Thundercats – The Return

Seeing as there was a call to look at Thundercats and yesterday’s review was popular, I thought I’d also branch out and watch a trio of episodes from the 2011 Thundercats show, which only ran for one season of 26 episodes and really should’ve run longer except for the accompanying Bandai toyline dying on the vine. Some great episodes and there was a really good arc planned out in the vein of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but it wasn’t to be. It really was a serial, but I’m going to have at just three chapters today.

The concept with the show was that Thundera was a city on Third Earth rather than a separate planet, and after an attack on their kingdom and the death of their leader, the Thundercats were on the run from Mumm-Ra and his forces. Will Friedle, the voice of Terry McGinnis/Batman from Batman Beyond (which I will have to look at soon), played Lion-O, Matthew Mercer played his adopted brother Tygra, Emmanuelle Chriqui played female warrior Cheetara, and Wily-Kit and Kat were along for the ride too. And who can forget Snarf? Other familiar faces would join them through the series.

Song of the Petalars

The fourth episode. Slithe sends out his lizard hunters to find the Thundercats while Lion-O ponders mortality in the wake of the loss of a loved one. Animation is exceptional, obvious Japanese influences but in a different way to the original show. A friend of mine said he couldn’t get into the show because there was too much “drama” between the characters instead of fun, but I think it was more a sign of the time.

Anyway, the Thundercats enter into the village of a race of leaf-based creatures called the Petalars, who only live for a day, going from birth to death. They see the birth of baby Emrick, who soon is a curious child who has nothing but questions for them. Lion-O relates to them immediately and wins their affection. A wind moved them away from their home, the Garden, to Briar Woods. They have a map with the route back, but not much time to get there, so the Thundercats agree to escort them to speed up the journey.

Emrick, hero-worshipping Lion-O, is picked up by a flying creature and encouraged to fight back. He does and is dropped to the ground, but within seconds is a teenager. As the journey proceeds, he overtakes Lion-O in relative age and becomes the leader. However, he’s no match for the hunters when they catch up to them, but still fights back, even though it seems hopeless.

At this point I reveal no more details of the episode and encourage anyone has the chance to to watch it. It shows how much you can do and achieve in a short time and to appreciate it. A real tearjerker of an episode, possibly for that reason the best of the series and an instant classic, added to by the return of the missing character everyone wanted to see back in the fold – Panthro.

The Forest of Magi Oar

I picked this one simply on the basis that one of the guest stars is Hector Elizondo, who was the hotel manager from Pretty Woman, and just an actor I always enjoy seeing or hearing. The observant among you will notice that Magi Oar is an almost-anagram of origami, which plays into the form of some of the guest characters. Played as a bit of a ghost story, a fearsome group of spirits appear to haunt the Thundercats, fended off by a group of characters called the Wood Forgers, who use paper weapons to fight with. They warn against a creature called Viragor, who soon attacks them, wanting them out of the forest.

This episode, which is clever but ends up overall being just alright, is about how appearances can be deceiving, and I’ll leave it at that so that I don’t spoil it. It’s notable for being written by Peter Lawrence, one of the main writers/producers of the original show as well as the following show in the same vein, Silverhawks. It always seems bizarre to have someone like Richard Chamberlain providing a voice of one of the characters too, in this case the leader of the Wood Forgers, Zig. A battle late in the episode also demonstrates the strangeness of Tygra brandishing and firing a laser blaster in addition to his trademark whip.

Curse of Ratilla

Finishing with this one for now, mainly due to the addition of familiar elements. By this point, Slithe had been joined by the crazed Kaynar (Jackalman) and savage Addicus (Monkian), but they don’t appear in this episode, instead their mostly absent general in the old series, Ratar-O, functioning as the main villain. He has enslaved cat slaves to work in Mount Plun-Darr, searching for the cursed Sword of Plun-Darr. The Thundercats, now joined by the embittered Pumyra, infiltrate the operation in order to stop it.

There’s no sparing the mature content, with skeletons of further slaves, flippant reactions to the deaths of them, and Ratar-O’s lieutenant Mordax brutally whipping a slave, then himself almost getting stabbed to death by Pumyra. There’s also a slight recreation of a battle from the original series between a young Jaga and Ratar-O’s predecessor Ratilla. Carlo Rota, as the voice of Ratar-O, gets a lot of lines in the episode, and delivers them well, but still seems like a strange choice for the role. I guess they were going for regal, but he sounds more like he’s playing Scar from The Lion King than a rat. It’s a strange episode, that probably reads better as a script than the end result on screen appears, but still is really dramatic and a pivotal episode.

Bonus: Silverhawks – The Ghost Ship

If I’m honest, I felt a little bit underwhelmed by the last two episodes, so figured I’d dip back into the Rankin/Bass well one more time, but instead for Silverhawks, the series that came after Thundercats. The concept – the evil Mon-Star has escaped from prison and reformed his interstellar mob, comprised of the likes of Hardware, Windhammer and Melodia, so Commander Stargazer forms a team of humans who becomes cyborgs to travel into deep space to stop them.

Incredibly cool theme tune with lots of electric guitar in it. A shame that the preview at the beginning of the episode gives a lot of the plot points away. Tally-Hawk, the mascot of the Silverhawks, catch mob members Buzz-Saw and Mumbo-Jumbo trying to smuggle gold back to Limbo. Silverhawks leader Quicksilver heads out to stop them. Buzz-Saw has a cool gimmick with a pull-string to fire off one of his buzz-saw weapons and the unintelligible Mumbo actually does deliver his lines word-for-word if you listen through the mumbling.

Mon-Star wants the gold back, so the sycophantic Yes-Man proposes sending a ghost ship (actually a rusting space shuttle) with mob muscle stashed away in a secret compartment to sneak into Hawk-Haven. While it’s not a show entirely on par with Thundercats, there’s a lot I like about the show, with a lot to do with the details and the animation. The trollish Hardware has an interesting appearance and Silverhawks muscle Steelwill has a cool American football helmet battle mask. I’ve never realised until now that the Copper Kid, from the Planet of the Mimes, uses similar vocal effects to the Berbils. Mon-Star gets a creepy robotic squid steed in Sky-Runner.

Instead of a segment with a moral at the conclusion of the episode, the Copper Kid enters a simulator and gets tested with some educational questions about Earth, which is different but just as worthwhile.

Conclusion: I’ll be back with some original Thundercats episodes again some time soon as that’s where the money is!