The paws of ThunderCats

The new ThunderCats adaptation premiered this past weekend on the Cartoon Network. It’s taken the story of the original ThunderCats and modernized it with some changes.

A lot is the same here, as expected. Lion-O is the lord of the ThunderCats, one race on a planet of several anthropomorphic animal races. The cats have been reduced from their previous glory by the dreaded ancient enemy Mumm-Ra, and Lion-O and a small elite team of cats are fighting back against Mumrath and his lizard forces.

Unlike the new Voltron series, which also debuted this week, ThunderCats is not a continuation of the previous series. It’s a full reboot, and it’s using that opportunity to rewrite the backstory and origins. The pilot, which is a double episode at 40 minutes long, depicts the fall of the decadent ThunderCats empire, and the rise of Mumm-Ra within Thundara’s walls. 

Rather than the space-ship escape story of the original. The story, this time, begins already set on Third Earth, and the escaping survivors of the devastating attack flee on foot into the wilderness of the planet.

Lion-O is not an established king, here he begins the story as an absent-minded prince with a fetish for old ‘technology’, of which there are many old stories of things like ships that can fly.

The characters have all been revamped. Lion-O is depicted as much younger, and rather than the confident, strong leader he was in the original series, here he is feeling the effects of being an irresponsible kid thrown into a role of leadership. Much of the series will likely deal with his development as a leader as a persistent sub-plot. 

His half-brother Tygra serves as his foil, being responsible where Lion-O is a dreamer, and skilled where Lion-O still has to learn. The animosity within their relationship is also being developed into an important thread. Also, both are clearly attracted to Cheetara, which will cause additional conflict.

Snarf is still here, but he’s been made much less annoying. While he is still a pseudo-sentient creature, he doesn’t seem to be able to speak, and is treated much more like an actual pet.

Some parts of the show could not really be undumbed by very much, however. Mumm-Ra is still a really silly idea for a villain, and his mere existence is a bit cheesy, but they’ve done all they can to soften the cheesiness.

Overall, the pilot bodes well for the series, especially in a genre where the pilot is usually a very weak example of what’s coming in the future of a series.

If the future episodes are as much better than this pilot as the further Voltron episodes have been compared to that pilot, then we have a classic in the making here; an American adventure cartoon which might even rival Avatar: The Last Airbender. While I might prefer original stories to remakes, this is one to check out. It’s ThunderCats, yes, but it’s a new ThunderCats, through and through.

ThunderCats airs Friday nights on Cartoon Network HD.