Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The Pirates of Dark Water
The series takes place on the alien world of Mer, which as its name suggests, is mostly ocean. The planet's ecosystem is threatened by a mysterious substance called "Dark Water" that destroys everything in its path. The only solution appears to be the Thirteen Treasures of Rule - mysterious artifacts that make the toxic substance dissipate upon contact. Ren, prince of the fallen kingdom of Octopon, has a brief meeting with his long-lost father and receives a magical compass that will lead him to the treasures. Voiced by George Newbern, Ren is very compassionate but sometimes hopelessly naive, and it's clear that he needs a crew with some street-smarts. His allies are the cranky pirate Ioz (Hector Elizondo), bartender turned powerful ecomancer Tula (Jodi Benson, who played Ariel in The Little Mermaid) and gluttonous "monkey bird" Niddler (legendary voice actor Frank Welker). The crew is relentlessly pursued by the feared pirate Bloth (a great performance by Brock Peters) and his two lieutenants, Konk (Tim Curry) and Mantus (Peter "Optimus Prime" Cullen).
It's quite a formidable cast and the actors really get some juicy material. One of the most memorable elements of the show is its collection of unique swear words. The one most people remember is "Noy Jitat!" which seems to be the equivalent of "God damn it" and even has an adjective form ("Jitaten"). Another one that comes up all the time is "Chungo Lungo," which is used so often and in so many different contexts I can only assume it's their equivalent of the F-bomb. Other ones that pop up regularly are "kreld-eaters," "skut pongo," and "Naja Dog." The characters drop these at least a dozen times per episode, making them real potty-mouths by the standards of their own world, but no kid was ever going to get grounded for running around shouting "Noy Jitat," just weird looks.
Unlike some other stuff that has been featured in this series, this cartoon doesn't address real-world issues head on...or so I thought. I had an epiphany during one episode that showed some dark water seeping out of a crack on the ocean floor. It looked strikingly similar to footage from the 2010 BP spill and I said out loud, "Oh my God, the dark water is oil." (Perhaps I should have busted out a "Noy Jitat.") This is obviously a lot more subtle than something like Captain Planet and as a kid it went completely over my head, even though this show debuted only two years after the infamous Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. As an adult, I really enjoyed that subtext and it helps preserve that same sense of seriousness I enjoyed as a youngster. What can I say? I like my cartoons with a bit of bite.
So what's next for Nostalgia Series? Well, if those chungo lungos at Disney ever release the rest of Gargoyles, we'll do that. But until then, I think the next installment will be our first live-action entry, the short-lived Heath Ledger show Roar.
I also want to do another more in-depth series soon, like I did for Iron Maiden and Satoshi Kon's films. Any ideas?