So, you want to know about Thundercats, the animated television show from 1985–89, with a reboot that aired from 2011-2012. You may already think that you know everything about the show. Well, let me break it down for you.
The Thundercats were designed by Theodore Walter “Tobin” Wolf (July 21, 1922 – June 21, 1999. Wolf served in the U.S. Military during WWII, and lost a portion of his foot in the Battle of the Bulge. He was an inventor, who designed several toys, action figures and even the portable record player. Thundercats was the only production credit to Wolf’s name.
The production of Thundercats lay squarely in the hands of Rankin and Bass, who produced the animated Hobbit and many beloved Christmas Specials.
The Thundercats story is a long morality play, with each episode including a moral embedded within the story, usually in the voice of Tygra or one of the older Thundercats as a lesson to the younger cats. For the most part, the lessons related to the story, a stark contrast to what occurred with He-man, which often had tacked-on irrelevant morals.
Now that the history and morality is out of the way, allow me to take a few minutes to talk about what was actually pretty awesome about the Thundercats.
A legit story arc.
The Thundercats are different from many of the other cartoons from the 1980s in that the whole series follows a story line. There’s a clear beginning, middle, and end. The story doesn’t just ‘taper off’ and end due to bad ratings, the viewers were left with a sense of completion.
If you’ve ever watched children play, you will notice that they never say “I wanna be Lion-O,” they say “I’m Lion-O!” Young children identify with their heroes easily and quickly when watching and getting involved with the shows they enjoy. One thing that Thundercats did amazingly well was recognizing that children will pretend to be their favorite characters. In Lion-O, we have a man-sized body with a child-mind. So the kid can pretend to be the bulky Billy Badass Lion-O and learn lessons along with their hero.
Despite the fact that when Lion-O first meets Mumm-Ra the Ever Living, the only frightening part about him is that he is a MUMMY who can FLOAT AROUND and loom, to the children in the audience of the cartoon, Mumm-Ra is frightening.
Mumm-Ra is not the only villain, the other mutants are as well.
These villains work with (and against) each other, destroying the new planet where they’ve settled, terrorizing the local population, and even working for Mumm-Ra to steal the Thundercats’ holy relics (the Eye of Thundera).
Catchy Theme Song
Come on, listen to it, Dance around to it.
The Lyrics are simple.
Don’t believe that Hype. It’s cool to think that someone that looks as stodgy as Mr. Lipton wrote a tune that many of us have stuck in our heads at some point in the years.
But it’s not true.
The tune was actually written by Jules Bass and Bernard Hoffer. Hoffer is known not just for Thundercats, but for writing music for Silverhawks.
Bass is the cofounder of Rankin and Bass.
Okay, maybe not that kind of cat.
Generally, Thundercats is a worthwhile show, worth the nostaliga and hype. The relaunch may not have been as awesome as the original, but at least it had a relaunch.