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Blu-Ray Review: “ThunderCats The Complete Series”

Blu-Ray Review: "ThunderCats The Complete Series"


ThunderCats
holds strong emotional ties with its fans, who either got into it during it’s
‘80s heyday or discovered it in reruns. It was part of the immense,
65-episode-a-season daytime animation book that began with He-Man and continued
with Disney and Warner successes. It was great to see the Rankin/Bass name
among the giants again, still the little David amidst the Goliaths. And its now just as great that the entire series is out on blu-ray

 

Episode
quantity can strongly affect a viewer’s attachment to a series and it’s
characters; one spends a lot of time getting to know favorite “friends” every
day and living through their adventures. What made this connection especially
strong with ThunderCats was the epic nature of the show’s premise—a group of
heroes struggling to build a new home and survive in a new land, challenged by
adverse situations and fierce opposition. In other words, like school—or to
adults, like the workplace.

 

The over
arching message of ThunderCats was unity. A very strong and timely message
indeed. Each of the team had talents and powers but, let’s face it, weren’t as
strong as individuals. Sometimes they were foolish, even downright ninnies. But
they had each other, as opposed to the villains, who would stab each other in
the back given the chance.

 

The series
also had one of TV animation’s best villains, Mumm-Ra (Fun fact: there used to
be an antiperspirant called Mumm).

 

That said,
approaching a new version of a beloved series is always daunting for the new
creative team and anticipated with trepidation by fans of the original. In this
recent revival of ThunderCats, Arthur Rankin is listed in the credits as a
consultant (Jules Bass and Bernard Hoffer also get screen credit for the theme
music). I can’t say how much input Rankin had, but I can say that, at the very
least, the people involved with the reboot scrutinized the original show to a
degree rare among rebooters.

 

The
character design is different, but not in a Loonatics kind of way. Lion-O is
rendered in a younger fashion and is voiced (by “Boy Meets World’s” Will
Friedle, who also wrote for the series) as a young man on the verge of
maturity. Lion-O’s original voice, Larry Kenney, gave Lion-O a very stentorian,
fully mature sound that never really made him seem much younger than his fellow
cats.

 

But the
cool thing is that Larry Kenney was brought back to voice Claudus, the leader
of Third Earth. Kenney is a New York actor, so going to all the trouble to
bring him in for voice work among LA talent speaks well of reverence for the
material.

The saga of
the ThunderCats is altered for this series, but many of the supporting friends
and foes are here, especially Mumm-Ra, the mutants, Robo-Berbils, etc. There
are several two-part stories and there is an overall arc to the two seasons,
though most episodes stand alone.

 

Relationships
are more intense, especially that of Lion-O and Tygra, who frequently go all
Archie and Reggie as well as vie for the ThunderCat ladies, especially
Cheetara. My only real beef is that the series could have used more focus on
her.

 

Tonally,
the new series largely abandoned the campy feel of the ‘80s show, sort of like Batman
with Adam West vs. Batman: The Animated Series. The new ThunderCats is more
serious – sometimes downright heartrending – but does toss in comic moments and
fun characters now and then.

 

There are
also some “inside” jokes. On a couple of shows, monetary units are called
“shinicks,” very likely a nod to Warner animation’s Kevin Shinick (MAD, Robot
Chicken). But best of all is an episode called “The Forever Bag,” in which a “Klepto-voyant”
raccoon teaches Wilykit and Wilykat (“We’re too cute to die”) the magic words “raahn-kin
bass!” I love it.

 

Blu-ray
brings out the richness of the artwork, which is every bit as good (sometimes
better) as the early series and good enough for moderate-budget theatrical
animation. There is less reliance on repeated sequences, also.

 

But seeing
this series, fine as it is, makes one yearn for a Blu-ray of the earlier series
as well, which seems feasible since this release came from Warner Archives.
Can’t have enough of those ThunderCats, no matter what the era.

 

ThunderCats: The Complete Series is among the animated action titles
recently released by Warner Archives. Others include Batman: The Brave and The Bold; Batman:
Dark Justice
; Batman: Shadows of Gotham;
Young Justice and Young Justice: Invasion.

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