ThunderCats is one of those special shows that made an impact during its original airdate, as well as years after. While initially released in 1985, the show experienced a resurgence in the 1990s when it aired as part the Toonami block.
From there, it captured a whole new generation of viewers going on to spawn video games, comic books, and a reboot in 2011. That reboot didn’t last very long, however, but fans enjoyed it and we’re sure it captured a few new ones along the way.
The show never quite reached the heights of Transformers and has languished in obscurity since 2011. Despite that, it still maintains a loyal following complete with fansites cosplay, fanfiction, and more.
While there are rumors of a live-action movie in the works, it appears to be lingering in development hell so fans haven’t gotten much in the way of new ThunderCats material since the short-lived reboot in 2011.
All that being said, there are still plenty of questions regarding this beloved series. Why was the reboot canceled? Who really composed that awesome theme song, and what does Batman have to do with ThunderCats? All those questions and more will be answered right now.
So sit back and enjoy the 15 Things You NEVER Knew About ThunderCats.
15. MILLA JOVOVICH WANTS TO PLAY CHEETARA
Nostalgia is big business these days and thus remakes are becoming more and more popular in Hollywood. This year has seen the release of Power Rangers, a new Transformers movie, and yet another reboot of Spider-Man.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that has been talk of a ThunderCats movie in the works. The film has never been confirmed, but many actors have expressed interest in taking on various iconic roles. One such actor is Milla Jovovich, who is well known for playing Alice in the Resident Evil movies.
During an interview, Jovovich was asked which superhero she’d be most interested in playing. She responded, stating that she had always been a fan of ThunderCats and wanted to play Cheetara.
“I’ve always loved ThunderCats. I heard they were making a movie, and then they weren’t making a movie. And I’m probably getting way to old to play Katra… no, Cheetara, that’s the one!”
14. TRANSFORMERS KILLED THE THUNDERCATS MOVIE
The 1980s produced some truly classic cartoons such as GI Joe, Transformers, and My Little Pony. Seeking to cash in on the popularity of these cartoons, several of these shows were made into movies that got a full theatrical releases. Most of the time, these were basically longer episodes of the TV show, but, for children of the ’80s, it was still an awesome time.
Unfortunately, the profits on these movies weren’t so awesome. Neither Transformers nor My Little Pony did very well at the box office. Therefore, the produces of ThunderCats Ho! decided to cancel the film’s planned theatrical release and turn it into a TV special. The movie was eventually re-aired as a five-part special.
During the ’90s, ThunderCats was aired on Cartoon Network and it was remembered by most fans as being pretty awesome, so we can only imagine how much fun it would have been on the big screen. Sadly, it was not meant to be.
13. THE 2011 SERIES WASN’T CANCELLED DUE TO POOR RATINGS
The 2011 reboot of ThunderCats started off strong, with the pilot episode earning a rating of 0.8 and being seen by more than 2.4 million people. The initial reviews were strong as well. Overall, it appeared that the series was off to a strong start… so what went wrong? Many fans, naturally, peg the blame on declining ratings later in the series. However, it turns out that the show’s ratings remained strong throughout the course of the show. What did the show in was poor toy sales.
Unfortunately, this happens a lot with TV shows that air on Cartoon Network. Young Justice was another show that suffered this fate, though it is now getting a reboot thanks to strong fan support. It doesn’t appear that ThunderCats will be as lucky, however, since the series’ creators have confirmed that it will not be returning.
12. THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL VIDEO GAMES
ThunderCats and video games are awesome. One would think that those two things put together would be equally awesome. Sadly, as anyone who knows the history of licensed video games is well aware, that is not always the case.
There were ThunderCats tie-in games released for the original series. The first was released on the Atari ST. Based on the reviews and gameplay, it is a standard Atari game. There’s nothing painful about it, but there’s a reason why it hasn’t held up as a classic.
The second ThunderCats game was released for the Commodore 64, and received mixed reviews. At the time, Crash Magazine praised it, giving the game a score of 91% and calling it “brilliant.” The team heaped praise upon the game’s graphics which, for the time, were fairly impressive.
A more recent review by Retro Gamer took issue with those comments and claimed that the game was “horrifically linear and scarier than a date with Mumm-Ra.”
There were also a couple of games based on the 2011 show, but they’re all pretty bad.
11. LION-O WAS VOICED BY BATMAN
Any child of the ’90s likely knows Will Friedle for his role as Eric Matthews on the sitcom Boy Meets World.
As Eric, Friedle played the lovable, if somewhat stupid, brother to series protagonist Corey. However, he also took on another equally beloved, and far more awesome, role when he took upon the mantle of Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond. As the protege of the aging Bruce Wayne, McGinnis brought justice to the streets of Neo-Gotham.
He also brought justice to Third Earth in the 2011 reboot of ThunderCats, where he played Lion-O. During an interview with MTV, Friedle stated that he had been a longtime fan of the series and that his biggest fear was of “ruining Lion-O.”
“You don’t want to be the guy who, ‘Oh my God, after the amazing work Larry Kenney did, I’m now going to come in and screw this up.’ So that was certainly a concern of mine,” he said.
10. PUMYRA WAS VOICED BY BOBBY HILL
In animated shows, it isn’t uncommon for a character to be portrayed by voice actors of a different gender than them. Dragon Ball’s Goku is voiced by a woman in Japan, Bart Simpson is done by Nancy Cartwright, and Bobby Hill was played by Pamela Adlon.
As Bobby, Adlon played the role of a lovable screw-up who constantly confused his conservative no-nonsense father. After playing Bobby for so many years, it’s difficult to imagine Adlon taking on yet another iconic role, but that’s exactly what happened when she joined the cast of 2011’s ThunderCats, where she portrayed Pumyra.
Unlike in the 1980s series, this incarnation of Pumyra was a slave fighter who was secretly working for Mumm-Ra. She very nearly killed Lion-O, but was defeated at the last moment. With the series’ cancellation, we don’t know what became of this incarnation of Pumyra.
9. THE ORIGINAL SERIES WAS ANIMATED IN JAPAN, BUT DIDN’T AIR THERE
ThunderCats became a fan-favorite for many reasons, but one of the biggest was due to its awesome animation. The series, especially the reboot, often appeared to be a mixture of anime and western animation. It gave the show a unique visual style that wasn’t seen in a lot of TV shows.
The reason for that is simple: the show was a product of east and west. The show was actually animated in Japan, which is why it appears to be somewhat anime-inspired. Interestingly enough, despite being animated in Japan, the first series never aired there during its original run.
Of course, we can’t talk about the show’s animation without mentioning its that amazing intro. Nowadays, it is common for shows to have relatively short intros, but in the ’80s and ’90s, a cartoon’s intro was an important part of the show and thus was much longer. It got you pumped for what you were about to watch, and none did it better than ThunderCats.
8. THE COMICS ARE PART OF DC’S WILDSTORM IMPRINT
A comic series is a great way to extend a beloved TV series after its time on the air has come and gone. Power Rangers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are two prime examples of beloved TV shows that have found new life in the pages of comics. ThunderCats didn’t get an ongoing series, but the show did experience a brief revival under DC’s Wildstorm imprint.
At one point, the series even crossed over with Superman, though it– like all the ThunderCats comics– was considered non-canon. Under Wildstorm, ThunderCats released five mini-series in addition to several one-shots.
In 2011, DC rebooted their universe with the New 52 which merged several of their properties together, including Wildstorm. By this logic, it’s possible that the ThunderCats exist in some corner of the DCU.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see them meeting the Justice League anytime soon, but, then again, the League did recently do battle with He-Man, so who knows?
7. MUMM-RA HAD A HAND IN THE CREATION OF THE SNARFS
In the original series, Snarf was Lion-O’s annoying companion and nursemaid. Some fans believe that he was meant to serve as a sort of comic relief, but even as children, most fans found him more than a little annoying. Beyond that, he served little purpose to the show’s plot.
The 2011 series toned Snarf down a bit and explicitly made him something other than Lion-O’s caretaker. Still, he didn’t really serve too much of a purpose, but that might have changed in the show’s second season.
During a panel at Power Con, the show’s creators mentioned that part of the show’s second season would have delved into Mumm-ra’s role in the creation of Snarf’s race. Beyond that, we don’t know what the plot would have entailed, but it would have been amusing if Snarf turned out to be a traitor all along.
6. EVERY EPISODE OF THE FIRST SERIES HAD TO BE REVIEWED BY A PSYCHOLOGIST
The 1980s produced some of the most famous children’s cartoons of all time, and many of these cartoons’ impact continues to live on to this day.
However, at the time, many groups felt that such cartoons were a bad influence on youth. There was a growing concern that children’s television was little more than a violent spectacle meant to show off toys.
In order to combat this perception, the creators of ThunderCats targeted their initial ads to parents, promising that their show would deliver a positive message to children.
The show’s creators took their work seriously, going so far as to hire a psychologist to guide the show. Dr. Robert Kuisis reviewed the script of every episode in order to ensure that each one would have a positive impact on children.
5. THERE ARE A LOT OF POP-CULTURE REFERENCES
While it might not be quite as well-known as Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, ThunderCats has certainly left a mark on popular culture. Whether it’s video games, TV, or movies, there’s no shortage of homages to ThunderCats.
While adventuring through the World of Warcraft, the heroes of Azeroth, can find several references to ThunderCats, including a weapon named the “Sword of Omen.” Sadly, it grants neither sight beyond sight nor power beyond power.
Of course, the influence of ThunderCats extends far beyond Azeroth. Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy, a series well-known for referencing pop-culture, has made several jabs at ThunderCats.
Unsurprisingly, given its longer runtime, all of these are in reference to the original series. It thus appears that the reboot will never move out of its predecessor’s shadow.
4. THUNDERCATS HOMEWORK
Remember when we said the show’s creators were insistent that the show make a positive impact on the lives of children? Well, they were so confident in their show’s message that they actually tried to get episodes assigned as homework.
Telepictures produced more than 40,000 worksheets that teachers could distribute to their students. These sheets would contain questions about the lessons learned in each episode. The children who participated would be given gift certificates for free toys from the series.
As far as homework goes, we can definitely think of worse assignments than being told to watch an awesome TV show. Especially, if we got free toys out of it. Honestly, more TV studios should adapt this policy. If nothing else, it is a brilliant PR and advertising move.
3. JAMES LIPTON DID NOT WRITE THE THUNDERCATS THEME SONG
Much like intros, theme songs used to be one of the most important parts of a TV show. They helped get you excited for the show and gave you an idea of what the show would be like.
The best theme songs stuck with you long after the show was over, and ThunderCats’ song is one that is still remember by many fans.
The song is often credited to James Lipton, the famed host of Inside the Actors Studio. However, this ever-enduring legend is false and appears to be based on an entry on IMDb, but there is no source cited.
That’s because the ThunderCats theme was actually written by Bernie Hoffer, a composer who had a long career writing advertising jingles before joining Rankin-Bass, who produced ThunderCats.
The DVD box-set contains a short feature on Hoffer’s work and the process behind his hiring if you’re interested in more information about the man behind one of TV’s catchiest themes.
2. HOW MANY SEASONS DOES THE ’80S SERIES HAVE?
How many seasons did the original ThunderCats series have? Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different answer.
During the show’s original run, it was divided into four seasons with the TV movie being aired in between season one and two. However, the DVD box sets divide the show into two seasons of 65 episodes apiece.
In fairness, the two season set-up does make a bit more sense considering that the series’ original run was a bit front-loaded, with the first season containing 65 episodes and the remaining 65 episodes being divided amongst three seasons.
For the purposes of easy watching, two seasons simply makes more sense. Plus, this set-up is easier on fans’ wallets, which is a nice gesture since some companies would have released all four seasons by themselves.
1. WHAT IS MA-MUTT?
In terms of visual style, Mumm-Ra is one of the coolest villains to come out of the 1980s. His design isn’t that original, but his transformation sequence will stick with you long after he’s gone.
Unfortunately, he isn’t a very effective villain, but that’s okay because he’ll always have the undying love of his loyal friend Ma-Mutt.
First appearing in the movie ThunderCats Ho!, Ma-Mutt resembles a demonic bulldog. Despite his canine form, he is at least as intelligent as Mumm-Ra’s other henchmen, showing the ability to carry out plans and follow orders. While impersonating his master, he can even speak.
However, Ma-Mutt is depicted as a typical dog, which is odd when he is compared to the rest of the ThunderCats, who are all anthropomorphic cat-like creatures.