?Short version: The new ThunderCats is the best relaunch of any ’80s cartoon series ever. Seriously. Better than 2002 He-Man, better than any Transformers adaptation, even better than G.I. Joe: Resolute. When anyone wants to talk about how the beloved franchises or our youth should be revived in the modern age — for instance, like when I go stand in the corner and start screaming about Masters of the Universe — all we need to do is point to the new ThunderCats as an example of how it can be done.
Longer version (with some spoilers): I’m sure I sound as guilty of hyperbole as I did when mocking the Spidey musical song below, but I’m really not. The people making this show took a goofy ’80s toy cartoon concept — and let’s admit that it was even more razor thin than G.I. Joe or He-Man — and fleshed it out wonderfully. They created a whole world out of Thundera, one with history and richness and conflicts. They transformed action figures into real characters, with personalities and motivations and individuality. They scrapped the one bare-bones idea, morality-laden per episode “plots” of the ’80s and are crafting one tale, both personal and epic, that will last through the season. Basically, the whole series has the depth, the richness that we as kids always felt these classic cartoons had, but in reality never did.
I’m not kidding: the series effectively starts when Grune betrays the ThunderCats and lets Mumm-Ra and his lizard armies invade the castle — an invasion that kills many, many cat people. The show’s weird mix of magic and technology? Well, in the new show technology is a myth… until the lizards invade with giant robots, and this esoteric former characteristic becomes part of the setting and story, and a cool one.
As for the characters: Lion-O watches King Clowdus get murdered before his eyes. Tygra is Lion-O’s older brother, cocky and bitter that he can’t be king (he’s not a lion). Cheetara is one of Lord Jaga’s clerics (which means yes, Lord Jaga has clerics in the new ThunderCats, and there are supremely badass). Oh, and the reason Panthro hasn’t been seen in most of the promos? He’s dead, killed in battle (supposedly; probably not, but that’s why he’s been gone). And Snarf doesn’t talk. At all. Meaning the new ThunderCats has taken the old cartoon’s most irritating character and most awful factor and turned it into something cute and innocuous. THIS IS HOW YOU REMAKE A SERIES, PEOPLE. YOU MAKE IT BETTER THAN IT WAS BEFORE.
Oh, and it looks terrific. It’s the best animated cartoon in America, better than even Young Justice. Getting an anime company to do an American adaptation well is supremely hard — please look at all the Marvel anime for example — but for whatever reason, ThunderCats is getting the star treatment. That means for the first time, ThunderCats looks as good as it did in its original intro — because as you remember, the opening credits were amazing, and then the rest of the cartoon looked like garbage.
And then there’s the great voice acting — hearing original Lion-O Larry Kenny as King Clowdus was amazing — and excellent music and seriously, everything is great. And while the show should be an older ThunderCats nerd’s dream come true, it should work for a new audiences of kids, because its a good story with interesting characters that’s well done on all levels. Seriously, watch it — if you missed it, check your On Demand, or beg Cartoon Network to replay it. Not just because it’s that good, although it is. But because every nerd needs to know how good these relaunches and reboots and revivals of our favorite series can be when done so amazingly right.