Wow, there’s a lot of this. A hell of a lot. There were only four series of Thundercats because each series was at least 30,000 episodes long. I received ten DVDs, but Amazon lists this as twelve – either way, it’s a MASSIVE box-set. 660 minutes of 80scartoon mayhem.
It is any good?
Let’s put it like this: I loved Thundercats as a kid, and now I love it slightly, but only slightly, less. There is no doubt that the opening sequence is the best ever made, to anything, having great music and a sense of timing that I definitely haven’t seen since. And it’s just as well that the music is great, because you’ll be listening to it a lot. Not only do the titles feature on every episode, including the ones that were knitted together as a feature film, but it turns out that they used the same background music over and over again. When you only watched it once a week (possibly twice, if it was featured on Going Live) you wouldn’t have noticed, but queue up a few in a row and…“This sounds terribly familiar!”.
Given that it’s a kids’ cartoon it’s only to be expected, but it is quite repetitive. What saves it from the trap that some newer animations have fallen into – every show being pretty much the same – is that there is a progressive storyline, in this case the Thundercats ending up away from home and having to get back. It’s like other memorable cartoons of the time, such as Dungeons and Dragons, in that things do develop – not a great deal, admittedly, but that would be missing the point of creating a franchise with constants. The core characters are relied on heavily, and with good reason – Cheetara rocks, Panthro has a proper brain in his head, Tygra provides the more gentle side of the group, and Lion-O might be a patronising git but he looks the part. We don’t talk about Snarf. He remains as annoying as he was twenty years ago.
I hated baddie Mumm-Ra’s character as a child, but watching it all again has made me realise that he is actually very entertaining. It’s the ‘good side’ who don’t hold up quite as well. The Sword of Omens, Lion-O’s main weapon and the real star of the show, is a lot more autonomous than I remember, leading to some preposterous escapes when it appears that all is lost. The younger Thundercats are…not very good. And the allies are sometimes just bizarre – they might have helped to build the Thundercats’ base, but ‘Ro-Bear Berbils’? What? The Mutants are blatantly better.
The quality of the animation does leave a bit to be desired, but nothing originally created in 1982 is going to stand up to later productions. It rather adds to the entertainment value that some of the ‘special effects’ are – well, dire, but there are some equally inventive moments which show the ambition that children’s TV had back then. There is an epic nature to Thundercats which it really needs to be credited for – it was trying to go places, and not just lure in a load of merchandise whores (on that note, I have a bad feeling about the new version…).
Providing you don’t attempt to watch all these at once, perhaps limiting yourself to a couple of episodes a week in true ‘relive-your-youth’ style, you should be happy with this. It might be worth getting the first series, though, to ease yourself back into the story lines – there’s no effort to explain what’s going on at the start, and if you’re anything like me you won’t remember.
I really want a toy Sword of Omens now. It had a light-up logo and everything.
Thundercats is released today.