Remembering Ulysses 31


Ulysses 31 was a cult cartoon from the 80s which has lingered in many people’s memory, but what was it that made it so special?

 By Elis Williams

Everyone has those tv shows they’ll always remember, but then when you try to explain it to people, it doesn’t quite sound as good.

Twin Peaks would be a perfect example; when it first came out in 1990, it developed a huge cult following which still persists to this day.

Despite this cult following, the show didn’t have enough widespread appeal. And was cancelled after its second season.

But the show lingered in the public consciousness thanks to its devoted followers, and was eventually rewarded with a comeback series in 2017.

Ulysses 31, a 1980s cartoon, encourages the same love and devotion from its fans even years after its cancellation.

What was it?

Created by Nina Wolmark and Jean Chapolin, Ulysses 31’s first and only season was broadcast in 1981.

The much-loved French-Japanese creation centred largely on the events of Homer’s Odyssey, transporting the characters and plot into the 31st century.

Instead of the original plot, set in Ancient Greece, the main character, Odysseus (Ulysses in Latin) is sentenced by the god Zeus to travel the universe in search of the kingdom of Hades, in exchange for having his crew unfrozen.

The cartoon was notorious for being one of the stranger creations to come out of DIC Studios, which was famous for successes such as Inspector Gadget and The Real Ghostbusters.

It was precisely this that made it stand out from the crowd and possibly why it’s stayed entrenched in people’s hearts and minds for so long.

The cartoon was weird, unique and some would say downright barmy, which was apparently the formula for success in the 80s.

So why is it so fondly remembered?

Ask most people why Ulysses 31 has stuck in their memories for so long and it’s more than likely you’d get the same answer from everyone: the theme tune.

TV theme tunes set the tone for the entire show, and if a show can nail a catchy theme tune, then they’re a long way to producing a success.

And the creators of Ulysses 31 did just that, producing an earworm of a theme tune that was unmistakably theirs.

Think of some of those fan favourite TV shows whose theme tunes would stick in viewers heads for years after watching, imploring them to revisit it.

Having a theme tune that is easily recognisable can be a huge asset for TV shows and movies alike, and Ulysses 31 hit the nail on the head.

But of course, a theme tune isn’t the only factor in producing a truly memorable series, it has to actually be good.

And by all accounts, Ulysses 31 was just that.

By bringing together the myths of Ancient Greece and futuristic space travel, it spoke to a wide section of fans who loved it unconditionally.

It was also popular internationally, having been translated into many languages, including, French, Italian and Spanish.

So this low-budget cartoon about a 31st century Ulysses obviously held universal appeal which has maintained its popularity ever since the 80s.

Are there any hopes of a return?

A few years ago, it was announced that Warner Brothers would be producing a version of The Odyssey set in space.

It was rumoured at the time that the new venture was inspired by the work of Ulysses 31, and that fans would finally get another taste of their favourite 80s cartoon.

Those rumours were debunked, however, and the film was never even produced, so there is still no hope of a revival on the horizon.

Even so, despite there being no plans for a revival and the cartoon only having survived one season, Ulysses 31 lives long in the memory of its fans.