Inspired by my recent contribution for my good friend Vic over at Vic’s Movie Den I wrote a post recommending 5 Animated Series. It was a fun narrowing this down to five quality series that I feel adults would love as well as kids. I previously wrote up one of the shows on the list, The Spectacular Spider-Man. I now want to take a moment to write up another on my list. This being the 2011 reimagining of ThunderCats.
Now I grew up with ThunderCats in the 80s and it without a doubt is one of my favorite shows ever. I have the first season in dvd and always revisit it. I’m just nostalgic like that. However, this really is a program of its era. It does not translate to younger audiences now and I understand that. I don’t have kids now but when I do I don’t expect them to look at this show the same way I do. Early episodes and especially later episodes just don’t hold up. It looks cheesy now.
In 2011 a reboot/reimagining of ThunderCats aired. Like all really good animated series, it was cancelled before its time despite being packed to the brim with action, drama and diverse and well-written characters.
The names of the characters are the same but instead of the one-dimensional templates of the original, these cats have quite some depth.
Let’s start with the setting. In the original the ThunderCats were refugees from the planet Thundera and escaped it’s destruction and crash landed on Third Earth. In this series Thundera is a nation of Third Earth and the Thunderians rule other species. At the show’s opening it appears cats are disliked by other species due to how they are governed by King Claudus, ( voiced by Larry Kenney, the original Lion-O). So what we have here is a class system put in place by the most powerful of the species. The first episodes show this contention the best when Lion-O attempts to show mercy to two lizards imprisoned for stealing food. So from the jump we aren’t presented with the Mary Sue’s from the original series.
This show has a great amount of character depth which really reinforces the need for great storytelling and complex characters. Let’s take a look at the main characters here. Just a warning there is going to be some SPOILERS in here
The young Lord of the Thundercats, thrust into leading after terrible events befall their kingdom. With him we see some basic tropes. He’s aloof, doesn’t get along with his father, and is competitive with his brother Tygra. At the show’s beginning, it seems that Lion-O doesn’t care for the crown. He’s late to his own right of passage ceremony. And when he looks through the Sword of Omens and sees a vision of Mumm-Ra, he acts like a teenager when he sees two attractive young women. This is simply what it looks like, but Lion-O is one who can appear at times to see the bigger picture. Yet he can get sidetracked with vengeful thoughts, but is a very patient character.
Here perhaps is the most developed character in the entire show. He antagonizes his younger brother and has a great relationship with his father, which Lion-O does not. He also appears to be very respected in the kingdom. He has quite the inferiority/superiority complex, which could stem from the fact that he is adopted. Tygra is part of the exiled Tiger Clan that was on the side of Mumm-Ra centuries ago. For their role, they were exiled. A disease overtook the clan and Tygra’s father made a deal with the Ancient Spirits of Evil to save the clan. They did. Now the wanted his son as payment. He sent Tygra away and he ended up as the royal prince. All was well until the queen announced she was pregnant. Tygra who was once known as her “Little King” now became her “Little Prince,” since he could no longer inherit the throne. When she dies giving birth to Lion-O he is devastated. He has lost both his crown and his mother. This makes his connection with Cheetara more viable as it is something that is his once again.
Part of the Order of the Clerics, after the fall of Thundera, Cheetara is the last remaining Cleric. Her role is that of an advisory person to Lion-O as Jaga was to King Claudus. Her backstory is that of a young girl who wanted to be a Cleric. She clearly possessed the speed needed, yet according to Jaga lacked the patience needed. She waited outside the building where the clerics meet for days, meeting a young Tygra in the process. Proving her worth, she is admitted to the order. In the beginning episodes of the series she gives Lion-O advice and encouragement, which he interprets as a romantic interest. This leads to conflict down the line between him and Tygra. She doesn’t downplay anything which I feel is a great trait to have for an adviser, let your leader always feel in control.
Panthro, as in the original series is the muscle and mechanical expert of the team. Like the other characters there is more to his story. In this version, Panthro is a man on a mission. A general in the Thunderian army, Panthro was betrayed by Grune, a fellow military man like himself. Grune switched over to Mumm-Ra’s side when given an opportunity for power. He has some interesting character features as well such as not considering Lion-O’s opinion on matters due to the young king’s lack of experience and his military background. Panthro knows scenarios but has to defer to his king. It actually presents some intriguing conflict had the show been able to continue if Panthro had persisted in butting heads with Lion-O. Also he is afraid of water and never learned to swim and it brings a dimension to this character who has seen a great many things and yet water is his Achilles.
As you can see, there is much more depth to these characters than there was in the original series. This was a very mature effort. I think that people might be more inclined to watch this as opposed to The Spectacular Spider-Man due to its animation style. It has a much more serious look to it. Like any show there are a couple of filler episodes but it certainly takes its time in building its story arcs to a conclusion. And at the end of each arc, there is a change in the characters that gives them new perspective.
At only 26 episodes this series is over before it truly begins which is a shame. Cut down too soon like a good deal of quality animated programs. But this ThunderCats series is one I highly recommend. I have the complete series on DVD and definitely will upgrade to the Blu-Ray in the future.