It might be cheating a bit calling Thundercats a Saturday morning cartoon, as it aired weekdays, but this is my dog and pony show and I don’t care. Thundercats was appointment TV for me in the late 80s. I remember being on vacation in Florida for the first time (where I consequently was sun poisoned), and still needing to watch Thundercats. This compulsion was replaced by later shows, but for the time, it was all Thundercats.
The first seasaon, like many cartoons of the time, contained 65 episodes, allowing broadcast for 5 days a week for 13 weeks. I know many other shows had a similar broadcasting schedule during that time, making me wonder what sort of animation gulag they were running back then. Today, you’d be lucky to get that many episodes of a show across 4 years. This is one of the few times when we really did have it better back in the day.
Thundercats follows Lion-O, leader of the group who were forced to flee their dying world of Thundera, which went out Kryton steal (it dun blowed up). The group found a home on what was called 3rd earth. Now Lion-O leads Tygra, Cheetara, Panthro, WilyKit, WilyKat, and Snarf against the mutants who pursued them across the galaxy, and the evil wizard Mumm-Ra.
Many people love the Thundercats, or they think they do, but his show was nuts. Lion-O’s mentor, Jaga, died when they arrived at 3rd Earth, then follows them around in some sort of spectral form dispensing advice. Mumm-Ra had a dog named Ma-Mutt. Better yet, there was a race of partially fur covered robot teddy bears called Robear Berbils, from the planet Ro-Bear.
Producers Ethan Spaulding and Michael Jelenic bravely waded through this mess, trying to clean it up, and producing a new series in 2011 for Cartoon Network. I watched every episode and thought it was very good. The story now had structure, purpose, direction, and continuity, all things in lacking in the original 1985 series. Will Friedle of Batman Beyond fame voiced Lion-O, the young prince of the fallen kingdom of Thundera. Larry Kenney, who voiced Lion-O originally, now played the role of Claudus, Lion-O’s father.
The 2011 incarnation added a much needed backstory to the Thundercats, Mumm-Ra, 3rd Earth, and many other elements of the show. While the premier was praised, ratings sadly dropped as the 26 episodes aired. When the season concluded a few questions were resolved, more were raised, and many left unanswered. Though the show was planned for 52 episodes, it was not renewed for a second season. It’s worth watching if you’re a fan of the original series though. Viewing it from an adult perspective, it’s easy to see how weird the original concept was. Maybe it will be revisited in another 20 years.
There were a few comic books based on the original series. I read a few, and thought them mostly forgettable save one. Part of the origin had Lion-O age too quickly, as his stasis pod was damaged during the travel through space. While no one else aged, he did, now a child in a man’s body. As more and more cats made their way to 3rd Earth, to be a better leader, he went into the book of omens to train. Mumm-Ra struck, annihilating the cats and trapping Lion-O in the book. Snarf freed him and they went about rescuing their people. Quite a good read.
I highly recommend viewing this video to see how serious voice actors took their job. And yes, it’s real. Side note: In the new series, Panthro mentions a samophlange.
Who’s your favorite Thundercat? Wish the new series continued? Comment or tweet! If you enjoyed what your read, please share!