Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The Legend of The Thundercats

There are some cartoon series that are just unforgettable. They leave blueprints in your psyche that always remind you of their essence, especially when you experienced them in your youth. Today we dive into the world created by Ted Wolf and the Rankin/Bass Productions studio. And we bravely forge into the tale of the Thundercats!
This was one of the best cross-over animated series to ever be launched, and in their world, futuristic technology and advanced gadgetry were just as central to the series as magic and myth. Yet even in the midst of all the explosive action, the series never overlooked the importance of maintaining high camaraderie and teamwork geared towards solving difficult problems.

[Image from the Thundercats Sourcebook, published by Dc Comics back in 2003]

This Exceptional Franchise was created as a cartoon series back in January of 1985, and it ran till 1990, having 130 episodes are earning over 100 million dollars in profits from endorsement deals. There were also several comic books spawned by this series and published by Marvel Comics [Via its Star Comics imprint], DC Comics and Wildstorm Comics at various times. And there was a sole cartoon movie launched between the first and second Seasons, titled Thundercats - Ho!

An Odyssey from their devastated Home world.
This Sci Fi / Fantasy cartoon series was set in an alternate galaxy. And the main protagonists, the sentient Thundercats, were survivors of a global catastrophe which eclipsed their home world of Thundera. Boarding a flagship spacecraft, the seven humanoids with distinct cat-related features were set in what you could tag as  cybernetic-hibernation [cyb-hibe] tubes, to preserve their bodies as they traveled at light-speed across the stars. The Thundercats were also accompanied by Snarf, a talking pet. And Lion-O, the young chosen one, was to bear the treasured Sword of Omens and convey it away to safety. The rest of their spaceship fleet bearing the other inhabitants of their dying world were destroyed by their mutant enemies, as the race through deep-space progressed.

The seven survivors were like wanders embarking upon an uncharted trip to a brave new frontier. And their journey led them to the planet named Third Earth, where they crash-landed. Having abundant moisture and oxygen, this wondrous jungle world was teeming with other anamorphic life forms [animals with human-like phenotypes and features] and it became the new home for the gifted Thundercats, who built their base [famously known as Cats Lair] from remnants of their spacecraft with the help of the Robear Berbils and other hi-tech vehicles to enhance their offensive and defensive capabilities.

The Original Lion King!

The leader, and the hereditary "Lord of the ThunderCats," was called Lion-O.
Lion-O, who was based on the phenotype of a majestic Lion, wields the legendary Sword of Omens and the Claw Shield, a gauntlet that launches grappling lines from its claws. The Sword of Omens gave Lion-O the power of "Sight Beyond Sight," allowing him to achieve zoomed visions and even behold covert past events. And the sword could also project bolts of red energy.
A mere child of twelve years old at the time of Thundera's destruction, Lion-O aged to adulthood during the trip to Third Earth when his cyb-hibe capsule failed to prevent him from aging too much, like the other team members aboard the rocketing vessel. Although cunning and skillful, he is truly a child in a man's body. And throughout the series, he learns the true essence of what it takes to be dependable leader.

As Lion-O matured, he gained the ability to communicate with all wild cats, and this was demonstrated in an episode in which he battled a villain named The Snowman of Hook Mountain, who rode a large snowy battlecat.

By name, his clan members were: Tygra, Panthro, Cheetara, WilyKit, WilyKat and Snarf. And they each wielded specific weapons that matched their hand-to-hand combat abilities perfectly. When analyzed closely, it appears that the Thundercats all had ninja like weaponry; Lion-O had the sword [which held the Eye of Thundera in its central core, between its hilt and the base of the "living blade"], Cheetara had a bo-staff, Tygra had a whip, Panthro utilized nun-chuks and the younger cats used various smoke bombs and small tools.

Later in the series, a host of other male and female Thundercats were added to the clan, rescued from different dire circumstances.

Per some of the earlier episodes from the epic 4-Season run, it was hinted that Lion-O was truly the king of the pride; he had abilities that rivaled all of his team members, whether it was Panthro's brute strength or Cheetara's speed. Yet it was Tygra, that gave Lion-O his hardest challenge to overcome, because of the cunning and stealth powers that the Tiger Man possessed.

Jaga, the original Lord of the Thundercats and wielder of the Sword of Omens, did not survive the trip to Third Earth aboard their spacecraft. Yet he constantly appeared as a spirit to guide Lion-O in the series, and he often appeared to the other team members to give them words of wisdom and counsel. 

The intriguing episodes carried the Thundercats across the varied landscapes of Third Earth, and there were even expeditions that took them to the stars, as they combated against space pirates. The supporting cast for this series was extremely large, having additional heroes and villains that created exciting confrontations and unforgettable encounters.

Some modern artists may even consider the Thundercats as the first successful Action-packed Furry Franchise, since furry/anamorphic art is tied to drawing animals with human-like structures. This anthropomorphic interpretation has become widespread over the years, and there have been several cartoons having characters based upon crossbred species. One of the most recent visions featuring this style of character design is Hot Wheels Battle Force 5, a CGI animated series created in 2009, in which the villains are based upon a variety of anamorphs.

The Eccentric Villain

The main protagonist of the series was an evil mummified warlord named Mumm-Ra, who resided in an ancient mystical pyramid-like temple in the dark lands of Third Earth.

Mumm-Ra was the the self-proclaimed "ever-living source of evil" on Third Earth, having powers of sorcery and an apparently unlimited lifespan. He wielded powers sourced from "Ancient Spirits of Evil" and he commanded the numerous hordes of the beast and reptilian-like mutant men.

There were several design and artistic themes that made Mumm-Ra appear to be part of an ancient Egyptian civilization that was probably extinct, there on Third Earth. And the fact that Mumm-Ra constantly slumbered within a stone sarcophagus, wrapped in burial cloths reinforced this notion.

He was quite a notoriously powerful villain, and he possessed an insidiously evil laugh. Yet being a cartoon bad guy, there were several instances in which he provided comedic exchanges while plotting evil schemes and convening with his subservient henchmen.

The Wildstorm Comic series actually has Mumm-Ra heralding as an adviser of Pharaoh, in an ancient Egyptian setting [before he becomes an evil traitor and is literally buried alive, for over six centuries]. There was definitely a lot of time and effort put into creating that tale. But the only problem was... Mumm-Ra was from Third Earth, not our planet Earth, according to the original animated series.

The Leap from animation to the Big Screen...

There have been many rumors of this highly anticipated move, over the last decade.

It was announced on June 5, 2007, that Aurelio Jaro was 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, a veteran video game art director, had signed on to direct the movie. The film was 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 [for unspoken reasons]. Concept art for the film has also been leaked online, like this piece:

The concept art image of Lion-o on the right was done by the DSNG Artist in 2010. And the image on the left was leaked/released back in 2009. That casual full-body shot of Lion-o was included with is a brief article that showcases other concept images and scenery for the animated movie project that was tied to art director Jerry O’Flaherty:

And that particular Thundercats 3D animated movie project was canceled.
Honestly, that full-body pic didn't look as "hardcore" as the true fanboys and fangirls expected. Lion-O was known for his ruggedly handsome features, and he definitely had the muscles to back up anything he said.

Thus, this other fan art [shown below] appears to be along the lines of what fans would expect to see [although this one might be pushing the envelope a bit too much, in terms of the fierce "wild cat" aura]:

 The cool 3D modeling was done by Konartist3D, over at http://konartist3d.deviantart.com/

There's also an article online over at: http://www.nunoxei.com/rewindawesome/tag/lion-o/  which talks about a CG animated movie feature for the Thundercats that was supposed to be contrived by Digital Domain [the special effects studio behind such movies as Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Titanic]; but somehow the deal didn't go through, fading away like a forgotten mist. There are several character designs and storyboard images showcased at that article link, above.

A rumor regarding a new revamped animated series based on the popular Cats has also been swirling on the web, dating back to last year. and some claimed that the project was being creatively handled overseas.

And as of June 2010, a press release indicated that Japan's Studio4C has been working on an animated series slated for release on Cartoon Network in 2011. Here's a sneak peek at the original artwork for the forthcoming series:

The word is, this new cartoon, created in an anime style, is going to be darker than the original, in terms of lighting and creative design. Studio4C is responsible for creating the following series: The Animatrix, Batman: Gotham Knight, Halo: Legends and apparently all of Transformers: Animated.

So they've definitely got an impressive resume [and a peculiar array of production styles that they can fluently draw from, to generate a wide variety of vibes that  range form childish to hardcore].

Fans of the original series will definitely want to see the entire original cast; that's only natural, per the exhilarating nostalgia perceived from a perfectly done classic. Yet specific details on the project are still very sketchy at this time.

Once there are more details on the new Thundercats cartoon project, we shall analyze them and see if its worth the budding hype...

EDIT: Also check out the trailer for the New 2011 Thundercats cartoon series reboot: http://dsngsfm.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-thundercats-2011-trailer-fanart.html

More Thundercats concept art by DSNG Artist: