Thunder, thunder, thunder, Thundercats, ho! If that last sentence didn’t take you back to your childhood, then, I’m sorry, you were born in a time of lesser cartoons. Thundercats came out in a time where nearly every cartoon was slammed with battles, warfare, and all around action. This show combined that action with an element of sci-fi and even sorcery to really crank up the fun.
With their planet Thundera dying, the Thunderians escape in spaceships to find a new planet to call home. Unfortunately, the mutants of the planet Plun-Darr chased the fleet and destroyed most of the ships. Their goal was attaining the Sword of Omens, the mystical sword wielded by the leader of the Thundercats, Thundera’s royal family. That sword contains the Eye of Thundera, which gives people the power to see anywhere they want, or “sight beyond sight.”
The ship carrying the Thunderian nobility, or Thundercats, was damaged and had to land on Third Earth. On this planet, the main characters of Lion-O, Tygra, Panthro, Cheetara, Wily Kit, Wily Kat, and Snarf learn to survive in their new, alien environment. Each Thundercat is based, in some part, on the cat from which they gain their name. Lion-O is a lion, Tygra a tiger, and so on. As the lion, Lion-O is the leader. Cheetara, naturally, is extremely fast. The connection to their eponymous cats kinds of ends there. Panthro is very strong and serves as the team’s pilot. The team’s chief adviser, Tygra, can turn invisible. Eventually, the Thundercats build a base, get used to the planet, and meet the locals.
Unfortunately, one of those locals is Mumm-Ra, the “ever-living source of evil on Third Earth.” He’s a demonic sorcerer, and the arrival of the Thundercats displeased him. He felt they upset the balance of power on Third Earth, his power. While the Plun-Darr mutants had been long-time enemies of Thundera, Mumm-Ra quickly became the main antagonist. The mutants wanted the Sword of Omens, but so did Mumm-Ra. Obviously, he commandeered the entire team of mutants and made them his henchmen in his ongoing battle with the Thundercats. The coolest aspect of Mumm-Ra, besides being creepy, is that he transforms from a small, decrepit, mummy-looking sorcerer to a huge, powerful monster of a bad guy. The transformation scenes were a bit unsettling, but once he transforms, he’s a match for the brawn of the Thundercats.
Did you read that synopsis? Yeah, that’s cartoon gold to the kids of the 80’s! Running four seasons from 1986 to 1989, the show totaled 130 episodes. This was a time when action cartoons reigned supreme, with the likes of GI Joe, Transformers, and He-Man. Thundercats came in with a blast in 1986 and immediately hit heights of popularity that grouped it with those biggest names of 80’s cartoons. The intro of “Thundercats, ho!” alone made kids sit up and take notice. The action and premise of the show, then, kept them seated, likely for all those 130 episodes.
Sure, Thundercats could be viewed as a bit of a He-Man knockoff, and I’m guessing that is how it started. A leader with a magic sword beats mutant looking bad guys led by a guy with a skull face. Broken down to those basics, I could be describing either show. Even Lion-O’s call to action of “Thundercats, Ho!” while raising his sword up is similar to He-Man’s “I have the power!” However, the writing and characterization of Thundercats is what allowed it to grow and stand as its own show.
Truthfully, the storytelling often came off as better-quality than He-Man. The plots were tighter and less silly, for the most part. Though you had the obligatory silly, comic relief character of 80’s cartoons in Snarf, the overall show played more as a straight action and sci-fi type show. I love He-Man, possibly more than I do Thundercats, but I just think the writing was consistently better on Thundercats.
As with many 80’s cartoons, Thundercats was later remade. While the original show ran in the afternoons once school let out, 2011’s Thundercats ran weekly. It stayed true to the original premise but expanded the storyline and characterizations to add more depth. However, the art style on the new series leaned quite a bit more anime. Perhaps the change in the look of the show didn’t appeal to everyone because this show’s run only lasted 26 episodes, 1 season of weekly viewings.
A new “remake” is coming this year, Thundercats Roar. From its animation, this one is definitely made to be mostly humor-oriented and possibly geared towards younger children. Early previews look funny. However, turning a serious and action-packed show like Thundercats into a silly joke of a show doesn’t mean we’re seeing a real remake this time.
Thundercats, either version, is such a cool premise. Even if it was initially a knockoff of He-Man, the show grew into its own and became extremely popular. Filled with action, humor, and a fun sci-fi aspect, the show was very entertaining. This is flat out an exciting show. If “Thundercats, ho!” means nothing to you, do yourself a favor and watch the original Thundercats series. You will not be disappointed.
Thundercats: An Action-Packed Sci-Fi Phenom
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8.5/108.5/10
- Acting - 8.5/108.5/10
- Music - 8.5/108.5/10
- Production - 8.5/108.5/10
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