The 1980s were a great decade for television series, and many of them are now considered timeless masterpieces in the eyes of cartoon fans. ‘Thundercats,’ for example, featured the lives of four Thundercats who relocated to a new planet when their old one was destroyed.
Despite being a “kid’s performance,” it was well-received by audiences of all ages and had a number of thrilling components that made it a really delightful experience. ‘Thundercats,’ created by Tobin Wolf in 1985, quickly became a cult favorite among cartoons of the period.
It had a lasting impression and was even resurrected in 2011. However, the show’s version from the 1980s is still considered to be the greatest. We’ll go over every element of the event in this video and teach you all there is to know about the Thundercats!
What was the show all about?
Thundercats was a cartoon show set in an alternate futuristic universe. The Thundercats were humanoids, who resembled various animals, and they resided on their home planet, ‘Thundera.’ However, their world soon crumbled as their home planet was destroyed in a powerful blast right in front of their eyes. With some guidance from the wise ‘Jaga,’ the Thundercats managed to escape Thundera and traveled to ‘Earth-Three,’ where they made a new life for themselves.
The show’s main protagonist, ‘Lion-o,’ was bestowed with the title of the New Lord of the Thundercats, and he was accompanied by Panthera, Cheetara, and Tygra to the Earth-Three. The Thundercats had futuristic technologies, as well as unique sets of skills and superpowers, which created an exciting universe within the show, making it a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
Thundercats created a whole universe of adventures, exciting story arcs, and characters that ranged from humanoids to mutants to friendly robots. Moreover, the creators of the show had introduced a merch line with toy figurines of the Thundercats, which were a massive hit with the fans. The toy figurines added a fun element to the show, as fans showed great enthusiasm to collect their favorite character’s toys. The show premiered in January 1985 in the U.S.A., and it had quite a long run of about 130 episodes. Let us explore the show in detail and glance at the first few episodes of the legendary Thundercats!
How it all started – taking you through the first few episodes and exploring the origins of major characters
Kicking off with a striking opening sequence, ‘Thundercats’ premiered in the year 1985 with the episode ‘Exodus.’ The Thundercats Nobles appear to be voyaging across the universe, as the wise ‘Jaga’ helps them commandeer the ship. Jaga notices a strange planet and asks Lion-o to leave his chambers and join him as they travel further. Lion-o appears on deck, and the two watch the unknown planet as it explodes right in front of their eyes.
Jaga then reveals that this was their home planet, ‘Thundera,’ and it has now been destroyed. He tells Lion-o that though Thundera is gone, the code of the ‘Lord of the Thundercats’ is going to live on in his heart. He further bestows Lion-o with the responsibility to rule according to the Thundercat’s code in their new world, wherever that may be. Jaga points to the other Thundercats: ‘Panthro,’ ‘Cheetara,’ ‘Tygra,’ who will help Lion- acquire all the skills that he needs. Lion-o is also entrusted with a mystic sword that contains the ‘Eye of Thundera.’ Though Lion-o cannot lift the sword yet, Jaga assures him that he will be able to unleash its magic one day.
While the Thundercats examine the sword, the spaceship’s alarms go off as they face a major breach in the system. It appears that their old enemies have followed them across the universe with the intent of stealing the ‘Sword of Omens.’ They end up cornering Lion-o and try to steal the sword from him. However, the sword finally reveals its magic as the ‘Eye of Thundera’ opens up, and Lion-o chases the intruders away by finally being able to wield the sword.
Panthro analyzes the universe and finds a suitable planet, ‘Earth-Three,’ where the Thundercats will be able to survive. However, it is quite a long journey, and Jaga would not be able to make the journey without dying, even if he uses a suspension capsule. He insists on being the one to stay back and offers to man their ship in the direction of Earth-Three for as long as he can live. The Thundercats bid him goodbye before getting into their suspension capsules and getting into a deep sleep until they reach ‘Earth-Three.’
The Thundercats are joined by Wilykit, Wilykat, and The Snarf, and they travel for many lightyears before landing on Earth-Three. Lion-o is the first one to leave his capsule, and as he makes sense of his surroundings, he realizes that he has aged quite a lot during their journey.
He even finds that the mutants have followed them to this planet in search of the sword. He unleashes the ‘Eye of Thundera’ and defeats them yet again. The rest of the Thundercats also join him, and Panthro expresses that the mutants will not leave them alone until they get the sword. They settle on the planet, and Lion-o declares that he will do his best as the ‘Lord of the Thundercats’ to survive on this planet.
In the next episode titled ‘The Unholy Alliance,’ the Thundercats try their best to adapt to their surroundings as they settle on this new planet. Panthro takes it upon himself to salvage some of their equipment and weapons from the spaceship while the rest of them ration their food supplies and unload their gear. In a different part of the universe, the mutants travel across the universe searching for the Thundercats.
However, they end up in the path of ‘Mumm-ra- The Ever-Living,’ a strange being who also holds a grudge against the Thundercats. Initially, the mutants doubt his powers and claim that they don’t need his help, but Mumm-ra destroys their ship and leaves them with no option but to obey him. Mumm-ra shows them a vision of Lion-o with the sword, and he then sends the mutants to Earth-Three to attack the Thundercats.
In the meantime, Lion-o takes it upon himself to guard the Thundercats and wanders around the planet while keeping guard. He is visited by the spirit of Jaga, who reminds him of his responsibilities as the leader of the Thundercats. He soon finds himself cornered by the mutants, and the rest of the Thundercats run to his rescue. They defeat the mutants yet again, and they are transported back to Mumm-ra.
Upon hearing their story of defeat, Mumm-ra is enraged at the mutants. However, the mutants have had enough of Mumm-ra, and they challenge him to defeat Lion-o and secure the sword on his own. Mumm-ra appears on their planet to fight Lion-o, but the young superhero easily defeats Mumm-ra with some help from his sword. While the rest of the Thundercats come to Lion-o’s aid, Mumm-ra escapes the planet and returns empty-handed to his den. The mutants mock him for his failure, and Mumm-ra screams in frustration as he swears that this is not the end.
As the show picks up pace, the Thundercats make some new allies in the form of ‘Berbils’ in the third episode of the series. While Mumm-ra keeps an eye on the Thundercat’s activities through his magical pond, he makes a plan to destroy them. On the new earth, Panthro makes a brand new thunder tank by salvaging the scraps from their spaceship. However, their excitement does not last for long as an unnatural thunderstorm approaches, and it starts raining stones. Panthro protects his new tank, and the group waits for the skies to clear up a little.
Once the storm passes, Lion-o steps out for a walk with Snarf, and he accidentally falls into a deep hole. Lion-o is unable to climb out of the hole, and Snarf rushes to find some aid to help Lion-o. Eventually, a group of ‘Berbils,’ strange robotic creatures that have the appearance of a bear, appear at the scene to help Lion-o. They pull him out of the hole with some ropes and take him to their chief. Sensing that Lion-O could be dangerous, they capture and tie him up against a tree, but the Berbil’s chief soon sets him free.
The Berbils then chat with Lion-o and even offer him some food. When Lion-o inquiries about the source of their food supplies, the Berbils generously agree to share their resources. In return, Lion-o helps the Berbils when they are attacked by some monsters who raid their food. The Berbils’ Chief then reveals that these monsters act under the orders of ‘Giantsours,’ and Lion-o is determined to help the Berbils by defeating the Giantsours.
He uses his sword to cast a signal, and the other Thundercats soon appear by his side as he fights the Giantsours. The Thundercats and the Berbils form an alliance, while Mumm-ra continues to keep a check on them. Mumm-ra transforms himself into a giant bug, and he once again teleports to Earth-Three to attack Lion-o. However, Lion-o manages to get a hold of him, and Mumm-ra chickens out and returns to his den.
Over the series, The Thundercats have many adventures and face many problems as they come across the mutants and Mumm-ra time and again. In the fourth episode titled ‘The Slaves of Castle Plun-Darr,’ the Wilykit and Wilykat come across a strange species known as the ‘Brutemen.’ They seem to be under the mutant’s control, who are exploiting these Brutemen to lug around rocks and construct a castle on this planet. The Wilykit and Wilykat get in trouble with the mutants while they observe their activities, but they manage to escape.
They return to the Thundercats and explain the situation to them. Lion-o and the Thundercats soon leave for the Castle Plan-Darr, and they find the Brutemen imprisoned within the castle’s dungeons. The Thundercats come across the mutants, and they fight them off while Lion-o rescues the Brutemen and helps them escape. He uses his sword’s powers to direct the Brutemen towards the mutants and even frees them from the spell that turned them into slaves.
As one problem resolves itself, yet another problem shows up in the guise of ‘Pumm-Ra’ in the next episode. Of course, Pumm-ra is nothing but the evil monster ‘Mumm-ra’ who has disguised himself as a Thunderian in order to infiltrate the Thundercats. He appears to have captured ‘Cheetara’ and intends to use her to get closer to the Thundercats. Cheetara seems to be drugged, and ‘Pumm-Ra’ shows up as her savior and claims to have saved her life after she had been drugged. Cheetara ends up trusting him and invites him to the ‘Cat’s Lair,’ the residence of the Thundercats.
The Thundercats welcome him with open arms, and everyone except ‘Snarf’ easily trusts Pumm-Ra. They even decide to hold a council meeting to decide if Pumm-ra should be accepted as a permanent member of the group. In the meantime, Pumm-ra plots an invasion with the mutants sabotages the machines at the ‘Cat’s Lair,’ and even steals the ‘Eye of Thundera’ sword. Unaware of his true identity, the group decides to give him a week’s trial period. Later during the day, Lion-o realizes that their machinery has been sabotaged and their sword has also been stolen.
The mutants also gear up for their invasion, while Lion-o rushes to the Cat’s lair and comes across Pumm-ra. As Pumm-ra stands with the sword in hand, Lion-o lunges forward to attack him. He manages to take the sword back while the rest of the Thundercats appear at the scene and tackle the mutants. As they return to the Cat’s Lair, the group once again has to face Mumm-ra, who finally reveals his true form. They defeat him again, and the group ponders over the day’s events and promises to stick together forever.
Exploring the major characters of the show
The Thundercats originally consisted of Lion-o, Leader of the Thundercats, and his inner circle that included Cheetara, Panthro, and Tygra, among other beings. Let us have a look at these characters and explore their unique powers and roles as Thundercats.
Lion-o had inherited the title of the ‘Lord of the Thundercats’ from his father, Claudus, and he overlooked the Thundercats’ migration to Earth-Three, as well as the formation of ‘New Thundera.’ He was hardly twelve years old when Thundera was destroyed, and he spent his adolescent years in a suspension capsule as they journeyed to Earth-Three. During their travels, Lion-o drastically aged, and he was already a twenty-four-year-old adult when they finally reached their new planet.
As the show progresses, Lion-o shows great character development as he matures with time and learns how to be a true leader. Since he missed out on core experiences while growing up, Lion-o does come across as immature, but he is quite headstrong and always willing to fight for what is right. He has immense physical strength, and he is bestowed with a mystical sword that contains ‘the Eye of Thundera.’
Cheetarah was the only female Thunderian to have left Thundera with Lion-o. Her physical features resembled those of a ‘cheetah,’ and she also possessed qualities such as supernatural speed, just like a cheetah. She was also skillful in combat and often fought against the mutants who kept attacking the Thundercats. Cheetara’s super-speed has saved the Thundercats from trouble on more than one occasion.
She is an essential part of the group, and she even possesses a ‘Sixth Sense’ which occasionally sends her visions from the past as well as the future. Though these visions were sometimes helpful, she considered them to be a curse as they left her exhausted for days and sometimes even weeks. Cheetara also had a unique ability to sense dangers, especially when the other Thundercats were in trouble. She carried a special baton as her choice of weapon, and this baton could extend to any length and produce energy beams to attack her opponents.
One of the most powerful members of Thundercats was the wise ‘Panthro,’ a humanoid who resembled a panther to some extent. Panthro had been by Lion-o’s side right from the start, and he often counseled Lion-o in challenging situations. Panthro was also the designated mechanic of the group, and he took it upon himself to repair their machinery and design new equipment and machines.
He even created the ThunderTank, Thunder Claw, and every single vehicle that the Thundercats required on Earth-Three all by himself. Panthro possessed tremendous physical and mental strength and did not easily give up, even in life-threatening situations. Panthro also led most of their attacks on the mutants and was the first Thundercat to appear by Lion-o’s side whenever he needed assistance in combat. He carried a set of ‘nunchaku,’ a traditional martial arts weapon that was gifted to him by Jaga before they left for Earth-Three.
Finally, we have ‘Tygra’, who was the last member of the surviving Thundercats. Tygra had a striped body coat and sharp claws that resembled the appearance of a tiger. He also had special powers, such as the ability to turn invisible and create illusions that could confuse his opponents. Tygra also has ‘mind power,’ but using this power can result in exhaustion and drain Tygra of his energy.
He was even considered to be the official architect of the group, and he had a significant role in creating the ‘Cat’s Lair’- the Thundercats’ residence on Earth-Three. Lion-o often went to Tygra for advice on important matters, and it is established that Tygra is second-in-command in case anything ever happens to Lion-o. Tygra’s choice of weapon is a traditional ‘Bolas’ that is a whip-like weapon that also helps him turn invisible.
Tygra specializes in many things, which are revealed one by one as the show progresses. Some of these skills include sharp-shooting and the ability to pilot a spaceship. While Cheetara represents speed and Panthro brings strength to the table, Tygra’s character is based on ‘integrity.’
Some lesser-known facts about Thundercats that many don’t know about
Thundercats gained quite a fan following back in the 80s, and one of the reasons for the show’s increasing following was the collectible toys based on the Thundercats. However, some viewers perceived the show as an extended commercial to just increase the sales of the toys. A group known as ‘Action for Children’s Television’ even protested against this and filed a complaint to ban the show and stop it from airing on TV. However, when the Federal Communications Commission reviewed this case, they concluded that there was no need to ban the shows. The toy lines were harmless as long as the show did not actively promote them during the commercial breaks.
Interestingly, these toys were a part of the show even before the show began airing. Right from the pre-production phase, the toys were meant to be a marketing scheme that would create interest in the Thundercats. Often, the writers were given a new character outline based on toys, and they then wrote these new characters in the scripts. This not only helped the creators keep things interesting but also gave them an opportunity to extend the merch line.
The toys were a very creative marketing scheme, which was a massive hit with fans of the show. There was quite a craze to collect limited editions and rare characters from the show, and these collectibles were sold for even thousands of dollars. The character known as ‘Mad Bubbler’ was one of the most important collectibles, and his toy figurine was once sold to a collector for a large sum of twenty-five thousand dollars. The Thundercats figurines had become ‘must-haves,’ especially for collectors and toy dealers.
Though the show had a fascinating premise with themes of adventure, sci-fi, and superpowers, it was a struggle for the creators to find writers to work on the scripts. The head writer of the show, Peter Lawrence, revealed that it was quite an experience to find writers to work on the show, as their work kept piling up, but there were no responses from any writing agencies. He even joked about bringing in the support crew of the show, including the audio engineers and sound guys, to try their hand at writing the scripts.
Though the show’s primary target audience was young children, all the promo advertisements of the show were primarily directed toward the parents. The advertisements emphasized that the show included lessons in honesty, love, respect, and friendship. Since many shows at the time were criticized for being violent and aggressive, the producers of Thundercats took a different approach while promoting the show. They depicted it as a show with plenty of adventures that the children would love, along with lessons about truth and justice.
Marvelous Verdict on this evergreen show
Thundercats belonged to the golden age of cartoon shows back in the 80s, and it was a complete package of entertainment. It caught the viewers’ attention and soon became a popular mainstream cartoon along with the likes of ‘Transformers’ and ‘He-Man.’ Thundercats was also highly praised for its original plot and a refreshing storyline with plenty of interesting characters. It even had its toy line, and the Thundercat figurines were all the rage among the fans who religiously collected the toys of their favorites from the show.
Though this show had its fair share of action and violence, it was based on moral values and ethics, which set Thundercats apart from other shows at the time. While the Thundercats, especially Lion-o, often had physical fights with his opponents, they did not advocate for violence and only resorted to it as the last option, which garnered quite some praise from the viewers.
Fans even enjoyed the catchy title theme of the show – ‘Thunder, Thunder, Thundercats…. HO!’. Though the animation was not the show’s most vital point, it was a well-executed show with character designs that more than made up for the subpar animation. Fans also loved the side characters, especially Mumm-ra, who was quite a fascinating villain. The Thundercats- who were humanoids inspired by various animals; the Berbils, who were robotic creatures, and the futuristic technology on the show added very interesting sci-fi elements to a cartoon show. Thundercats delivered action, adventure, comedy, instances of the triumph of good over evil, and sci-fi all in one neat package of a cartoon series. It is a one-of-a-kind show and has left behind quite an unforgettable legacy.
The 2011 reboot was good but not as memorable as the 80s version
After decades after its initial release, Thundercats was picked up by Cartoon Network and rebooted in 2011. Though the new version of Thundercats was good, it was not as memorable as the original ’80s version and lacked in some ways. The reboot was aired in 2011, and the first season consisted of about 26 episodes. Though the show was supposed to have at least 52 episodes, it was not renewed for a second season and was canceled after just 26 episodes.
The Thundercats reboot followed the same plot as the original show, except for a few changes in the character’s story arc. It consisted of the same core characters such as Lion-O, Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, and even the infamous villain Mumm-ra. Though the reboot borrowed essential characters and plotlines from the older version, it had a darker, more sophisticated concept that was different from the show’s original premise.
The show also went with a more unique, anime-inspired style for the animation and an entirely new soundtrack. It was not a bad reboot by any means and did capture some elements of the 80s version. However, while the original Thundercats invoke a sense of nostalgia and wholesomeness, the reboot has a darker approach that pales in comparison to the original.
To wrap it up, ‘Thundercats’ was a classic show that still rules over the hearts of cartoon lovers even after decades! Though it was rebooted in 2011, and then again as a movie in 2020, no new versions of the show lived up to the charisma of the original. However, fans of the show will be pleased to know that there are talks of a ‘live-action’ Thundercats movie undertaken by none other than director Adam Wingard.
He intends to take a CGI-based approach for this movie, thereby making sure that the film captures the aesthetic of the original Thundercats from the 80s. As we wait for some clarity on the movie’s release, we hope that the movie retains the essence of the original Thundercats and provides a wholesome throwback to the good old days!