ThunderCats is an American/Japanese animated television series that was produced by Rankin/Bass Productions (the same that created the SilverHawks, TigerSharks, and The Comic Strip) debuting in 1984, based on the characters created by Tobin “Ted” Wolf. The series, for which Leonard Starr was the head writer, follows the adventures of a group of cat-like humanoid aliens. The animation was provided by Pacific Animation Corporation. Season 1 of the show aired in 1985 (65 episodes), followed by a TV movie entitled ThunderCats – HO! in 1986. Seasons 2, 3, and 4 followed a new format of twenty episodes each, starting with a five-part story.
The series was originally distributed by Rankin-Bass Productions’ then-parent company Telepictures Corporation, which would later merge with Lorimar Productions in 1986. In 1989, Lorimar-Telepictures was purchased by and folded into Warner Bros., whose television syndication arm would eventually assume distribution of the show; Warner Bros. have had the rights to the series (and all Lorimar-Telepictures programming) from that point on.
There were also several comic book series produced: Marvel Comics’ version (currently owned by Warner Bros. rival Disney), 1984 to 1988; and five series by Wildstorm, an imprint of DC Comics (Warner Bros.’ corporate sibling), beginning in 2003. Items of clothing featuring the ThunderCats logo and DVD boxsets of the original series have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as nostalgia for the former children’s favorite has grown.
It was announced on June 5, 2007, that Aurelio Jaro is making a CGI-animated feature film of ThunderCats, based on a script written by Paul Sopocy. In October 2007, Variety magazine revealed that Jerry O’Flaherty, veteran video game art director, had signed on to direct. The film is being produced by Spring Creek Productions. It was originally set for a summer 2010 release, but it has since been reported that the movie is on hold. Concept art for the film has also been leaked online.
In June 2010, a press release revealed that a new animated series by Warner Bros. Animation was in production for Cartoon Network with animation provided by Studio 4°C.
ThunderCats follows the adventures of the eponymous team of heroes, cat-like humanoid aliens from a planet called Thundera. The series pilot begins with the dying planet Thundera meeting its end, forcing the ThunderCats (a sort of Thunderean nobility) to flee their homeworld. The fleet is attacked by the Thundereans’ enemies, the Mutants of Plun-Darr, who destroy most of the starships in the “ThunderFleet,” 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’ 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; however, he 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, WilyKit and WilyKat, and Snarf.
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 – a demonic, mummified sorcerer calling himself 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 may continue to hold sway over Third Earth.
According to the first chapter of Wildstorm’s comic ThunderCats Origins: Heroes and Villains, the Third Earth is actually our Earth in the future; the present day is “First Earth.” Mumm-Ra originates from ancient Egypt, where he first enslaved himself to the Ancient Spirits of Evil in exchange for his tremendous powers and knowledge of the Universe. He is – seemingly – the one responsible for destroying the human race, after he broke free from the onyx pyramid’s burial chamber, inside which a Pharaoh’s son had imprisoned him.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this television series: