ThunderCats HO! The Cult Favorite Returns With a Dramatic One-Hour Premiere!

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It’s been twenty-five years since an original episode of a ThunderCats animated series aired. Now they’re back, with an epic reimagining on The Cartoon Network. The new ThunderCats [Fridays, 8/7C] fuses a coming of age story with an epic quest.

They’re back – Prince Lion-O [voiced by Will Friedle], Tygra [Matthew Mercer], Cheetara [Emmanuelle Chriqui], Panthro [Kevin Michael Richardson]. Wily Kat [Eamon Pirruccello], Wily Kit [Madeleine Hall] and Lion-O’s pet, Snarf [Satomi Kohrogi] – in an epic fantasy that dispenses with the science fiction trappings of the original series to good effect.

The one-hour premiere [The Sword of Omens/Ancient Spirits of Evil] establishes the world of Third Earth and opens with a cloaked figure interfering with a bunch of furry punks in a slum area, who are bullying someone. Meanwhile, Claudius [Larry Kenney], the King of Thundera, is sitting in his throne room, wondering why his son has so much trouble fulfilling his duties as prince.

The young prince, it turns out, is the figure trying to stop the bullies – and doing pretty well, at least until he turns his back on a downed foe who pops up again. Enter Cheetara, who lays the bully out – and asks the prince why he’s slumming. Lion-O is on a shopping trip to buy some technology – something that is considered mythical in Thundera.

A bell chimes and he realizes he’s late for one of his princely duties and dashes back to the palace, where he is given the Sword of Omens – then shown what that means. Shortly thereafter, a famous general returns – followed by an invasion force of lizards. Someone has betrayed Thundera!

ThunderCats is a fun new take on the series from the 80s. It is set in a world that feels like a medieval world where various species of animals have attained sentience and become civilized – or at least, as civilized as a medieval society.

Magic works there and the king has a personal wizard, named Jaga [Corey Burton] – who is also a mentor to young Lion-O. Unfortunately, an evil wizard, Mumm-Ra [Robin Atkin Downes] – wrapped like a mummy, but more loquacious – is ruler of the lizards and has visions of conquest.

Lion-O is a bit young to become king, but that’s the least of his problems. He’s impetuous, often recklessly so, and his actions often get him in trouble. On the plus side, he has rather fine allies in Tygra, his adopted brother, whom he has never bested in battle and can turn invisible; Cheetara, a protégé of Jaga’s who’s fast, agile and wicked with a quarterstaff as well as being a powerful magician; Wily Kat and Wily Kit, a pair of orphaned kittens who have survived by being skilled pickpockets and are searching for Eldara, a mythical city filled with riches [think El Dorado] – Kit also plays a magical Flupe that enables her to hypnotize foes, While Kat has a flink, which enables him scale great heights easily; General Panthro, the greatest of Thundera’s generals, who can wield any weapon effectively.

Opposing the ThunderCats is Mumm-Ra and his army of lizards, led by General Slithe [Dee Bradley Baker], whom the ThunderCats beat like a drum before he allied himself with Mumm-Ra. Former Thunderan general Grune [Clancy Brown] has also allied himself with Mumm-Ra, but he is loyal only to himself.

While the animation on ThunderCats is about par for TV animation, it is well designed and in action sequences, it is more detailed. The world of Third Earth looks great and, even in just the premiere, we get to see a number of different areas.

The writing is better than average – which is customary with The Cartoon Network’s original programming. The characters are well defined in a minimum of time and with a minimum of fuss. The dialogue is surprisingly crisp and the premiere moves extremely well.

As this is a primetime series, it should not be surprising that ThunderCats is more violent than a Saturday morning cartoon. Characters are very mortal here – a few even die in the premiere.

Overall, the new ThunderCats is a much better series than the original, but then, it would have to be to compete with the nostalgia generated by it.

Final Grade: B+