Thunder, Thunder, Thunder Thundercats Ho!
This June, we were able to bring fans of the 80’s cartoon series Thundercats, the exciting news that Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. Animation were teaming up to reprise the series as an, anime-style, “21st century reimagining of the classic 80s cartoon series.” New details have emerged on the series, which is due to hit the small screen next year.
If there was any doubt about fan devotion to the series, it has been put into perspective for Jelenic. He recognizes what a powerful following Thundercats has – especially when compared to fan response for what he assumed was an even more popular property.
“It’s funny because I’ve been working on a lot of Batman cartoons the last couple years, and I tell people I have a new Batman cartoon coming out and they’re like, ‘Cool…’, but when I say ‘Thundercats,’ they’re like, ‘Thundercats?!?! Oh My God!'”
Fans have been anxiously awaiting a return of Lion-O and the Cats for quite some time. Rumors of a Thundercats movie have ebbed and flowed on the Internet for the last several years. One ambitious, and talented, fan went so far as to make an impressive, fake, live-action trailer.
Take a look (or another look) at the trailer below. Warning, it may make you a bit sad that his film is not currently in active production.
Jelenic theorizes that the heightened level of fan anticipation “might be because it’s the last great ’80s property that hasn’t been reinvented for this new generation. We’re trying to be respectful to the old material, but bring it into a new era. I think it will be really cool.”
People often have concerns about the changes that are made to properties that they feel an attachment to. Jelenic assures fans that: “It’s reimagined…but at the same time, we’re going to see the characters that we love.”
All of the key players, Lion-O, Panthro, Cheetara, Tygra, and yes, even Snarf, will be there. As to Snarf, Jelenic confirms that “Everyone always wants to know about Snarf! He will be in it, and he will not talk. Don’t worry.”
Fans have a very mixed reaction to the little cat, so Jelenic has found a solution that he hopes will satisfy the love/hate relationship that Thundercats devotees seem to have with this character.
“He won’t be going, ‘Lion-O, why don’t you do this? (in that whiny voice). We’re just having him say, ‘Snarf! Snarf!’ That’s a way to get him in the show without annoying every single person who hates him. It’s funny, because people are always like, ‘I hate Snarf! Wait. you’re not going to put him in? That’s terrible!'”
As to the more dramatic changes that will be made to the series, Jelenic assures fans that they will consist mostly of streamlining the mythos and updating the visual pallet, with a slightly “darker feel.”
“We have some great artists (on Thundercats). We’re using a very famous Japanese animation studio, Studio4C, which did The Animatrix. They’re going to have their signature stuff on it. It’s going to be pretty epic.”
Take a look at the concept art for Lion-O below:
Jelenic acknowledges that the changes may mean a bit of an adjustment for Thundercats fans, but feels that once they settle into it, they will enjoy the visual modifications that have been made.
“I think when people see the final character designs, people will think it’s a different take, but it will feel very familiar to the old series. The colors aren’t quite as bright as they were. It’s a little darker take, but you’ll recognize everybody.”
The Animatrix was one of the best things to come out of the Matrix franchise. These artists are sure to bring something new, and yes, a bit more modern to the Thundercats. Though the original Thundercats stands as one of the great animated series of the 80s, it will be interesting to see what these creative innovators can bring to the existing template.
As to the story, Jelenic says that:
“One thing, is that, I tried to simplify the mythology a little bit. It’s a pretty complicated back-story that borrows from a lot of other sci-fi stuff, like Superman and Star Wars. In developing this, I wanted it to be a little more simple. In the other version, there’s something like three different planets involved, and they all converge onto one planet, and nobody’s really connected. I just wanted to bring that all together.”
Simplification may be a good thing, as long as it strengthens the central characters and their relationships. The important thing for fans is to see enhancements to the world they are already committed to, rather than a degeneration of it.
From everything we have seen and read to date, it looks like this beloved series is in highly capable hands, and I, for one, very much look forward to the 2011 premiere of Thundercats.