Slick’s Nit-Picks: ThunderCats (2011 TV Show Premiere)
The Sword of Omens is back and thus far it is shining beautifully! The original ThunderCats was a spectacular show featuring a blend of sci-fi, fantasy and some down home good versus evil. At the same time, it tried to teach kids moral values through the upbringing of Lion-O, the young Lord of the ThunderCats. Unfortunately, the show took a bit of a Captain Planet turn in its final days and focused more on “going green” than fighting evil. Even the bad guys were reduced to being eco-terrorists. The one-hour premiere promises a lot less tree-hugging and a lot more action as the series employs a much darker take on the heroes. It looks like Cartoon Network is gearing up for another great fall lineup and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
Not the original ThunderCats–but that’s not necessarily a bad thing
Our story begins on Third Earth in the kingdom of Thundera, a land where technology is taboo and is only spoken of in children's stories. Claudus is king and has two sons: Lion-O, who will one day be king and Tygra, his adopted brother. On the day that Lion-O is to begin his training to ascend the throne, he is scolded for goofing off outside of the castle grounds. Lion-O has a fascination with technology, one of many issues the two brothers disagree on. Claudus presents Lion-O with the Eye of Thundera, buried within the hilt of the mystical Sword of Omens. When the boy looks into the sword, he sees the face of evil, Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living. He assumes that no one will believe him so he makes up a story. His vision quickly becomes reality as Mumm-Ra commands Slythe and his army of lizards, who easily enter the walls of Thundera with aid from Grune. Formerly the greatest general of the Thunderian army, Grune sides with the enemy and uses a Trojan Horse tactic to give the lizards the advantage. The battle ends in tragedy, leaving the people of Thundera without a leader. The Eye also falls into the hands of Mumm-Ra, who claims to be its rightful owner. Thanks to Lion-O, Tygra, Snarf and Cheetara manage to escape along with him and the sword. Jaga gives his life so that their escape is ensured and Thundera may have a future. The show will focus on their quest to find the Book of Omens and free their people.
A lot has changed in this new show even though many of the core concepts remain the same. The creators are keeping a lot of secrets regarding these new ThunderCats and all we can do is speculate for now. One of the first things I noticed is that no one has a ThunderCat insignia yet they all have the red jewel pieces that usually bear the symbol. In the original show, this was an indication that you were not an actual ThunderCat and that title had to be bestowed upon you by someone that wielded the Sword of Omens. I am kind of hoping that the lack of the symbol has some sort of plot driver in the series.There is also much buzz about the difference in the appearance and relationship of Lion-O and Tygra. Lion-O in the original show was huge; the only other Thundercat to rival his strength was Panthro. The thing that was kind of silly about that is that Lion-O was a boy when the show started, roughly the same age as WilyKit and Kat. He grew up in a sleep pod over the years it took to travel to Third Earth. We always wondered where his muscles came from, but it was just accepted. The new show has an adolescent Lion-O. He is muscular, but even Tygra is physically stronger than him. He can fight, with and without the sword, but he is lacking in discipline in either style. Tygra was originally the oldest of the ThunderCats before Lynxo came along and it showed with his gray hair. Now he is just a few years older than Lion-O and instead of being his mentor, he is brother and adversary at times to the young lord. He loves his brother, but he has no problem reminding him that he is “better” than him. This brings us to Cheetrara. In the original show, she was beautiful, but clearly older than Lion-O and it was always implied that something was going on between her and Tygra. Now we have a younger and slightly more playful she-cat. She has shown some interest in Lion-O which may or may not have been part of her duties as a cleric under Jaga. Tygra has shown interest in her, so I am pretty sure a love triangle is going to develop as one of the plot elements. Panthro has not truly appeared in the show as yet so I cannot make any distinctions between old and new as yet. Wily-Kit and Wily-Kat are still brother and sister, still the youngest of the bunch and still good at getting themselves out of trouble but better at getting themselves into it. Mumm-Ra is more evil than ever. He has always plotted to basically kill the ThunderCats, but he has never actually done it until now, when he stabbed Claudus in the back under the guise of Panthro. One interesting thing that I hope they address in the new series are Mumm-Ra's weaknesses. He was horrified by his own reflection and had a limited amount of power he could use before having to return to his pyramid. In the new show he is weakened by sunlight, which seems silly to me. What I am hoping for is that he is smart enough to find a way around his weakness like he did before. Claudus gave us a hint that these might be descendants of the ThunderCats in the original show because he said they once defeated Mumm-Ra. Also the fact that Thundera is a kingdom on Earth instead of a planet that exploded leads us to believe that the show may be a future of the ThunderCats of the original series. And the concept that Thunderians do not use technology is pretty much insane. No Thundertank? No Feliner? No hover boards? The changes make for a lot of new twists and turns in the development of Lion-O and now we see that he is not the only ThunderCat that needs to grow up.
The art direction is somewhat less dramatic than in the Rankin-Bass original and that is to be expected because Rankin-Bass had a look all its own that has never been duplicated. Still, all of the faces are instantly recognizable to fans of the original TV show. The show also seems to have fewer musical cues, which is disappointing. The classic flute you hear every time Lion-O gets ready to call for help is absent but the sound effects of the sword are still there. As with any Warner Bros. cartoon, the voice acting is top notch thanks to the legendary direction of Andrea Romano. Batman Beyond fans will recognize Will Friedle voicing Lion-O and Clancy Brown voicing Grune the Destroyer is a game changer, especially since Grune is now a living threat instead of an astral enemy. Larry Kenney (original voice of Lion-O) coming back for the premiere as Claudus was a really nice touch for the fans. The blending of CG with the standard animation was seamless and I hope that quality carries on throughout the series. Many shows have had fantastic art and animation for the premiere and phoned in the rest of the series. All I am really saying is “CGI THUNDERTANK.” Make it happen people.
This is definitely the new show to watch. When and if Young Justice ever returns,the two shows will make for a fantastic Friday Night of Warner Bros. animation. I am looking forward to finally seeing the ThunderCat symbol in the sky as well as Panthro and the Thunderkittens joining the team. Considering that Lynxo made an appearance, maybe we will see Pumyra and Bengali as well. The rogues gallery for the ThunderCats is very colorful and there are tons of enemies that can be worked into this new storyline. I am sure there will also be brand new enemies for us to get used to. I hope that we see returning allies as well, even though the series writers have already said there will be no Berbils. The first two episodes have raised a lot of questions and we shall just have to watch weekly for the answers. Tune in to ThunderCats every Friday @ 8:30PM on Cartoon Network. Also check out MTR every Saturday morning (roughly) for the review.