aired on French station Antenne 2, but its widest airing was probably on kids cable channel Nickelodeon in the early 90s. It has appeared more recently in other markets, often alternating with Mysterious Cities of Gold (previously), with which it shares some thematic simularity. It concerns an ancient civilization at the center of the Earth, the death of its mysterious artificial sun, the Shagma (or Tehra in the dub), and a journey through many underground worlds to save it.

It is a strange show. It has been remarked that it's one of those things that doesn't rest in the mind, that people forget all about, until reminded of it years later where they suddenly exclaim, "Oh! I remember that! What the hell was that about?" This show never got really great exposure on Nickelodeon, who actually changed the theme for the second season to one created by Menudo.

Show premise:
Thousands of years ago the city of Arkadia rested on the surface of the Earth, until a great cataclysm sent it far, far underground. They would have perished if it weren't for the creation of the awesome Shagma, a great artificial sun that provided them with heat and light, not to mention the show's most striking images.

The elders of the city decreed that, for its citizens to be happy, their past lives on the surface must be forgotten, sealed away in their Archives. As the ages passed, the people of Arkadia lived peaceful lives in the shelter of the Shagma, and forgot the secret of its creation. Until one day, their great sun began to die.

With no knowledge of how to fix, or cure, it, they were resigned to meet their end, except for their children, who broke into the Archives with the help of the ancient robot-creature ShagShag (Tehrig), where they discovered the existance of the surface world and the people living there. They created a messenger, who they named Arkana, to the world above to find someone who could fix their sun. Sent off with ShagShag, and Bic and Bac, a kind of pair of techno-pangolins, using the power of the Shagma, they found two children from the surface world, Bob (Matt) and Rebecca, who had been spelunking. Arkana explained their plight and the offered what aid they could provide. They were soon joined by a mysterious nomad, Spartakus, who had grown up among the strata and new the ways. Together, aboard the ancient ship ShagShag, the group began the long and difficult journey back to ancient, lost Arkadia.

The show is only available on DVD in French. (Amazon France: Season 1 - Season 2) No complete fan copies of the series in English, either dubbed or subtitled, appear to exist (I've looked), but poking around YouTube will turn some up.

Here is a YouTube playlist of available Season 1 episodes.
Season 2, Episode 1 Part 1 - Part 2 (In which the elders of Arkadia screw things up for everyone, English dub)
posted by JHarris (23 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
DAMMIT I fixed those typos. in the last sentences of the description, and here they are again, mocking me.
posted by JHarris at 4:18 PM on December 14, 2011

I bought these DVDs in French on I don't speak French. I downloaded some language podcasts and looked at a travel dictionary and ordered the DVDs. That is how much I love this show. When I was seven, Arkadia was what fantasy looked like to me.

I'd like to see this redone, but any American company who redid it would be sure to throw out the Egyptian/Sumerian/Aztec aesthetics and the clever allusions that made for half the fun, and then it would hardly be worth getting off the couch for.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:19 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

So this song has been popping in and out of my head for the least 25 (ish) years. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me remember where it came from.
posted by thivaia at 4:23 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


For a long time, I swore that I hallucinated both of these shows. I thought there was no way something that psychedelic would be allowed on children's TV.

Thank you for proving that I'm not totally insane.
posted by Avenger at 4:31 PM on December 14, 2011

I was old enough when these were on to be sure they existed. My "did I hallucinate this?" show was Cool McCool.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:56 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I was seven, Arkadia was what fantasy looked like to me.

I saw it a bit later, but I was struck by it too. The word epic has become devalued, but that's what it was. That melancholy theme song, the long journey, the weight of all those the vanished centuries, the weirdness of the stratas and Arkadia, and most of all that giant fireball on the horizon... the animation is only so-so, and seeing those pirates move around and break into their goofy once-per-episode musical number always made me cringe, but the setting is wonderful, as is the world of Arkadia itself in the few episodes in which it figures. It feels strange and evocative to me, like something Lord Dunsany might have made up, or maybe one of the fantasists from Lovecraft's circle.

(Dammit I lost the links to the pirate's song! Consider these a supplement to the above post: French version - English version.)
posted by JHarris at 5:03 PM on December 14, 2011

And Lentrohamsanin, I think a lot of us have kinds of shows we're not sure were real. For me, it was Mighty Man and Mutt, the cartoon show about the tiny superhero and his pet, a six-foot tall humanoid dog so ugly that he wears a Snoopy-style doghouse on his head; he actually took the house off (always facing away from the camera) to scare the hell out of villains.
posted by JHarris at 5:08 PM on December 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm reading a lot of the youtube comments and I'm impressed that there are more than a few people who are like "WTF? I thought I hallucinated this?"

What is it about this cartoon that makes people think they just dreamed it up?
posted by Avenger at 5:08 PM on December 14, 2011

Related: I've had this song from the Mysterious Cities of Gold stuck in my head for a long time, too.
posted by Avenger at 5:11 PM on December 14, 2011

Unlike most people, I've never really forgotten about this show. I've been looking for English dubs of this pretty much as long as I've been torrenting. TMCoG They still don't exist, or, at least, the ones that do are of ridiculously bad quality.

For those interested, there seems to be a sequel to The Mysterious Cities of Gold pending. No word about whether it'll be released in English, unfortunately. Due out in France next fall.
posted by valkyryn at 5:18 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Original English theme?
posted by valkyryn at 5:25 PM on December 14, 2011

That's it valkyryn, that was another link that got lost when I was composing the post. I prefer the French version anyway, the English dub is a bit cheesy.
posted by JHarris at 5:39 PM on December 14, 2011

Oh man, count me among those who've been searching for this show in English for years now. And valkyryn, TMCoG did have a good quality english version released recently (2009) - amazon has a deluxe complete edition DVD up.
posted by FatherDagon at 5:58 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does anyone remember the redubbed French scifi animation that was on nick at some point and features Cassopeians with prominent W shaped moustaches?
posted by oonh at 6:04 PM on December 14, 2011

Man, there is a lot of love on Mefi for 80's French cartoons. By the time Les Mondes Engloutis appeared, it was one of the few non-Japanese cartoons on TV in France. The premise was cool, but the animation wasn't as good as the Japanese stuff. That crossbow wristband was pretty cool though.
posted by Loudmax at 6:22 PM on December 14, 2011

Yeah, but the lower animation quality was totally made up for by the awesomely Moebius-esque design aesthetic.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:55 PM on December 14, 2011

This show was on really early in the morning on Nickelodeon when I was a kid, so I only ever saw it if I got up really early...but that mashed it in with my quasi-dreaming twilight brain, along with Cities of Gold which was on in the next time slot. I could never catch enough of it to follow the plot, but even so, it sticks with you.
posted by Tesseractive at 10:27 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

So Menudo sang the english opening theme? That means Ricky Martin is now an integral part of a sacred childhood memory...
posted by PenDevil at 2:10 AM on December 15, 2011

thivaia: "So this song has been popping in and out of my head for the least 25 (ish) years. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me remember where it came from"

Thank fucking christ I'm not the only one.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:20 AM on December 15, 2011

(although I did remember where the song came from.)
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:26 AM on December 15, 2011

No, Menudo sang an English theme. They also translated the French theme to English for the first season. That was one of the links I accidently left out, but valkyryn supplied it above.
posted by JHarris at 7:15 AM on December 15, 2011

I don't think a post on this is complete without a link to gmm's fantastic cover here on MefiMusic. (check out gmm's other stuff too, it's fantastic!)
posted by johnstein at 8:40 AM on December 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Count me among the people who until relatively recently thought that this show was just the mashed up memories of a few different things creating a single memory of something that never really existed..

This show was on very early mornings on Nickelodeon, one of the first shows after the Nick At Nite block came to an end. When telling friends about this show that I had vague memories of, just brief images.. something falling into a chasm, beings without feet floating in front of a giant setting sun, a theme song that I only remember as sounding very sad.. my friends would always say I must be thinking of Mysterious Cities Of Gold, but when I looked it up I realized that wasn't what I was thinking of. Finally, a few years back, I was going through a fansite of some of the very early Nickelodeon programming and saw the information for Spartakus. Nothing more then a title card, and brief description.. but I knew that had to be the show from my memories.. eventually some footage found its way to YouTube, and I was finally able to put the fragmented pieces of this memory together.. ever since then I've searched desperately for english versions of the show to no avail.. glad to know I wasn't the only one who had odd half memories of Spartakus..
posted by mediocre at 2:46 PM on December 15, 2011

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