The ThunderCats are loose. Cartoon Network’s version of the 1980s animated series hit on Friday with a special one-hour premiere. And while it’s a world apart from the original in terms of animation with its strikingly anime look, the story owes much to the classic incarnation.
No mere reboot, the new ThunderCats takes place ages after the old series, in which the heroes fled their ravaged world of Thundera to settle on Third Earth, where they contended with vicious animal mutants and the ancient evil Mumm-Ra. In the new series, those are times of legend, with Cats having conquered that wild world and defeated (but not destroyed) Mumm-Ra and the mutants. Technology is all but gone — a distant memory and, some say, a myth. The Cats are the unchallenged lords of Third Earth … until an act of treachery weakens their dynasty and lets Mumm-Ra and his minions enter their citadel to claim the Sword of Omens.
This generations’ Lion-O, a rambunctious youth fascinated by tales of tech, must step up out of the imposing shadow of his father and his more responsible brother, Tygra. (Tygra is the more natural choice to be king, but the throne is Lion-O’s by virtue of his lion bloodline’s majesty.) Cheetara exists in this age too, but now she is one of an order of clerics sworn to defend the royal bloodline.
The new Lion-O also has a loyal pet named Snarf, just like the old, although this one’s not nearly as annoying because he cannot talk (as of yet). Wild youths Wilykit and Wilykat are here too, street urchins who will obviously have a vital role to fulfill when the ThunderCats are driven from their den. And the mighty Panthro has a brief, if deceptive, role in the pilot episode as well.
In a cool twist of Thunder-casting, the voice of Lion-O’s royal father Claudus is portrayed by Larry Kenney, who himself voiced Lion-O in the original series. (It’s unmistakable, but I’ve confirmed it via IMDb.)
Much has been said of the unabashedly anime style of the new ThunderCats series. I’m not deaf to this complaint, especially with the main character of Lion-O — it’s very different from the old style, but I think it will grow on me. As a whole, I think the style works quite well with the high-fantasy characters and locales of Third Earth, and I look forward to many new adventures therein.
Watch for ThunderCats on Friday nights on Cartoon Network.