My husband has a fondness for his old childhood cartoons and has slowly collected some of them over the years. Some I’ve liked, and some I’ve stared at the screen, trying to figure out the appeal. Among these shows that he taught me to enjoy was ThunderCats.
So it was with great trepidation that I heard of the new ThunderCats series. After all, how often is a redo of a series anything near as good as the first? After watching the first episode, “Sword of Omens,” I’ve determined that this new ThunderCats show tremendous potential to be even better than the first series.
Of course, there are noticeable differences between the two series: Character appearances are somewhat altered. Cheetara has long hair, Lion-O’s mane has taken on a more tamed and modern appearance and he’s of an age between the two he’s portrayed as in the original series, and Snarf is noticeably smaller and more animalistic. The original takes place on a spaceship and then on a wild planet. The new takes place on Thundera with all the civilization and glamour of a world, parts fantasy, medieval, Greco-Roman, Renaissance, and myth. (All very cool things for a fan of the original series that never saw much of young Lion-O or Thundera.)
Some of the themes and plot arcs are the same. Lion-O comes into his kingship from a boy not quite ready to take on the role but with the true heart of a king. Loss of a world and life also remains a major element. But where the original series focused on survival, the new one incorporates family divisions, loyalty, and how what we dismiss often comes back to harm us. It was also interesting seeing the ThunderCats I knew, who possessed heaps of tech in the original series, shun technology as myth and childish fantasy.
Visually, the new series goes above and beyond the first. With new computer technology, the fights are more dynamic with bolts of energy and explosions. The setting of Thundera in the new series possessed an expansiveness, glamour, and richness that the original series never captured. The use of light and dark played a greater part in the new series, where the old kept to a cleaner, more uniform palette.
But perhaps the difference that I believe will create the greatest impact is that the new series dips into a well of characterization and relationships that the old only occasionally brushed. Even in this one episode, Tygra is portrayed as Lion-O’s brother and a rival. Cheetara suggests a greater range of personality than her original manifestation, and a few hints are dropped of a potential future romance between her and Lion-O. Even WilyKat and WilyKit show more personality, though still their same mischievous streak.
The only character I felt disappointed in was Snarf. He had no lines and came off only as Lion-O’s pseudo-intelligent pet. As annoying as Snarf might have been to some people, I liked him more from the original series and thought him far funnier in it.
I also wasn’t sure how to take Panthro. In the original series, Panthro was my favorite ThunderCat. In this series, I was irritated that they killed him. Then he seems to come back only to turn out to be Mumm-Ra. Now, I don’t know what to think. Do I keep hoping he will return, or do I accept that, for some incomprehensible reason, they’ve decided to eliminate him from the new series cast.
A few points of confusion rose in this episode. Tygra is portrayed as Lion-O’s older brother, yet Lion-O is heir. Why does Lion-O get to be heir over his more responsible older brother? Lion-O’s father says the crown must remain in the bloodline. What does that mean? How can Tygra be Lion-O’s brother and be tiger affiliated and older?
Though this line of questioning brought me to a puzzle I wondered about all throughout the original series. Can ThunderCats of all feline affiliation interbreed? Tygra and Lion-O’s fraternal connection would suggest so. I always thought while watching the original that the ThunderCats were in serious trouble with only two women among them. How were they to build up a population with only two females?
The plot was epic in scope, the conflicts intense and engaging. The first episode tapped a lot of geek buttons: fantasy, science fiction, magic, magical weapons, giant mec, anthropomorphic heroes, to name a few. Between this and the brilliant characterization, I have high expectations for this show. I hope to see more of it soon.
What do you think of the new ThunderCat’s show? What old TV show would you like to see redone? Is there any?