ThunderCats is an American animated television series, based on characters created by Theodore “Ted” Wolf (also called Tobin Wolf), that was produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. The series debuted in 1985 and ran until 1989. It was one of the highest rated and most successful animated series of its time and is still popular today with a huge fan following.
In early 1984, Tobin “Ted” Wolf pitched his idea about humanoid cat people to his friend Stan Weston, who was also President of Leisure Concepts Inc. (LCI). Weston took the pitch with him to a meeting he had with Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass and their team at the Rankin/Bass offices to discuss new project ideas. The producers liked the idea enough to decide to develop it into a full-scale animated television series.
With Lee Dannacher as the supervising producer, Leonard Starr was brought in as head writer to develop the concept, create a series bible and script the initial episodes as well. Peter Lawrence was appointed as script consultant. Mike Germakian of LCI was hired to the artwork and designs for the characters, vehicles and locations. He also designed the iconic ThunderCats logo. American composer Bernard Hoffer was approached to score the music for the show. Auditions were held for voice actors and out of the hundreds that applied, six were chosen. These six were Robert “Bob” McFadden, Earl Hammond, Larry Kenney, Lynne Lipton, Earle Hyman, and Peter Newman. (The characters whose voices they provided are credited below.)
As was the case with earlier Rankin/Bass animated shows, the animation was done in Japan. The task of animating the ThunderCats was assigned to the Japanese company Pacific Animation Corporation (PAC), headed by Masaki Iizuka.
The character voices and music for each episode were recorded in the United States, and the recordings, along with notes and directions were sent to Japan to be animated. The completed animation would then be sent back to the United States for editing before being broadcast.
The pilot episode, titled “Exodus,” was broadcast on January 23, 1985. It was very well received and highly praised by all. ThunderCats became an instant hit and the success led to another 65 episodes being commissioned. Work on developing the second season began mid-way through the run of the first one. With the increased workload, a number of new writers were brought in to help pen the scripts for the new episodes. Two additional voice actors, Gerrianne Raphael and Douglas “Doug” Preis, were also hired.
After becoming a huge success, the show finally came to an end with the last episode, titled “The Book Of Omens,” broadcast on September 29, 1989.
Story and Setting
ThunderCats follows the adventures of a group of cat-like humanoid aliens called Thunderians, from an alien planet called Thundera. The dying planet Thundera is meeting its end, forcing the ThunderCats to flee their homeworld. The fleet is attacked by the Thunderians' enemies, the Mutants of Plun-Darr, who destroy most of the starships fleet, but spare the flagship, hoping to capture the legendary mystic Sword of Omens they believe is on board. The sword holds the Eye of Thundera, the source of the ThunderCats's power, which is embedded in the hilt. Though the Mutants damage the flagship, the power of the Eye drives them back. The damage to the ship means the journey to their original destination is not possible, instead having to journey to "Third Earth;" which will take much longer than they had anticipated. The eldest of the ThunderCats, Jaga, volunteers to pilot the ship while the others sleep in capsules. He himself dies of old age in the process, but not before ensuring they will reach their destination safely. The flagship contains the young Lord of the ThunderCats, Lion-O, as well as the ThunderCats Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, the “ThunderKittens” WilyKit and WilyKat, and a representative of the race of Snarfs.
When the ThunderCats awake from their suspended animation on Third Earth, Lion-O discovers that his suspension capsule has slowed rather than stopped his aging, and he is now a child in the body of an adult. Together, the ThunderCats and the friendly natives of Third Earth construct the "Cat's Lair," their new home and headquarters, but before long, the Mutants have tracked them down to Third Earth. The intrusion of these two alien races upon the world does not go unnoticed, however; the demonic, mummified sorcerer, Mumm-Ra, recruits the Mutants to aid him in his campaign to acquire the Eye of Thundera and destroy the ThunderCats so that his evil might continue to hold sway over Third Earth.
Episodes, Intros, Music, and Credits
- ThunderCats (original series) Season Guide
- ThunderCats (original series) Intro
- ThunderCats (original series) Crew Credits
To see a full list of merchandise, go here.
The series continued as the comic book series from Wildstorm.
Released on DVD in 2006 with limited bonus material. Interviews with grown up fans on the first series, then very little until the final six disks. Therein was a complex system of jumping between disks with features turned on for specific scenes for clues. Throughout the process there is a trivia challenge with interviews from Leonard Starr, Peter Newman and Gerrianne Raphael. These are the "Keys" to the final puzzle. To skip them, just enter the code 0314 to view the special tribute to Mumm-Ra and voice actor Earl Hammond.