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ThunderCats
Thundercats Logo.JPG
ThunderCats logo
Genre Science fiction, Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Created by Rankin/Bass
Written by Ted Wolf
Directed by Katsuhito Akiyama
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Jules Bass
Voices of Earl Hammond
Earle Hyman
Larry Kenney
Lynne Lipton
Bob McFadden
Peter Newman
Doug Preis
Gerianne Raphael
Composer(s) Bernard Hoffer
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 130 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Arthur Rankin Jr.
Jules Bass
Lee Dannacher
Masaki Ihzuka
Producer(s) Tony Giovanniello
Matthew Malach
Connie Long
Heather Winters
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Rankin/Bass
Distributor Telepictures (season 1-2)
Lorimar-Telepictures (season 3 onwards)
Broadcast
Original channel First-run syndication
Original run January 23, 1985 – 1990

ThunderCats was an animated television series produced by Rankin/Bass Productions (the same that created the Silverhawks, Tigersharks and The Comic Strip) debuting in 1985, based on the characters created by Tobin "Ted" Wolf. The animation was provided by Pacific Animation Corporation, the working name for a collective of Japanese studios including Topcraft, a group who would later go on to form Studio Ghibli. Season 1 of the show aired in 1985 (65 episodes), followed by a TV movie entitled ThunderCats - HO! in 1986. Seasons 2, 3, and 4 followed a new format of twenty episodes each, starting with a five-part story; these aired from 1987 to 1988, 1988 to 1989, and 1989 to 1990, respectively.

The series was originally distributed by Telepictures Corporation (which would later merge with Lorimar Productions). Near the end of 1988, Lorimar-Telepictures was purchased by Warner Bros., whose television syndication arm would eventually assume distribution of the show; Warner Bros. would eventually gain rights to the series (and all Lorimar-Telepictures programming) from that point on.

On March 17, 1997, ThunderCats was the series seen on (Warner Bros' corporate sibling) Cartoon Network's new action-animation afternoon block, Toonami. The series would depart and return in various timeslots including Saturday mornings and late night marathons until 2002.[citation needed]

There were also several comic-book series produced: Marvel Comics' version, 1985 to 1988; and two series by Wildstorm, an imprint of DC Comics (another Warner Bros. corporate sibling), beginning in 2003. Items of clothing featuring the ThunderCats logo and DVD boxsets of the original series have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as nostalgia for the former children's favorite has grown.

It was announced on June 5, 2007, that Aurelio Jaro is making a CGI-animated feature film of ThunderCats, based on a script written by Paul Sopocy. In October 2007, Variety magazine revealed that Jerry O'Flaherty, veteran video game art director, had signed on to direct. The film is being produced by Spring Creek Productions. It was originally set for a summer 2010 release,[1] but it has since been reported that the movie is on hold.[2]

Concept art for the film has also been leaked online.[3]

In May 2009, the first new merchandise related to the ThunderCats property was announced by Hard Hero, a company specializing in highly detailed fantasy statues. The first statue will be released in early 2010.[4]

Contents

Plot

ThunderCats follows the adventures of the eponymous team of heroes, cat-like humanoid aliens from the planet of Thundera. The series pilot begins with the dying Thundera meeting its end, forcing the ThunderCats (a sort of Thunderean nobility) to flee their homeworld. The fleet is attacked by the Thundereans's enemies, the Mutants of Plun-Darr, who destroy all the starships in the "ThunderFleet," but spare the flagship hoping to capture the legendary mystic Sword of Omens they believe is onboard. The sword holds the Eye of Thundera, the source of the ThunderCats' power, which is embedded in the hilt. Though the Mutants damage the flagship, the power of the Eye drives them back, and Lion-O's elderly guardian, Jaga, volunteers to pilot the ship to the safety of the world of "Third Earth"; however, he dies in the process, because the journey to Third Earth took several decades due to damage to their ship. The flagship contains the young Lord of the ThunderCats, Lion-O, as well as the ThunderCats Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, WilyKit and WilyKat, and Snarf.

When the ThunderCats awake from their suspended animation on Third Earth, Lion-O discovers that his suspension capsule has only slowed his aging, and he is now a child in the body of a man. Together, the ThunderCats and the friendly natives of Third Earth construct the "Cat's Lair," their new home and headquarters, but before long, the Mutants have tracked them down to Third Earth. The intrusion of these two alien races upon the world does not go unnoticed, however - the demonic, mummified sorcerer, Mumm-Ra, recruits the Mutants to aid him in his campaign to acquire the Eye of Thundera and destroy the ThunderCats so that his evil might continue to hold sway over Third Earth.[5]

Season 1

This status holds strong for the first season of the show, and served as the basis for a vast array of stories that freely mixed elements of science fiction and fantasy into a traditional good-versus-evil tale that steadily introduced more and more recurring allies and villains into the world of the ThunderCats. Futuristic technology is just as central to the series as magic and myth, but even in the midst of all this action, the series never under-emphasizes the importance of moral values in solving problems. Each episode would normally include a short dénouement, featuring the characters recuperating after the events of the story and taking the time to single out a personal value or wholesome approach that helped save the day, or could have done so if they had not overlooked it.

The first half of Season 1 featured a gentle continuity, with early episodes following on from one another and establishing recurring concepts, although this became less common as the season transitioned into its second half, which comprised mostly incidental one-shot adventures. Tying the second season together was the over-arching five-part adventure, "Lion-O's Anointment," in which an unarmed Lion-O faced off against the other ThunderCats to truly earn his title as Lord of the ThunderCats. Although intended to be viewed consecutively (as the adventures depicted occurred one day after the other), the five parts of the mini-series were erroneously aired (and released on DVD) with multiple other episodes between each installment.

ThunderCats - Ho!

The 1986 TV movie "ThunderCats - Ho!" featured the first major shake-up to the status quo of the series, introducing three new ThunderCats who had also survived the destruction of Thundera. A massive cast of returning heroes and villains were incorporated into the story to make it the most epic ThunderCats adventure yet produced, and it concluded with the apparent destruction of Mumm-Ra.

Season 2

When the series returned in 1987, however, this was quickly proven not to be the case in the opening mini-series, "Mumm-Ra Lives!", as the evil wizard survived his fate. "Mumm-Ra Lives!" set the pattern for the show's final three seasons, which each began with a five-part mini-series that established the new characters and concepts that would go on to influence the rest of the season. In the case of "Mumm-Ra Lives!", these concepts included the debut of the villainous Lunataks, who became a third faction that existed for the rest of the series, and the new team of ThunderCats from "ThunderCats - Ho!" being given their own headquarters, vehicles and so forth.

Season 3

The 1988 season began with "ThunderCubs," a miniseries named for its plot about the ThunderCats being transformed into children, but which was principally about Mumm-Ra reconstructing Thundera in order to retrieve both the weapon that had originally destroyed it, the Sword of Plun-Darr, and the legendary Treasure of Thundera. In the course of the adventure, the treasure - containing the Book of Omens, a tome holding all the secrets of the ThunderCats, and many other mystical items - was scattered across the New Thundera, ushering in a new concept for the series: a season with an actual story arc. Continuity between episodes became tighter as the ThunderCats, Mutants, Lunataks and Mumm-Ra alternated their adventures between Third Earth and New Thundera, searching for the treasure and exploiting its powers. The season also featured the running theme of the Ancient Spirits of Evil having to take a more active hand in pushing Mumm-Ra into action, culminating in another unique feature of the season - an actual finale episode, "The Last Day," in which the spirits give Mumm-Ra one last chance to destroy the ThunderCats. Ultimately, the villain failed, and was banished to the farthest corner of the universe by the spirits.

Season 4

However, Mumm-Ra returned for the 1989 season. In the opening miniseries, "Return to Thundera!", the ThunderCats returned to New Thundera to rebuild their society, but before departing, they destroyed Mumm-Ra's pyramid, enraging the Ancient Spirits of Evil to the point that they brought Mumm-Ra back, and installed him within a new pyramid on New Thundera. The season proved to be quite divorced from what had gone before, with adventures consigned almost entirely to the wild and wonderful locales of New Thundera, and most villainous opposition coming from either Mumm-Ra or assorted new villains. The Mutants, Lunataks and Captain Cracker all returned for one episode each, however. In the series finale, several conclusions are reached: Mumm-Ra stands up to and asserts himself over the Ancient Spirits of Evil, the mystery of the Book of Omens was at last solved, and the tumultuous and terrifying environment of Thundera was at last rendered peaceful and pristine.

Characters

Voice cast

Despite its large cast of characters, ThunderCats featured a rather small circle of voice actors, with only six actors providing voices for the entire first season. Every actor provided multiple voices, although the distinctive baritone of Earle Hyman (Panthro) left the actor providing only very occasional guest voices in comparison with his fellow performers. In particular, as the first season's only female actor, Lynne Lipton (Cheetara and WilyKit) provided voices for every single female character that appeared in the season. Above all others, however, actor Bob McFadden would most regularly provide the voices of guest characters, with his two diametrically-opposed main roles - the timid, high-pitched Snarf and the rumbling, sibilant Slithe.

Despite introducing a large number of new regular characters, the show's second season brought in only two new actors. Gerrianne Raphael provided the voice of Pumyra, and was able to provide Lynne Lipton with some relief by adding new female voices. While actor Doug Preis is regularly credited on the Internet as the voice of Lynx-O, it was Bob McFadden who provided that voice. Preis actually provided the voice of Lunatak Alluro.[citation needed]

Voice actor Regular characters
Earl Hammond Mumm-Ra, Jaga, Vultureman, Amok
Earle Hyman Panthro, Red-Eye
Larry Kenney Lion-O, Jackalman
Lynne Lipton Cheetara, WilyKit, Willa, Nayda, Luna, Mandora The Evil Chaser
Bob McFadden Snarf, Slithe, Lynx-O, Tug-Mug, Snarfer,
Peter Newman Tygra, WilyKat, Ben-Gali, Monkian
Doug Preis Alluro
Gerrianne Raphael Pumyra, Chilla, Jagara

Action figures and other merchandise

LJN produced the ThunderCats action figures from 1985–1987.[6] The ThunderCats line was based on the animated series which was actually created in 1982. Due to difficulties, it wouldn't air until 1985. (The toyline actually lasted longer than the television series itself) Each figure had an action feature of some sort, and the line also included a unique "laser" light-up feature that interacted between the Cats Lair playset, some figures, and some accessories. Lion-O's head and Mumm-Ra's eyes would illuminate when a special key ring that came with the figure was pressed into a slot in their backs. PVC companions were packaged with some figures in 1986, including WilyKat with Tygra, WilyKit with Cheetara, Snarf with Lion-O, and Ma-Mutt with Mumm-Ra. The PVC companion figures were also produced as full size articulated figures.

LJN did produce a few variant figures including the young Tygra version and the silver rat-eye daggers for Rataro. There are also a few slight color variations of Lion-O, such as red and orange-haired versions. The third series of figures from 1987 are harder to find along with the Tongue-A-Saurus and Astral Moat Monster. Driller and Stinger are the toughest figures to track down; Stinger's wings are very fragile, making it next to impossible to find a loose, complete figure.

An unproduced final series of figures would have included The Mad Bubbler, Red-Eye of the Lunataks, Ratilla, Cannon-Blaster, and Quick-Jaws from the Bezerkers as well as the Feliner, Thunderstrike, and Luna Tacker. The Mad Bubbler is rumored to have been produced, but this has yet to be proven. Photos of these were featured in the 1987 LJN catalog.

In 1987, Elite Systems released the game ThunderCats:The Lost Eye of Thundera, for Commodore64/128 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum personal computer systems. Many years later, Cartoon Network's official website featured a game that allowed visitors to play as Lion-O and rescue fellow ThunderCats while venturing into Mumm-Ra's tomb.

Other ThunderCats merchandise of the 1980s included, among other items, a board game, TV tray, tin lunchbox, and apparel. A retro spurt occurred in the 2000s that began with the familiar Thundercats emblem on t-shirts and has since grown to include new t-shirt designs and various other Thundercats themed apparel such as hats and belt buckles.

In May 2009, Warner Brothers gave Hard Hero, a company specializing in highly detailed fantasy statues, the rights to produce a line of collectible statues based on the ThunderCats characters. In August 2009, the first statue based on the Lion-O character became available for pre-order.[7] The company has reported that the next character to be produced in statue form will be Cheetara[8]

Comic books

In 1985, a ThunderCats series was published by Marvel Comics through its Star imprint. It ended with issue #24 in 1988. The following year, a new series was published by Marvel UK. The series consisted of 129 issues and was published for three years.

In 2002, DC Comics, owned by Warner Bros. (who acquired the rights for the franchise due to its 1989 purchase of Lorimar-Telepictures), published a ThunderCats sourcebook through its Wildstorm imprint. In 2003, a wave of mini-series and one-shots were published.[9]

The original mini-series, Reclaiming Thundera (written by Ford Gilmore with various artists contributing), published in 2003, formed a series of loosely connected "episodes" that saw Lion-O continue his struggle against Mumm-Ra and The Mutants, a major plot point was the slow corruption of WilyKat by Mumm-Ra, which would play a major role in later storylines. After another fateful battle with Grune, Lion-O entered the Book of Omens to begin his training and claim his rightful place as Lord of the ThunderCats, but Mumm-Ra uses a powerful spell to keep Lion-O trapped in the book for several years in real time, not "Book" time, and seizes control of Thundera afterwards.

In the follow-up mini-series The Return (written by Gilmore, and illustrated by Benes, Pimental, and Lea), Lion-O returned to Thundera to find it enslaved to Mumm-Ra. Several of the ThunderCats are scattered, held prisoner, or enslaved to his enemies. This storyline was distinctly more mature than many episodes of the series, with much harsher language such as "Bastard" used by Mumm-Ra. Cheetara is depicted as holding a grudge against Lion-O for "abandoning" his friends for such a long time, and WilyKat's corruption in the earlier mini-series takes greater form. Realizing he has betrayed his friends, the older Cub flees when the mini-series concludes, Lion-O and the ThunderCats emerge triumphant over Mumm-Ra once again.

By the third mini-series, The Dogs of War, (written by John Lyman, illustrated by Brett Booth, Joe Prado, Al Vey and Eric Nguyen) many years have passed and Thundera has prospered. Lion-O is now an aged and experienced commander of his countrymen. An invasion of Dogstar forces ultimately lead Lion-O to ally with Mumm-Ra himself (when Ma-Mutt even turns against him). Along the way, WilyKit finds true love and WilyKat redeems himself. The storyline concludes with Mumm-Ra offering Lion-O an elixir of youth so that they may continue their struggle against one another.

The remaining mini-series were all set during the events of the animated series. These were "Hammerhand's Revenge" (written by Fiona Avery, illustrayed by D'Anda, and Enemy's Pride, (written by Layman and illustrated by Virens, Hellig and Campus), which was published in 2004.

Several one-shots were also published. These one-shots consisted of two crossovers with Battle of the Planets, one crossover with Superman[10] and two "Origins" issues that established more of the back-stories. These were published in 2003 and 2004.

Reception

In January 2009, IGN named Thundercats as the 49th best show in the Top 100 Best Animated TV Shows.[11]

Movies

In 1986, ThunderCats - HO The Movie was released on VHS in the UK and North America. It was later edited into the five episodes which ultimately led to season 2 (even though Season 2 never aired in the UK).

In 2008 and 2009, Warner Bros. was in the process of creating a CGI animated film based on ThunderCats. It was rumoured to be an original story expanding on the events of the first episode. Concept artwork was released in July 2009 of the main character Lion-O and three locations. A two minute test scene was filmed and presented to Warner Brothers, however the movie has been shelved perhaps due to the critical and commercial failure of the movie Speed Racer, another Warner Brothers CGI project.[2]

International broadcasters

DVD releases

Warner Home Video have released the entire ThunderCats series in a number of volumes in the following order:

DVD Name Ep # Region 1 release date Region 2 release date Additional Information
Season 1, Volume 1 33 August 9, 2005[12] January 15, 2007
  • "Feel the Magic, Hear the Roar: ThunderCats Fans Speak Out": an interview featurette in which Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: The Next Generation) and other loyal fans give their memories and support to this animation classic
Season 1, Volume 2 32 December 6, 2005[13] August 13, 2007
  • ThunderCats Ho! The Making of a Pop Culture Phenomenon: Executive Producer Arthur Rankin Jr. Shares Secrets from the Show
Season 2, Volume 1 34 April 18, 2006[14] April 14, 2008
Season 2, Volume 2 31 November 28, 2006[15] June 2, 2008 [16]
  • Features ThunderCats Ultimate Adventure Challenge on Disc 12

In popular culture

  • In the beginning of volume 1, 'Tinsel City' of the anime series Bubblegum Crisis, as the various scenes of city life are shown, quick eyed viewers can see Panthro as he appears on a changing video display billboard in a busy downtown area.
  • Snarf and Cheetara appear in the three-part South Park episode "Imaginationland."
  • ThunderCats action figures have appeared in the Robot Chicken episodes "Toys in the Hood," "Toy Meets Girl," and "Federated Resources."[17]
  • The band Relient K makes reference to the series in their song "I'm Lion-O".
  • In the English anime series of Ghost Stories the kids shouted "Thundercats, HO!".
  • The British Indie band 'Mumm-Ra' are named for the evil villain in ThunderCats of the same name.
  • In the Full House episode Tanner vs. Gibbler, Michelle accidentally switches to a channel showing the cartoon.
  • In Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (Family Guy), Lion-O uses the eye of Thundera to spy on Cheetara whilst using "the john", only to be caught by Snarf.
  • In the Movie Juno, the character of Juno yells "ThunderCats are go" when she goes into labor.
  • In episode 3.11 of Psych, "Lassie Did A Bad, Bad Thing", when asked about their process, Sean responds "Well it starts with a "Holla!" and ends with a creamsicle," followed by Gus's "And if there's time in between, ThunderCats, ho-oh!"

References

  1. ^ "Warner purrs for ThunderCats". Variety. June 5, 2007. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117966320.html?categoryid=13&cs=1. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  2. ^ a b http://www.thundercatslair.org (8.02.2009 post)
  3. ^ "Concept Art For Warner Bros.' Thundercats". "Movieline". http://www.movieline.com/2009/07/movieilne-presents-the-never-before-seen-concept-art-for-warner-bros-thundercats.php. 
  4. ^ http://www.thundercatslair.org (8.07.2009 post).
  5. ^ "Thundercats Season One Volume Two". IGN. 2008-05-13. http://uk.dvd.ign.com/articles/675/675634p1.html. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  6. ^ "Battle of the Fun Factories". Time. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,960379-2,00.html. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  7. ^ http://www.thundercatslair.org (8.07.2009 post)
  8. ^ http://www.thundercatslair.org (8.11.2009 post)
  9. ^ "Thundercats' come to comics in August". Comic Book Resources. 2008-05-13. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=1120. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  10. ^ "ThunderCats/Superman". mania.com. http://www.mania.com/supermanthundercats_article_40258.html. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  11. ^ "49, ThunderCats". IGN. 2009-01-23. http://tv.ign.com/top-100-animated-tv-series/49.html. Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  12. ^ "Thundercats - Season 1, Volume 1". TVShowsOnDVD.com. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/releases/Thundercats-Season-1-Volume-1/4790. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  13. ^ "Thundercats - Season 1, Volume 2". TVShowsOnDVD.com. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/releases/Thundercats-Season-1-Volume-2/5145. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  14. ^ "Thundercats - Season 2, Volume 1". TVShowsOnDVD.com. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/releases/Thundercats-Season-2-Volume-1/5530. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  15. ^ "Thundercats - Season 2, Volume 2". TVShowsOnDVD.com. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/releases/Thundercats-Season-2-Volume-2/6088. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  16. ^ "ThunderCats Season Two Part Two Release Date". HMV. May 5, 2008. http://hmv.com/hmvweb/displayProductDetails.do?ctx=280;-1;-1;-1&sku=801038. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  17. ^ "adult swim: Robot Chicken - King of the jungle?". YouTube. 2008-09-04. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TP6NxbopUkc. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 

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