Based on the 1980’s cartoon series of the same name, the rebooted version of ThunderCats is a cartoon series that I’ll gladly hold up as the standard that any future reboots should hold up to. There are plenty of the core elements that made up the original series but there are far more that make it a distinctive entity, comparable to the likes of Disney’s Frozen to the original “Snow Queen” story. There are plenty of aspects in both versions that can be adored for what they are with the only true argument being that the original is better simply for the fact that it came first.
Still, despite it being a reboot series, I will not focus on the differences between the two simply for the fact that while I watched several episodes of the first series… I can’t say to liking them all that much for one simply and eloquently named reason.
For those who’ve seen the original series, you know exactly whereof I speak. For those who haven’t but have seen the rebooted series version of being a cute, overly fluffy lizard-cat-thing, please consider yourselves the fortunate ones and spares your ears the indignity.
Contrary to most cartoons I’ve seen, ThunderCats does not have an opening intro. Rather, it started with a small musical segment based on the original theme with the series’ title followed shortly by the name of the episode. Short, sweet, and to the point by given how much work and effort went into the series itself, it’s kind of surprising that they didn’t attempt a rehash of the original intro which is still quite popular to this day.
Taking place on a world simply named as Third Earth for reasons yet unknown to us and likely would have been explored further if the show hadn’t been cancelled by a bunch of—!
Sorry. Sorry, still a bit sore about that even after a few years… Anyway, on the world of Third Earth there was a great and powerful kingdom of Thundera wherein the dominant animal-humanoid species of Cats reigned and lived the high life above the other animal and alien species of the world. In point of fact, there was something akin to racism in most of the Cats, particularly towards the nearby Lizards and Dogs, the former of whom were starving and constantly raiding the kingdom for food and the latter simply trying to get by.
The young prince of the kingdom, Lion-O, feels differently than most, including his own father King Claudus and adopted older brother Tygra, towards other Animals and even towards the banned use and creation of advanced technology. Unfortunately for the kingdom of Thundera, the Lizards have found themselves an ally in the form of the ambitious and power-hungry Cat general Grune and a lord/master in the form of Mumm-Ra, the ancient evil whom all of the Animals had once been enslaved to and had rebelled against several lifetimes ago.
Though Lion-O manages to successfully claim stewardship over the Sword of Omens, the very Sword that his ancestor had used to defeat Mumm-Ra long ago, it is not enough. Thundera is left in ruins, most of its people either enslaved or scattered to the winds, and its now orphaned heirs left with a ragtag group to try and find the means of stopping Mumm-Ra once and for all.
That was the opening two-part episode “Omens” in a nutshell ladies and gentlemen and boy did it start out with a bang.
As the series progressed, we see more and more Animal and quite a few alien species that live on Third Earth and how they have lived their lives since Mumm-Ra’s fall. The Elephants, once the literal tanks of Mumm-Ra’s army, have become spiritualists whose memory leaves much to be desired. The loyal Dogs, fleet of foot and sharp of fang, have become enforcers of a strict justice system wherein the criminals must survive 100 battles in the arena known as the Pit in order to attain their freedom. The Birds, Mumm-Ra’s eyes in the skies and spies, have become the most technologically advanced race on the planet and even more arrogant than the Cats used to be, viewing any other species as primitive brutes.
That’s just to name a few a too as we see all kinds of other animals ranging from a master blacksmith/swordsman rabbit, a thieving Raccoon, a murderous Ape, and even Fish that sail a sea of ever moving sand.
What I found particularly interesting in every Animal race though, particularly amongst the Cats and Birds, is the form of hierarchy based on the exact species of animal that they are. In the case of the Birds, ravens and crows make up the majority of their armed forces being one of the most intelligent amongst the Birds and easily the most cunning in terms military tactics.
In the case of the Cats, they outright state that only a lion may be their king and that Tygra, despite being adopted by the royal family and Lion-O’s elder sibling, can never have the crown for himself. In point of fact, there was a sort of animosity between the lions and the tigers due to the fact that the latter had no desire to rebel against Mumm-Ra and were in fact still loyal to him and his true masters, the Ancient Spirits of Evil.
As to my own personal favorite episode in the series, it has to be the 23rd episode “Recipe for Disaster.” It is an episode that, for the most part, is what I would call a blurb episode. One that while there a few minor moments that pertain to the characters overall in the series, it is not one that absolutely has to be seen in order to understand the overall plot of events. Still, despite this, this episode features one of the most over-the-top villainous plan I have ever seen a villain do, bar those of extreme eccentricity like Doctor Drakken or that weirdo from Phineas & Ferb.
Mumm-Ra, for reasons I cannot even begin to fathom, he uses the ashes of a demon known as Sycorax and asks the Ancient Spirits of Evil to resurrect it and imbue it with his own soul. Essentially, he turns himself into a freaking Godzilla-like demonic dinosaur that chases after the ThunderCats for most of the episode. Thankfully, Mumm-Ra’s new form comes with a weakness to a certain “miracle elixir” that the ThunderCats had recently gained from a traveling sales-mouse. Unfortunately, the paralysis only works for a short time and the sales-mouse supply is in desperate need of a refill.
Overall, I loved this episode primarily for the fact that it’s a straight up nod to the giant monster film genre but for two other very important reasons as well. During the first fight against Sycorax/Mumm-Ra, there is a segment wherein Lion-O dodges and attacks that is nearly frame-for-frame a direct replica to a similar action sequence found in the original intro and man is it a sight to see for all of the few seconds it goes by. The second reason… is that yet again Tygra gets exactly what he deserves in so many ways.
Y’see, Tygra, contrary to his first incarnation, is something of a jerk and a colossal one especially towards Lion-O and his decisions. The fact that he, rather stupidly might I add, ends up becoming a couple with Cheetara, whom showed very little interest in him for most of the series save for the episode that “explains everything,” was quite a sore point for me. That is until I realized that there was something of a running gag with Tygra, namely that in a lot of major moments or battles, he tends to get his butt handed to him and is often the first one taken out of the fight.
In this particular episode, he gets some comeuppance twice. The first time, when he had the brilliant idea of lashing his whip on Mumm-Ra’s arm, which resulted in the demonic dragon tossing Tygra about like a ragdoll. The second time is when he ends up ingesting a pseudo-love potion that Lion-O had hoped to give to Pumrya to get her to notice him, as he’s got quite the case of kitty-love at this point. The “pseudo” part comes into play by making Tygra act like a drugged-out hippy rather than a lovesick fool.
I laughed so hard I cried.
This series had a great thing going for it and it was with great regret that we saw it end on one of the biggest cliffhangers I’ve yet to see in a season finale, never mind a series. Though the rest of the show was told to us by those involved, I’d much rather see it come back to finish the tale it had started and I sincerely hope that it might someday soon. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that a series would continue after a few years hiatus now would it?