Saturday morning, we’ll remind you of the time when it was still cool
to wake up early on weekends. So whenever the hell you wake up these
days, there will be a nostalgic treat waiting for you, reminding you of
those old jammies you used to wear and that old television set. They
make even less sense now, but that’s half the fun. We hope you enjoy.

The Cartoon: ThunderCats
Animation Studio: Rankin/Bass
Original Run: 1985 – 1990

Episodes: 130
Seasons: 4

The Characters:

  • Lion-O
  • Tygra
  • Panthro
  • Cheetara
  • Jaga
  • WilyKit
  • WilyKat
  • Mumm-Ra
  • Snarf

The Setting:

Though it was never explicitly stated in the original show, ThunderCats takes place in our distant future, with the planet Third Earth supposedly being our own. The evil Mumm-Ra resides there, whose apparently an immortal ancient Egyptian sorcerer. The ThunderCats come to Third Earth in desperation, but eventually make it their own – even if they have to duke it out with Mumm-Ra and his band of mutants all the time. 

The Gist:

These are bad times for the ThunderCats: their homeworld, Thundera, is blowing up, and on top of that their fleet carrying the remaining survivors has been decimated by a surprise attack from the evil mutants of Plun-Darr! While the flagship remains intact, it’s damaged too badly to resume their original heading. They finally decide to change course towards a small galaxy, settling on the third planet dubbed ‘Third Earth’. Unbeknownst to them, however, the planet is also home to an ancient demon sorcerer, Mumm-Ra. While the ThunderCats reach Third Earth without much trouble (although the patriarch Jaga dies en-route), the vile mutants have also followed them to the planet and form an alliance with Mumm-Ra in the hope of eliminating the feline threat.

Over time more ThunderCat survivors would be discovered, as the show switched creative hands and different writers were brought on board, but the central conflict between the ThunderCats and Mumm-Ra would remain intact.

And speaking of Mumm-Ra, both he and his band of mutants would constantly be thwarted in their attempts at removing the ThunderCats from the planet, which raises the obvious question “why on (third) earth would the Ancient Spirits of Evil ally themselves with such a worthless sorcerer”? It’s probably because he was the only sorcerer around, but regardless Mumm-Ra had a lot going for him. For starters he was cool. Starting off in a simple red robe, decaying and frail as a mummy, he could simply call on the power of the spirits to transform him into a ripped, tall and strong warrior – thus guaranteeing himself a nice action figure in the process!  

The Short History:

While the show only lasted for 5 years, it has continued to live via syndication. It was a great show then and still remains one today. Yes, at the end of
most episodes there would be a moral or lesson learned, but reflecting
back on it now that’s not a bad thing at all. Even when the show was
dealing in dark materials (calling on ancient demonic forces for power
isn’t your typical Saturday morning cartoon staple), it still took time
to bring a positive message in the end. Sure, other 80’s cartoons did
the same, but most weren’t as “serious” as ThunderCats
(although this mostly holds true to the first season – subsequent
seasons would often delve into the land of goofiness), and it was almost
as if it was reminding itself that it was an animated show for kids.

The voice work employed by the show was also top-notch. As a kid I instantly recognized Dr. Huxtable’s fathers’ voice as Panthro, that would be because he was voiced by Earle Hyman, and over time I developed an appreciation for how well done the rest of the voices/cast were. It was taken somewhat seriously at a time when kids shows weren’t necessarily so, and it shows in how surprisingly well ThunderCats still manages to hold up. And not just the vocal talent, but also the writing and the great instrumental work of composer Bernard Hoffer… it took a lot of contributions like these to make it the memorable show it became.

The Merchandise:

Like every other hit show or cartoon at the time, ThunderCats was marketed out the wazoo. From the obvious action figures to comic books, lunch boxes and board games. Plus, there was the most-excellent ThunderCats: The Lost Eye of Thundera video game in 1987… which was kind of rotten, really.

You might have seen this commercial:

Forget ThunderCats commercials, how about the now infamous studio outtakes? These things have been around for years now, but they’re still a blast to listen to. In some twisted way it’s a great thing to hear Lion-O swear up a storm over a flubbed line, or hear Mumm-Ra talk about putting “what” “where”? FYI, these are NSFW

Tune in next Saturday morning for another installment.