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Left to right : Maroro, Corto, Enki, Mouse, and Oro

We are the Droners!

Droners is a French cartoon created by Pierre Cabissole and Sylvain Dos Santos. Produced by Cyber Group Studios, the show could be superficially described as "Pokémon meets Ōban Star-Racers".

On the ocean planet of Terraqua (implied to be Earth in a Flooded Future World), several centuries after a Great Cataclysm and a Great War that changed the face of the world, society thrives again on various archipelagoes. And the biggest of these islands is currently hosting the Whale Cup, a drone-racing championship organized by benevolent tech mogul Wyatt Whale, who has earned worldwide fame as the inventor of the G.En.I.Es, environmentally-friendly technology in the form of tiny eel-shaped artificial intelligences able to enter and control drone technology. Participants have come from far and wide in hopes of winning the first prize, which is to become Wyatt Whale's new apprentice. And among the many groups competing in this exciting event are the heroic youngsters of Team Tikis, made up of 13-year-old drone pilot Corto Heilani and drone engineer (or "enginerd") Enki, as well as 10-year-old drone mechanic Mouse and the trio's G.En.I.E. Oro, with their drone being the flying fish-shaped Maroro. Hailing from the tropical paradise of Nui, Team Tikis hopes that winning the race will give them the chance to save their home, which is threatened by rising sea levels. But competition is fierce, and not all the teams have such noble motivations for victory...

The series airs in its native country on TF1 and the French version of Disney Channel, but also has shown up on ABC Me in Australia, ARD in Germany, and POP in the UK (with an English dub performed by US voice actors). It is currently airing its second season in France.

There also exists a manga spinoff called Droners - Tales of Nui, published by French publishing company Kana, an affiliate of Dargaud (the publishers of Tintin, Asterix, and Lucky Luke) known for their work translating manga into French. Authored by co-creator Sylvain Dos Santos and Nicolas David, its first volume was released in 2022, although it is currently only exclusive in French.


Tropes:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: All drones are rendered in 3D with some cel-shading in an otherwise 2D-only cartoon. Most of the time they blend seamlessly, but the camera drones in Episode 9 "Bubblegum" stick out.
  • Animesque: Definitely.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Those drones likely wouldn't fly with such small propellers. Hand-waved through futuristic high technology and energy.
    • In one episode, Maroro is given an Oromos shell armour that makes it sink underwater because it is too heavy. However, it has no problem maintaining stationary flight in the air, which should be even harder.
  • The Big Race: A major part of the show's concept.
  • Black Market: Paroa is a major Shorescrubber trade platform, where one can find anything, but where price regulation is virtually nonexistent.
  • Bland-Name Product: A social media site called "Aquagram" is mentioned.
  • Camera Abuse: Especially prominent in season 2, where the "camera" is often splashed with water.
  • Clamshell Currency: "Clams" are used as standard money.
  • Evil Brit: The Sirens wear costumes that evoke modernized Victorian motifs or uniforms that wouldn't be out of place in your average Jules Verne-inspired Steampunk story, and speak with British-sounding accents. They're also among the usual "evil" teams.
  • Four-Legged Insect: the crab variant. Ocean life features prominently in this world, including a lot of crabs. The Giant Enemy Crab of the Paroan market track seems to have the right number of legs, but stylized crabs like the Polar Crab emblem do not.
  • Flooded Future World: Implied, if Terraqua is supposed to be our world. It is explicitly stated that rising ocean levels due to climate change threaten many inhabited islands.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: One of Paroa's circuits features a relic from the Terra-Aqua war : a gigantic crab-shaped drone, half-buried in the sand. It still works somehow, and provides the bulk of the track's environmental hazards. It is also fully reactivated in the season 1 finale.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: zig-zagged with the Enginerds. Nearly all of them wear big, brightly coloured goggles, but they're seldom seen doing anything. Enki does use them as a HUD of some sort, however ; it's unclear if all of them can do it.
  • Golden Snitch: In Race for the Khepri, Whale adds a flying beetle-looking drone that droners must catch and cross the finish line first with in order to win. They don't mention what happens if a Droner catches it but passes the finish line second.
  • The Good Guys Always Win: Team Tikis is seldom seen loosing a race, barring opponents cheating. However, the championship appears to be a long series of matches in which teams move up and down the scoreboard without ever being eliminated. The Tikis may simply lose offscreen regularly.
    • Season 2 suggests they lost three matches offscreen. Episode 5 of said season also depicts their first loss, as retrieving an old relic gave the Tikis the "moral victory" instead.
    • The same Season 2 shows a few on-screen defeats as well, notably against the Planktons and the Rust Queen.
  • Haunted Castle / Haunted House: The Haunted Mansion track.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Most of the "bad" teams join together against Gavinda Teach in the season 1 finale, minus Adam who's still with her. His sister Hannah, however, was the first to switch sides.
  • High-Tech Hexagons: When the aesthetics aren't Scavenged Punk, expect those everywhere.
  • If It Swims, It Flies: All drones are amphibious and most tracks have aerial and underwater sections. How this works on a physics level is better left to speculationnote .
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Maroro, Team Tikis' drone, is explicitly said to have been built out of scavenged Aqua technology scraps. It makes Maroro quirky, to say the least, with incredible potential but sometimes unpredictable behaviour ; and it also means that broken parts are much harder to replace.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Pilots can give each other video calls during races and use it to taunt each other, with varying success.
  • Kill It with Water: All G.En.I.E.S, being Energy Beings, are highly vulnerable to water of any kind – they outright dissipate in it. Oro, Neptune and Jeroboam, on the other hand, are Aquæ, meaning they are not only immune to it, it also boosts their power.
  • Level Ate: Episode "Bubblegum" features a sweets-and-candy-themed track where everything is allegedly entirely edible.
  • Local Hangout: Competitors from all teams can be seen relaxing or having drinks by the sea in what seems to be a completely common ground.
    • In season 2, Chef Otaqua's restaurant the "Pit Stop" is where people go to eat, hold meetings, forge alliances or just relax.
  • Lost Technology: Aqua technology is apparently incredibly advanced, but not very well understood. People scavenging it (called Shorescrubbers) seem to contribute for a pretty big part to both the economy and the technology level.
  • Makeup Is Evil: The heroes tend to have tattoos or nothing, while the characters who wear makeup are always baddies : Gavinda Teach (evil), Team Mirage (more ambiguous but still on Teach's payroll), Mina (jerk). Manta (massive jerk) might have makeup too for the markings under his eyes, but they may be tattos as well.
  • Neglectful Precursors: There was a big interspecies war in the past that apparently wiped out one side entirely. A lot of artifacts from that time remain, including many war machines, some of which still work one way or another.
  • No Waterproofing in the Future: Averted, all drones are designed to be amphibious. The Sirens' drone even loses a part at one point, leaving circuitry exposed, but still works quite decently.
  • Pass Through the Rings: Every race includes unmoveable rings called "Gates", which drones must pass through to validate their progression on the track. Missing a gate means one must backtrack to validate it before reaching the next one.
  • Power Trio: The Tikis, with a touch of Freudian Trio with Corto being The Hero and the Ego (in more senses than one), Enki The Spock and the Superego, and Mouse The McCoy and the Id.
  • Pro Bono Barter: Standardized currency in the form of clam shells is featured, but some goods are more easily obtained with a good old goods-for-goods barter. And then there's Paroan Shorescrubbers' auctions : You break the seller's drone ? You get what they sell. They wreck yours ? Too bad : what's left of it is not yours anymore.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Since the great war, society had time to collapse and rebuild again; Aqua technology still works champion. Also, the Aquanaut submarine – which was built by humans without Aqua technology – manages to reactivate itself after two centuries spent sleeping on the seafloor.
  • Running Gag: People keep breaking the library's glasspanes, much to the annoyance of Neptune – to the point that she persuades Whale to accept a shady deal at one point, in the hopes it can net them shatterproof glass.
  • Scavenged Punk: The Shorescrubbers in general and the Pirates team in particular heavily use that kind of aesthetics. Other groups will likely use second-hand scavenged technology bought from Shorescrubbers, but are less eager to openly display it.
  • Scavenger World: Technology is usually a mix-and match between crude and advanced, human and Aqua parts. Even human-designed machines are often scavenged from the sea, or built with parts that were.
  • Solar Punk: Solar panels, holographic screens and remote-controlled drones coexist alongside wooden buildings, stone statues, boats made from giant conchs and wind turbines embedded into the scenery. Many characters show strong environmental concern and conflict regularly arises from the fact that some drone manufacturers do not care that they use polluting technology.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Exaggerated with G.En.I.E.S. When submerged in water, they don't drown – they're dissolved in a matter of seconds.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Almost Once per Episode. Nearly every time someone loses a race, they'll throw their goggles and/or paddles to the ground in anger, occasionally breaking something. Interestingly, heroic Corto is not immune to this.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: It remains an optimistic children's show at its core, so characters range from heroes with flaws at best to rude or cynical jerks at worst, but nobody appears to be truly malevolent Gavinda Teach excepted.

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