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Western Animation / Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea

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Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea is the English title of the French animated series Les Mondes Engloutis ( or "The Engulfed Worlds"), best known by American viewers as that trippy little series that ran on Nickelodeon for two years (1985-1987, and rerun until 1990). You know, the one with the opening theme song sung by Menudo in Season 2.

The series concerns a lost city named Arkadia, whose ancient civilization escaped a great cataclysm by moving underground. Today, most Arkadians don't even know that life continues on the surface (thanks to the machinations of the ancients), and they would get on just fine under the light of their artificial sun Tehra (Shagma in the original French) - except that said sun is dying. Oh bugger...

With no other choice, a few Arkadian children defy the laws and enter the archive, using the knowledge about the surface they find there to create a messenger, Arkana, and send her for help. Together with the two talking pangolins Bic and Bac, she makes it to the surface in Tehrig, and finds two ordinary human children, Matt (Bob in the original) and Rebecca, willing to go back with her. Unfortunately, Tehrig (Shagshag in the original) is captured by the Pirates of the Seas before reaching the portal back. They are eventually freed with the help of the wandering warrior Spartakus, but by then they are hopelessly lost, and have to wander the various worlds beneath the sea to find a way to Arkadia before it's too late.


This series contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: In the beginning, when the adults of Arkadia are unwilling or unable to do anything about the upcoming apocalypse, forcing the children to act.
    • Later on in the first episode, Rebecca invokes and Lampshades this trope when talking Matt into going with Arkana instead of taking her to the authorities — claiming that the adults would take Arkana and do experiments on her, trying to figure out her history, and by the time they got around to maybe send help to Arkadia, it would be too late.
  • Aerith and Bob: The protagonist quartet is Arkana, Spartakus... and Rebecca and Matt (Bob in the original French). Justified in that Arkana was named by her Arkadian creators, Spartakus is from one of the interior worlds, and the two kids are from the surface world.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Rebecca is occasionally this to Matt.
  • Apocalypse How: Arkadia escaped one cataclysm by moving underground. Now they're on the verge of another one.
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  • Armless Biped: Inverted by the Arkadians, who have no legs and a rounded bottom.
  • Artificial Human: Arkana herself.
  • Atlantis: The Arkadians are hinted to be the last survivors from here.
  • Beneath the Earth: Arkadia and its inhabitants.
  • Bookends: In the first episode when Matt and Rebecca join, they mention they need to be back in time for dinner. At the end of the last episode, when Tehrig drops them off home, their mother is calling them to dinner.
  • Cain and Abel: Spartakus has a younger brother named, I kid you not, Rainbow. However, there's no sunshine where he's involved, as he's the evil ruler of a kingdom and a slaver. And he wants nothing more than to see his older brother in chains.
  • Cheerful Child: Rebecca, with an extra side-order of Plucky Girl.
  • Clip Show: Two of them; one involves a Mad Scientist sending Tehrig back in time through the group's previous adventures; the other has Tehrig lose his memory and think he's the Pirate ship, upon which the others recount some of their encounters with the Pirates, in the hope of getting him to snap out of it.
  • The Dividual: Bic and Bac, of the Twindividual variety.
  • Dub Name Change: Easy enough to understand why they changed "Shagma" and "Shagshag" to "Tehra" and "Tehrig."
    • The main quartet of pirates have names that are punny in French, but don't really translate well, save for Massmedia, which actually means the same thing in both languages. So Mattymatte became Mighty Matt, Maxagaze became Nasty Max, and Seskapil became Sleazeappeal. This is justifiable in the third instance, as his name is pronounced "sex appeal."
    • And then there's Bob, who was renamed Matt in the English dub, despite Bob being a perfectly normal name in English (though probably not necessarily one geared towards a child character). It also breaks the One Steve Limit with Mighty Matt.
    • The Hungarian dub changed the pirate names as follows: Maxagaze to Maxigáz (Maxi-Gas or Maxi-Bad), Mattymatte to Agyalap (Brain-Base or Pituitary), Seskapil to Zsebpiszok (Pocket Dirt), Massmedia to Popócici (Butt-Boobs) and their rival Ringnar to Popfej (Pop-Head, also a possible nod to Popeye).
  • Ensemble Cast: Despite what the English title would have you think, all the major characters had roughly the same amount of screen-time and equal importance to the plot.
  • Eternal French: The civilizations of the surface have been out of contact with the civilizations of the strata for millenia. So naturally, everyone understands each other just fine.
  • Expository Theme Tune
  • Funny Animal: Bic and Bac, again. They're mostly there for comedy relief, but do get to play important parts in the plot from time to time.
  • Gladiator Revolt: Spartakus (as might be guessed from his name) is an ex-gladiator who escaped slavery following a revolt.
  • Hollow World: The various "worlds of the strata" are just that. Entire worlds with skies, rivers, cities and people existing below the surface of the earth itself. What's more disturbing is that historical figures from our past actually live here as well (it is noted at the end of season one that time in the strata passes differently then on the surface).
  • Honor Before Reason: Arkana got it bad sometimes.
  • Human Sacrifice: In one strata they find a mostly-empty Inca-styled temple and a high priest who insists that Arkana is actually the long-lost Princess Gold Cloud, who must be sacrificed to the sun god. Out of her innocent desire to help, she goes along with it.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains: The Pirates border on this trope.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Arkshag. Unlike the pirates, his villainy is played straight and his role in the story ties into saving the Tehra.
    • Also, Gog/Magog/The Hydra is the most dangerous monster(s) in the setting. Its first appearance was arguably one of the scariest episodes of the series and its subsequent appearances are treated very seriously.
  • Large Ham: The pirates, and how. Specially Meedios, who whenever something was about to happen to the group, would start shouting "ALAAAAARRRRRMMMM! ALAAAAAAARRRRMMMM!!" into the nearest microphone.
  • Leitmotif: Several, though of course the pirates' song and the Flashbick are the most notable, functioning as character songs for the pirates and Bic and Bac, respectively.
  • Lost Technology: None of the Arkadians know how all their whiz-bang stuff works anymore, beyond "push this button to make the machine do something useful."
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Spartakus is an orphan and a major character. This was bound to happen.
  • Mind over Matter: When Arkana presses her shoulder-button, she can manifest various powers such as telekinesis.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: The Pirates, who are much more toony-looking than the rest of the cast.
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Spartakus' trick gauntlet.
  • Pirate Song: "The Pirate Dance" is sung every time the Pirates appear in a scene, being in general a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything:
    • Semi-averted with The Pirates of the Seas. They will jump on you and loot your stuff... just as soon as they finish singing in their music video. The pirates also have a rival group of ruffians (who do not have their own song), lead by Ringnar, who also occasionally try to do something but fail.
    • Also much is made about Spartakus being the finest gladiator ever to roam the strata, but his combat skills are almost never used to solve a problem. Probably justified though. Spartakus fled his world to escape being a gladiator. If you were an ex-gladiator, and forced to fight to the death for the amusment of others for years of your life, wouldn't you be sick of violence?
  • Playing with Fire: Bic and Bac have the ability to, among other things, create fire by rubbing their noses together.
  • Solar CPR: the reason for Arkana's journey is that Arkadia's personal sun is either going to fizzle out or explode and she has to try to recover the knowledge of how to fix it.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Bic and Bac, happy little critters resembling pangolins, who might be the oldest living things in Arkadia.
  • Shout-Out
  • Sidekick Song: The Flashbick, the happy-go-lucky theme song of Bic and Bac.
  • Taken for Granite: The Temple of the Condor features a large number of odd statues... with heartbeats. At the end of the episode, all the petrification effects are reversed and all the statues wake up.
  • Villain Song: See Pirate Song above. The Pirates have an especially catchy one, which they sing in pretty much all the episodes featuring them... which is to say most of the episodes.
  • Verbal Tic: Spartakus has a mild one, reliably avoiding the use of contractions.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: They're Greek. They can have all the K's they want in their names.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Time in the underground strata moves differently from time on the surface, so though the journey through the strata is long, Matt and Rebecca will still be able to get back home in time for dinner.