A look back at Thundercats

I was a little late to the ThunderCats-Transformers phenomenon, and so was recently surprised to learn that Thundercats was developed by Rankin Bass.

According to the book The Enchanted World of Rankin Bass, the production company was bought up by Telepictures, and with the He-Man cartoon a big hit in 1983, Rankin Bass wanted to develop something similar. 

As Rick Goldschmidt writes, “Like He-Man, ThunderCats featured the blend of sword and sorcery / space war genres that became an animation staple in  the ’80s.”


ThunderCats first went on the air in February 1985, and it soon became the number one syndicated cartoon show for two years.

And as Goldschmidt also notes, the series had a “touch of anime,” which many American cartoons have adopted since the late seventies. 

Rankin Bass maintained an animation group in Tokyo, and as Goldschmidt explains, “The anime style was introduced into the design to allow our Japanese editors to inject some of their creativity. Our animation group in Tokyo has worked for us, as a team, for almost all our films.”


Ultimately a hundred and thirty episodes of ThunderCats were created for its two year run, and of course, the series was revived last year for the Cartoon  Network last summer – proving that like the Transformers, there’s still plenty of love for mid-eighties superheros. 

According to the Honolulu Advertiser, one person who’s very happy to see the ThunderCats back is Janice Wolf, daughter of Cats creator, the late Tobin Wolf.


“We sat around  the table creating the characters,” Janice Wolf recalled to the paper. “It was a morality play, with superheroes… Basically, the characters have survived pretty much as they were intended.”