I was 18 years old (!) when the original ThunderCats (produced by Rankin-Bass) premiered in 1985. I was filled with joy and expected great action to happen whenever I saw commercials for it. But when I saw the first couple of episodes, I wasn’t impressed as much as I thought I was going to be. There were some redeeming qualities, like the intro (most action series in the mid-1980s had iconically awesome intros), Topcraft and Pacific Animation Corporation’s animation, and a few great episodes, but it was nothing to really write home about. Some of the characters were aggravating, like Snarf constantly talking up a storm, and WilyKat & WilyKit being around (never liked the older versions at all). 130 episodes in and I basically concluded that it was a very cheesy series, and that I could only watch it every now and again just to remember how cheesy it was).
Now head below the jump for our feature presentation…
In June 2010, I learned of a revival of the ThunderCats series, which would be animated by Studio 4°C (Transformers: Animated and The AnimMatrix) and Warner Bros. Animation (Young Justice, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated and The Looney Tunes Show), with Michael Jelenic (Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Wonder Woman) and Ethan Spaulding (Avatar: The Last Airbender) serving as producers. I already knew that with the current regime of WB Animation, Jelenic having produced Brave and the Bold, and Spaulding previously directing on Avatar, I knew it would be a great revival, but it turned out to be more epic than I thought it’d be.
First things first, what changed in the revival? What happened to all the other characters we all know and love? Do they look and sound the same as the first? Does it retain the theme everyone loves? All these questions will be answered….right now.
- In a short sentence, the revival is very different from the original. But going in-depth, the revival is a purr-ely awesome remake that does justice for not only the series and its large fanbase (both then and now), but the original show’s creator, the late Tobin “Ted” Wolf.
- The characters are back (loaded with more awesomeness than ever before).
- Larry Kenney (the original Lion-O, now his father Claudus) is one of the only original voice actors that’s on the show. And all the other characters are redesigned, and younger than they were before (and with different voice actors).
- As for the theme, the pilot didn’t have it, but I’m fairly sure it’ll be retained (or remixed) for the most part.
What’s kept (and improved) in the new series? Let’s see…Snarf, who was the Scrappy-Doo of the original? Now he just purrs and says his name (which is great). Cheetara? She’s voiced by Emmanuelle Chriqui, is still a sexy badass (alright, sexier than before) and her elements are still there. Tygra? He is now Lion-O’s adoptive older brother, voiced by Matthew Mercer, and is still awesome and a hardhead. WilyKat and WilyKit? Younger and much more likeable. Jaga? He’s still the wise warrior. Mumm-Ra? He is still an evil badass (more than before). Technology and magic? Still there. The Sword of Omens? Oh hell yes, it’s still there and more epic than you think.
And now, a brief summary (SPOLIERS)
We open with Jaga telling the story of Third Earth and the beginning of a journey. Cut to our hero, Prince Lion-O (and his pet Snarf) in diguise as a street hoodlum beating up some street cats that force people to pay them money. Cheetara swipes in fast with an assist, and one-ups Lion-O. Fast-forward to him seeing an image of Mumm-Ra doing a ceremony and Lion-O’s father Claudus says that he isn’t ready to wield the Sword of Omens. A few scenes later and Grune arrives, telling Claudus that Panthro died fighting by his side. Later, Tygra is being an ass and showing up Lion-O in the games in honor to Panthro, while the young kittens help themselves to a little feast. Afterwards, Lion-O, Tygra, and Cheetara (surprise, surprise) fight an army of villagers for the lives of some lizards.
Tygra’s whip: Still……whipping into invisibility.
Back to the story, Claudus reluctantly agrees with Lion-O’s decision for the lizards to live and be free. Moments later, Cheetara swoops in to have a brief talk with Lion-O and swoops out into the night. Right after, our young hero wants to prove that technology exists and flips off Tygra. From that point, a war ensues between the cats and the lizards, during which Grune then confesses to siding with Mumm-Ra for power. Eventually, we find out that Panthro hasn’t died, but has instead been captured, though Mumm-Ra poses as a chained Panthro to kill Claudus. Afterwards, Lion-O, Tygra, and Jaga are imprisoned, though the former two quickly escape. Cheetara helps the two young heroes in a fight Mumm-Ra, with Lion-O wielding the Sword of Omens (with a beautifully animated transformation of the sword). When all was said and done, an injured Jaga made Lion-O the new Lord of the ThunderCats. After giving the young hero the order to find The Book of Omens, he sacrifices himself in order for the rest to make it out alive. The episode ends with Lion-O, Tygra, Cheetara, and Snarf deciding to go on the ultimate quest to find the Omens before the pure evil known as Mumm-Ra does.
Comedy, action, death, secrets, beautiful animation; it has it all. The best part of the first two episodes (for me) is Cheetara’s appearance. She was definitely surprising and satisfying to my needs. She wasn’t a Mary Sue that had to prove the boys she’s just as good, and she blended right in smoothly. Lion-O (now voiced by Will Friedle) brought a smile to my face being the son of Claudus (Kenney). Tygra being the older adoptive brother to Lion-O is a very interesting concept that Jelenic and Spaulding came up with. Everything else just proved me that this series has lots and lots of potential, and I’ll be along for the ride watching every Friday night to see how far our warriors will get.
And to the people who prefer nostalgia cheesiness over a great revival that does justice to the original and would rather waste their energy and cry about it on the internet “professionally,” take the rose-tinted glasses off and just watch it. And drink milk too.
…Hey, I’m just sayin’.