Review: Thundercats series premiere

Posted: August 1, 2011 by Tony Polanco in REVIEWS

If you’re like me then back in the glory days known as the 1980s you probably used to watch the Thundercats cartoon. The adventures of Lion-O and friends used to thrill us each and every day after school. Around the mid 90s the Cartoon network began to air the original series and I remember being so excited to see one of my favorite cartoons back on the air. It was too bad that the excitement wore off about 5 minutes after the intro. Thundercats was shockingly a pretty terrible show. The premise was flimsy at best and worst of all the acting, even by 80s cartoon standards was downright atrocious. I still had a soft spot for the Thundercats don’t get me wrong but the magic that the show used to have was all but gone for me.

Thank the gods of Thundera for this reboot that is now showing on the aforementioned Cartoon network. The Thundercats have returned in grand style and I think that both new and old fans will be thrilled. Needless to say I am a very pleased with this revision and as I type this I’m still in awe of just how good the show is.

The series premiered with two back-to-back episodes “The sword of Omens” and “Ancient spirits of evil”. Those titles alone should be enough to get any fan of Thundercats giddy with delight but there’s so much more to like here than simple nostalgia. For starters even though they are still on a planet called Third-Earth, this Third-Earth seems to be a moon of a gas giant. The enormous planet can be seen in the sky during the day and night and pretty much takes up most of the heavens. On this Third-Earth the ancient Thundercats conquered all of the other races and by creating a Cat Empire brought order and peace to the planet. Order and peace for Cat kind that is. One of the themes of these early episodes is racism and class warfare. Something the old show wouldn’t even dare attempt. The Cat race look at themselves as the superior race and all other races as inferior. Seeing Cat mobs throwing things at Dogs and Lizards and degrading them because of their race was pretty jarring. This (along with a few other things I’ll get to later) really nailed the point that this show is not for little kids. I think the producers of this new Thundercats knew that the original fans were old now and decided to make a more mature show.

Like I said the old cast of characters is mostly back and their new interpretations are fresh and interesting. Lion-O, Cheetara and Tigra (who is now Lion-O’s step brother and rival) are younger than they used to be and are all roughly the same age. Lion-O is the prince of Thundera and is set to inherit the throne and sword of Omens one day from his father the King who is played by the actor who originally played Lion-O in the 80s. I really liked how this younger Lion-O is less confident in himself. He’s not emo or anything but he isn’t as sure of himself as his 80s counterpart was. This will make his jouney in becoming a hero more enjoyable I think. Tigra is a bit of a d*ck but he’s still pretty fun even if he is giving Lion-O crap every five minutes and always trying to upstage him. Cheetara is now both hotter and more badass than she used to be. When you see her run at blinding speeds taking out foes left and right you will fall in love with her all over again. There also seems to be an interesting love triangle between Lion-O, Cheetara and Tigra going on. I like how these Thundercats actually argue and get into heated battles with one another. These are the kinds of things we as adults want to see.

WilyKat and Wilykit are also present and they are now street urchins who have to steal money just to survive. It seems that even the mighty Thunderan Empire still have poor Cats living in it. Despite their miserable existance WilyKit and WilyKat seem content with their lot in life. During these first episodes they were off doing their own thing and didn’t come into contact with the rest of the cast but they’ll no doubt join them eventually. Everyone’s favorite cat/reptile creature Snarf is still Lion-O’s pet but thankfully he doesn’t speak. He is mainly there to be really cute and to provide some comic relief. Some people may miss Snarf’s babble but I’m glad that he’s just there to be adorable and isn’t annoying.

By now you may be asking where Panthro is. Well…he doesn’t really show up in these episodes. He is mentioned and does appear in a way but the real deal Panthro was no where to be seen but just like with WilyKit and Kat meeting Lion-O I’m sure that we will eventually see Panthro kicking butt with his nunchaku in one of the upcoming episodes.

During these two episodes a lot transpired but I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum. During his right of passage ritual, Lion-O has a vision of a very familiar ancient evil. Lion-O tells his father and Jaga that he saw nothing but it would have been best if he had said something because soon all hell breaks loose and by the end the Thunderan Empire has fallen due to an act of betrayal and Lion-O (with sword of Omens), Cheetara and Tigra must venture out past the walls of their former home in search of the book of Omens which they hope will aid them in restoring their home and defeating Mumm-Ra. Mumm-Ra looks almost exactly as he used to and that’s fine since his design was already pretty damn cool. We didn’t get to see him turn into “The ever-living” but his decayed form was pretty formidable as it was.

I can’t believe that I almost forgot to mention the other important thing about this show…the art style and animation. It’s easy to get caught up in the epic-ness of this show but it wouldn’t be nearly as great without the amazing eye candy on display. Famed anime animation house Studio 4C are in charge of the designs and animations and the results are incredible. I remember wishing that the Thundercats cartoons of old would look as good as the (still) awesome intro. That wish has been exceeded by the animation of the new Thundercats. It’s full on anime goodness from beginning to end and totally blows away even the old intro. The animation, along with the slick looking character designs and backgrounds make this show one of the best looking cartoons on American television.

So yeah, you can say that I REALLY liked this new version of the Thundercats. The series seems to have an almost Lord of the Rings-esque mythology and scale now and I believe that more of this Third-Earth’s past will be revealed as the episodes and (hopefully) seasons play out. The show also benefits from not catering to young children. You will hear the words “kill” and “death” many times over. The cast is fantastic and really make this show feel authentic. The only actor who wasn’t up to snuff was unfortunately the original Lion-O. Somebody forgot to tell him to put less ham into his performance. But…we won’t need to worry about him anymore. So overall Thundercats 2011 is a fantastic cartoon. Set your tivos and dvrs to record this show because if these two premiere episodes are anything to go by then we are in for a treat every week.

Thundercats! HO!!!

Liked

  • New mythology is interesting and intriguing
  • Animation and art style are phenomenal
  • Cast is incredibly talented and are perfect for their roles

Diskliked

  • Original Lion-O actor wasn’t nearly as good as the other actors
  • No Panthro action
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