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ThunderCats: Remembering Saturday Morning Cartoons

Thunder, THUNDER, THUNDERCATS Hoooooooo!

Created by Tobin Wolf, the original ThunderCats cartoon ran from 1985 to 1989, gifting us with 65 episodes and even a movie, ThunderCats – Ho!

What’s the story of ThunderCats?

The Story begins with the ThunderCats fleeing their dying planet, Thundera, while being besieged by a mutant alien race called the Plun-dar.  But their ship is badly damaged and they cannot make it to the original destination. They have to settle for something closer: a planet called Third Earth.

Still, the journey will not be a quick one and requires the main characters to go into a sort of stasis while the trusted friend Jaga gives his life to make sure the ship arrives at its destination.

On arrival, Lion-O, the prince of the ThunderCats, awakens to find that his stasis pod has slowed but not stopped his aging. Leading to the issue of his being a child trapped in a teenager’s body while having missed on all the life experiences.

Alas, our heroes did not make the trip by themselves. They were followed by a ship of the Plun-dar fleet which also lands on Third Earth. Their arrival awakened the planet’s own evil being named Mumm-ra and he enlists their help to recover the Eye of Thundara, the magical sword that resides in the possession of Lion-O.

Unlike some shows each season of the ThunderCats had a progressive plot which unfolded with every episode and thoroughly developed the story of the ThunderCats.

Meet The ThunderCats

  • Lion-O – The prince of the ThunderCats. Although cunning and skillful, he must learn throughout the series what it takes to become a true leader and gain true maturity.
  • Panthro – A warrior in all forms of martial arts fighting, Panthro also has a brilliant mind that he used as the chief engineer and pilot for the ThunderCats.
  • Cheetara – Often a voice of reason, she had a precognitive sense that detected when something was unsafe or if evil was near.
  • Tygra – Based on the tiger, Tygra was the chief architect and scientist.
  • Snarf – Snarf served as a nursemaid and protector for Lion-O when he was a boy.
  • Pumyra – The compassionate healer and medic.
  • Lynx-O – Though blind, he was still a formidable fighter as his other senses were heightened.

The iconic villain Mumm-ra, with his ability to transform from a frail old creature to a super powered entity, was voiced by Earl Hammond. He had powers of sorcery and an apparently unlimited lifespan.

Why do we love the ThunderCats?

One of the main reasons to have nostalgia for this 1980s cartoon is the originality in the core concept. Cat-human hybrids have been around for a long period of time, yet this cartoon presents space travel, mythology, and magic into a single setting.

The character development is rich and interesting, especially with Lion-O’s difficulty of being a child in an adult body. This feeds into a brilliantly written set of story arcs which resonate. The concept of having a flowing story also stood out from the one and done episodes of the standard Saturday morning cartoon.

The animation style originally done by Topcraft in season one and then taken over by Pacific animation corporation for season 2-4, had a wealth of detail and beauty. Combine this with the intense and gripping music written by Bernard Hoffer and ThunderCats roars onto the TV screen. This got every watcher as excited for the opening as they were for the rest of the episode.

If you wanted to kick off your Saturday mornings with a burst of energy, incredible storylines, and the insane inspiration to run around your house swinging a stick while screaming “ThunderCats Ho!” this animation not only had you enthralled but inspired.

Where are the ThunderCats now?

Apart from the wealth of comic books and collectibles that went along with the original ThunderCats series, Cartoon Network tried to restart this 80s classic with a bumped-up animation style and an hour long opening episode. Alas, it didn’t have the same connection that the first series did and production was halted on the initially planned 52 episodes after just the first season.

This however has not dissuaded networks from trying to reignite the greatness of the ThunderCats. In 2019 we should be seeing the newly styled animation of ThunderCats Roar. This takes a completely new direction with the animation style in an effort to attract a younger audience. Whether it will have the same reception as the ThunderCats reinvention in 2013 or will succeed like the first series it is yet to be seen.

But if I had the Sword of Thundara I might ask for it to give me sight Beyond sight to see what lies ahead for the ThunderCats.

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