Original Run: July 29, 2011 – June 16, 2012
Genre(s): Animation, Fantasy, Action
Cast: Will Friedle, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Kevin Michael Richardson, Robin Atkin Downes, Clancy Brown
Developed by: Michael Jelenic, Ethan Spaulding
Distributed by: Cartoon Network
Number of Episodes: 26
You remember ThunderCats, right? That cartoon from the 1980′s that everyone is so nostalgic about(admittedly, including myself), wearing t-shirts and wristbands from Hot Topic, even though the only cool thing about it was the opening credits? Watch it again, the animation in the opening is great, but the actual series animation is wooden as fuck. The writing was bland, the character designs belonged in some weird fetish stage show, and Snarf—for fuck’s sake, what an annoying bastard. Anyway, kiss your nostalgia goodbye and say hello to the new ThunderCats. This is how you make a show about cat people badass.
First off, I want to say getting Studio 4°C to do the animation was the best possible idea; the concept of ThunderCats screams “fast-paced anime” and who better to animate it? As I pointed out earlier, the animation of the original series was an extremely low point for me. This reboot, however, never misses the mark when it comes to dazzling visuals. The writing this time around has significantly improved as well. In the original series, the ThunderCats crash landed on Third Earth from the planet Thundera, yet somehow could communicate with all native species of their new home. Lion-O was their young prince, who grew up via suspended animation in some weird hyperbolic capsule thing, and all the ‘Cats were naked in the beginning; it was weird. In the reboot, Thundera is the ThunderCats’ capital city on Third Earth and Lion-O starts out as a young—though very naive—adult to begin with and everyone remains clothed. Already, this new version is far less ridiculous and better conceived.
The actual plot begins when Thundera comes under siege by Mumm-Ra’s army, led by the traitorous former ThunderCat general, Grune. The city is destroyed and all the citizens are either killed or enslaved, save for our band of intrepid heroes. Lion-O, now the king of the ThunderCats, sets out to search for the fabled Book of Omens to find guidance in his quest to save his people and rebuild Thundera. Meanwhile, Mumm-Ra seeks the Eye of Thundera(the red gem on Lion-O’s Sword of Omens) and three other powerstones in order to power his very own galaxy-dominating Sword of Plun-Darr, forged from a collapsed star. Read that last sentence again, there’s a lot of awesome in it. The series is just generally more epic in scope and I found myself emotionally invested in the characters this time around, actually excited to see where their quest would take them every week. I’m not saying that Lion-O’s self reflection and lessons in virtue don’t become redundant, but the series does find it’s footing fairly early on and manages to keep a good pace afterwards.
The cast of ThunderCats do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life and are made up of some of the best voice actors in the business, including Will Friedle as Lion-O, Emmanuelle Chriqui as Cheetara, Matthew Mercer as Tygra, Kevin Michael Richardson as Panthro, Robin Atkin Downes as Mumm-Ra, Clancy Brown as Grune, Dee Bradley Baker as Slithe, and Corey Burton as Jaga. Hell, they even brought back the original Lion-O, Larry Kenney, to voice the new Lion-O’s father King Claudus; how’s that for a bit of original series fan service? The actors really sell the heart and emotion of the characters, and—combined with the sometimes jaw-dropping animation—make the story truly engaging for audiences. And Snarf, a character despised by many in the original series, is actually a cute, little comedic rascal here; I actually found myself wishing a plush version of this Snarf would be made. On the other side of the spectrum, Mumm-Ra’s evil dog Ma-Mutt has not yet been introduced into this series. Let’s hope it stays that way; that dog is like herpes on the original series’ genitals—he’s just always going to stick with it, no matter how much Valtrex it takes.
The end of the season was an explosion of action and emotion, and sadly the show may not be picked up for a second installment, as it’s not listed on Cartoon Network’s upcoming slate. 2002′s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, another awesome reboot of a hot 1980′s property, suffered a similar fate—barely reaching two seasons. I don’t know what has happened to our world, where a fairly crappy series like the original ThunderCats can run for 130 episodes, yet this awesome re-envisioning may not make it past 26. I really enjoyed this season(or series, if this is truly the end) despite it’s very few faults, and I could see this going on successfully for a least two more seasons. If you’re a fan of the original series or cool action-oriented anime-style cartoons, you would love this reboot. I only hope that you get the chance to experience it. If you’re at all inclined to try and help save the show, you can head over to the Save ThunderCats! petition that a few diehard ladies have organized. I’ve already signed it, so here’s to hoping we can continue to follow Lion-O on his race against Mumm-Ra to find the other powerstones.