If you grew up in the ’80s, there’s no other kid’s cartoon that makes you want to slide into some footie pajamas, sit cross-legged on the carpet, and pour yourself a bowl of sugary cereal more than ThunderCats. By blending elements of science-fiction, fantasy and fable, ThunderCats was pure childhood escapism, which went on to introduce a generation of children to the superhero mythos before many of us had ever picked up a comic book.
The story follows a group of humanoid cats, lead by Lord Lion-O, as they adjust to life on Earth following the destruction of their home planet. The original series, which aired from 1985 to 1989, gave us 130 episodes of the ThunderCats waging war against Mumm-Ra and the Mutants of Plun-Darr. On his quest to conquer evil, Lion-O wielded the mighty Sword of Omens while enlisting the help of his fellow ThunderCats, including Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, WilyKit and WilyKat. And of course, we can’t forget poor old Snarf.
Needless to say, there’s a ton about the series that’s slipped our minds in the last 30 year, so we’re taking a look back at what made ThunderCats so awesome in the first place. Here are 15 Things You Forgot About ThunderCats. HOOO!
15. They’re naked in the pilot
The show’s creators– and the ThunderCats themselves– really let it all hang out there for the first episode of the series. When we’re first introduced to the eponymous characters, they’re watching their home planet of Thundera being destroyed from the safety of their spaceship… all while standing around in the nude. You might think: oh, maybe they just didn’t have time to suit up prior to evacuation. In which case you’d be wrong. It appears as though Thunderians weren’t accustomed to wearing clothing, and their planet may well have been a nudist colony prior to its explosion. We’ll never know.
What we do know is that the ThunderCats are quickly equipped with new uniforms and weapons to better prepare for whatever dangers await them on Third Earth. Thus, they don’t stay naked for long. But since the ThunderCats action figures didn’t have removable clothing, at least we never had to wonder what was going on underneath those uniforms.
14. The show takes place in the future
The landscape of Third Earth is rugged and unforgiving. There’s the Bottomless Chasm, which the ThunderCats have fallen into on a number of occasions; the River of Despair, which is inhabited by a giant eel, the six-legged black widow shark, and the Whirlpool of Infinity; and Acid Lake, which is… well… a lake filled with acid. These intimidating locales, and the prehistoric-looking monsters that inhabit them, make it seem like ThunderCats is set during primitive times. However, the title of Third Earth doesn’t refer to the planets location to our sun, but instead to the time period.
From the series we know that King Arthur was alive when the planet was still referred to as First Earth. And while we may not know the events that unfolded during Second Earth, we can assume from the lack of human infrastructure and modern technology that it wasn’t good. The ThunderCats arrived on a post-apocalyptic Earth, void of modern cities and advanced technology. In fact, the only technology available on Third Earth arrived via Thundera, Plun-Darr, or another outer space civilization.
13. Mumm-Ra was an ancient Egyptian
While the show may take place in the future, the primary antagonist is from centuries long past. Though it is never explicitly stated, Mumm-Ra is almost certainly an ancient Egyptian. He sleeps in a sarcophagus, is clothed in mummy bandages, and resides in the ruins of the Black Pyramid.
Mumm-Ra is an evil sorcerer who’s dead-set on eradicating the ThunderCats in order to regain control of Third Earth. He often uses the Mutants of Plun-Darr and other nefarious characters to do his dirty work. But, as it turns out, Mumm-Ra is just another pawn on the dark side of the chess board. He’s been granted incredible power and eternal life by the Ancient Spirits of Evil in exchange for his servitude. The spirits– represented by a boar, ox, crocodile and vulture– are also reminiscent of ancient Egyptian culture, which goes to show that they have likely been using Mumm-Ra to torment Earth for thousands of years. Just as the evil sorcerer tells us himself: “Wherever evil exists, Mumm-Ra lives.”
12. How fast Cheetara could run
Just as a cheetah is easily the fastest animal on land, Cheetara is easily the fastest member of the ThunderCats. Along with her bo staff and “woman’s intuition”, Cheetara often uses her super speed to defeat the evils of Third Earth and rescue her fellow ThunderCats from danger. In “Trouble with Time,” the seventh episode of the series, Cheetara’s agility is the only means of rescue after Tygra wonders into a cave that accelerates the aging process, turning anyone that spends more than a few seconds inside the cavern into a weak and decrepit version of their former self. So we know Cheetara’s fast. But exactly how fast is she?
A cheetah can max out around 60 miles per hour, which is pretty impressive. However, Tygra once clocked Cheetara’s jogging speed at a rate of one mile per 30 second, which comes out to 120 miles per hour! That’s twice as fast as her feline counterpart. Though her sprinting speed is never disclosed, Cheetara admits that she can only maintain her top speed for a couple miles. Thus, when Lion-O is forced to challenge Cheetara to a foot race during his anointment trails, Lion-O uses a dangerous shortcut and keeps a steady pace, nosing ahead of Cheetara just in time for the finish line.
11. How tech-savvy Panthro was
Just by looking at him– with his bulging muscles, spiked suspenders, and clawed nun-chucks– you’d think Panthro was only good for cracking Mutant skulls. And while he is indeed one of the strongest members of the ThunderCats, Panthro was also an accomplished technician and mechanic.
After arriving on Third Earth, Panthro used the scrapped parts from their spacecraft to construct almost every gadget and vehicle in the ThunderCats’ arsenal. While the Feliner, ThunderClaw, and HoverCat were later constructed for air travel, the original ThunderTank remained a favorite amongst the ThunderCats. With Panthro behind the wheel and Lion-O riding shotgun, the ThunderTank was capable of clawing and drilling its way through Third Earth’s rocky terrain, and with the push of a button the Cats often used the tank to exchange fire with any of their more trigger-happy foes. On top of assemblage and maintenance, Panthro was always on the lookout for the element Thundrillium, a fuel-like substance that was essential for keeping their vehicles and the Cats’ Lair up and running.
10. The Sword of Omens was a shield – and a gun
Alright, so the Sword of Omens wasn’t a gun per se, but Lion-O did use his beloved weapon to shoot out lightning on a pretty regular basis. In fact, Lion-O used the sword for almost everything but slicing and dicing his enemies into bits; which makes sense since parents probably wouldn’t want their kids watching a cartoon where the bad guys get decapitated on a weekly basis.
The blue lightning, which Lion-O was able to blast out from the sword’s blade, stunned and electrocuted his opponents, and the electricity also came in handy when Lion-O needed to blast or melt his way through any obstructions. If the ThunderCats ever had to go on the defense, Lion-O would make sweeping circles with his sword, which could enact a force field strong enough to deflect falling boulders. These powers were possible through the Eye of Thundera, which was embedded in the sword’s hilt. The eye was the source of the ThunderCats’ power, making it one of the most powerful swords of all time. But that’s not to say the weapon is without its weaknesses…
9. The Eye of Thundera could be blinded
Yep. Just like a regular eye, the Eye of Thundera is helpless against a simple blindfold. The sword, which was able to give Lion-O “sight beyond sight” as well as summon his fellow ThunderCats to his aid, was of no use when the eye became covered with mud or obstructed in any way. In episode 35 of the series, titled “Sword in a Hole,” Mumm-Ra covers the Eye of Thundera before tossing it into a black hole in outer space. Since the undead sorcerer discovers that the Eye’s power cannot be used for evil, his only move is to try and destroy it. Luckily, just like Matthew McConaughey, Lion-O is able to traverse the back hole, retrieve the sword, and return to tell the tale.
In another episode, Mumm-Ra tricks Lion-O into fighting his fellow ThunderCat, Tygra, which causes the sword to shatter. These selective weaknesses add a sense of urgency to the series. After all, what’s Superman without the threat of kryptonite? Invincible. And ultimately, not very interesting. Unfortunately, later episodes continued to expand upon the Eye’s capabilities, which allowed Lion-O to heal the sick and even control the weather. The Sword of Omens turned into a cheap plot device, which moved the story further away from the ingenuity of the earlier episodes.
8. How many races there were on Third Earth
While the scenic landscape often makes Third Earth seem void of intelligent life, the planet is actually brimming with various races that are all just a quick ride away from the Cats’ Lair. After all, it would’ve been a pretty boring show if Mumm-Ra and the Mutants didn’t have any weaklings to exploit.
The Ro-Bear Berbils are a peculiar race of robotic bears that crash landed on planet long ago, while the Bolkins, a sheep-like race, are natives to Third Planet. While many of the races are animal bases, ThunderCats still featured its fair share of humans. Unlike the Berbils and Bolkins, who are gentle farmers that often need the ThunderCats to come to their rescue, the Warrior Maidens are a self-reliant race of Amazon-like women that live in the Tree-Top Kingdom. Nayda and Willa lead the Maidens, who are initially at odds with the alien race. However, after Lion-O demonstrates to them the Code of Thundera – “justice, truth, honor, and loyalty” – the Warrior Maidens are quick to lend their knowledge of Third Earth to the ThunderCats. They’ve even used their impressive skills with a bow and arrow to rescue the ThunderCats from the Mutants on a number of occasions.
7. How many forms Mumm-Ra could take
When Mumm-Ra isn’t catching up on his beauty sleep, he’s often shapeshifting into various forms in an attempt to deceive and defeat the ThunderCats. His natural form is that of a fragile figured, wrapped in white bandages with a red cloak. But Mumm-Ra can also morph into a giant, muscular figure that is able to take flight and leave the Black Pyramid when he repeats the chant, “Ancient Spirits of Evil, transform this decayed form to Mumm-Ra… the Ever-Living!”
While Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living is easily his most recognizable transformation, the evil sorcerer has been known to impersonate a number of the ThunderCat’s friends in order to gain access to the Cats’ Lair, including the Ro-Bear Berbils and the Bolkins. But one of the most bizarre forms that Mumm-Ra has ever taken occurred in “Queen of Eight Legs,” when the ancient Egyptian shrinks himself down into Diamond Fly, a tiny female with butterfly wings and a diamond shaped head. The cute creature is able to hypnotize Lion-O into obeying Mumm-Ra’s orders. Fortunately, Snarf isn’t so easily seduced, and the Cat quickly sees through the sorcerer’s subterfuge.
6. How awesome the music was
The opening theme song was simply enough to make us want to tune into ThunderCats back when we were kids. The credit sequence, which is over a minute long, perfectly captures the atmosphere of the show while set to an upbeat theme that’s bound to get stuck in your head for days. And it’s no wonder that the song was so catchy, it managed to fit the words “Thunder” and “ThunderCats” a whopping 25 times into a 60 second song! This theme was often echoed later in the episode, particularly when Lion-O would summon his fellow ThunderCats into battle using the Sword of Omens.
Many of the characters even received their own theme, including Mumm-Ra and the Mutants– who were often accompanied by unsettling orchestra music. Then there was the sedate background music during the denouement of every episode, where the moral of the story is revealed and the ThunderCats are finally given a chance to catch their breath. The upbeat, unmistakably ’80s soundtrack only grew as the series continued.
5. The Sword of Omens was defeated by Excalibur
The Sword of Omens may be one of the most powerful swords ever created, but we never said it was the most powerful. While Mumm-Ra’s contemplating how to defeat the ThunderCats once and for all (which is pretty much the only thing Mumm-Ra ever contemplates), the demon sorcerer consults the Ancient Spirits of Evil, who recommend fighting fire with fire. They tell Mumm-Ra the tale of King Arthur and Excalibur– the most powerful sword ever created. Thus, Mumm-Ra transforms himself into King Arthur and, upon retrieving the lost sword, he infiltrates the Cats’ Lair and challenges Lion-O to a duel.
Despite believing the sword invincible, Excalibur pierces the Eye of Thundera, rending the ThunderCats utterly powerless. But when Mumm-Ra reveals himself to be the culprit, the mystical wizard Merlin appears and sends the demon priest back to the Black Pyramid. Merlin repairs the Sword of Omens, and offers Lion-O the chance to wield Excalibur. However, Lion-O declines the opportunity after admitting to being baited by another one of Mumm-Ra’s meddling schemes.
4. Jaga was alive in the pilot
Jaga is the previous Lord of the ThunderCats, who often appears in ghost form throughout the series to offer a bit of wisdom to his successor. But Jaga was more than just a spirit housed in the Eye of Thundera; he was actually alive and well in the first episode of the series.
After being attacked by the Mutants, Jaga decides to pilot the damaged flag ship to Third Earth while his fellow ThunderCats retire to their suspension pods. Unfortunately, the voyage was far too long for the elderly Jaga, and he dies before ever arriving on the new planet. Lion-O becomes Lord of the ThunderCats, and he often relies on Jaga’s sage advice to get him out of sticky situations.
However, Jaga does reappear in his human form in the episode “The Astral Prison,” which features Lion-O venturing into another dimension to rescue Jaga from the evil Nemex. Though Lion-O is eventually able to return to his world and assume his human form, Jaga is forced to remain behind in the astral world.
3. The series was relaunched in 2011
Even though it occurred just five short years ago, many have already forgotten that the series was rebooted in the summer of 2011. But that’s not to say that the new ThunderCats was a disappointment. In fact, the re-imagining of the series was overwhelming well received, with striking visuals, impressive new character designs and a slightly darker tone that forwent the corniness of the original series in exchange for deeper characters and edgier story lines. The reason many have forget the show is simply because it was cancelled after just 26 episodes.
The new series premiered on Cartoon Network to an impressive audience of 2.4 million viewers. But ThunderCats failed to maintain that audience and the show never even produced a second half to the first series. While trying to satisfy the original audience, the show failed to land with kids ages 6-12 years old, and subsequently not enough new ThunderCats merchandise ever made it off the shelves.
2. How annoying Snarf was
Not even the needy Ro-Bear Berbils or Willa’s oscillating voice can compete with how annoying the character of Snarf was. Is it possible that we ever found this character cute? Snarf, who’s real name is actually Osbert, is Lion-O’s overbearing nurse maid with a shrill voice and little to offer his fellow ThunderCats. While Lion-O, Cheetara, Panthro and Tygra each enjoy their fair share of saving the day, Snarf is usually left in the lurch. Or worse, he needs rescuing. Sure, sometimes his small stature allowed Snarf to sneak around the Mutants, or crawl through an air duct to retrieve the Sword of Omens, but we can’t help but think WilyKit and WilyKat would’ve complete the same tasks without projecting their anxiety onto the audience during the whole ordeal.
One of the major improvements that the reboot made upon the original series was introducing a Snarf that was more like Lion-O’s trusty pet as opposed to worrisome protector. The new Snarf was younger, cuter, and less likely to make our ears bleed with a whiny “Snarf! Snarf” every fifteen seconds.
1. Lion-O had the mind of a child
Despite being the Lord of the ThunderCats (and having the physique of a pro-wrestler on a heavy dose of steroids), Lion-O actually has the mind of a 12-year-old. When Lion-O boards the flag ship bound for their new home he is a young boy. However, when he emerges from his suspension chamber Lion-O’s body has doubled in size, but he does not go through the trails and tribulations that mark true maturity.
Lion-O’s underdeveloped mind was no doubt the cause of many of the ThunderCat’s troubles, particularly in the early episodes of the series. The new Lord of the ThunderCats is overwhelmingly curious and often quick to jump to conclusions. The character’s learning curve no doubt helped younger viewers identify with the show’s hero, who often needed to rely on others in order to succeed. Many have speculated that ThunderCats was intended to prepare viewers for the awkward transition through adolescence. Though we can’t say being fans of ThunderCats did us much good when we were teenagers, we can certainly say that it added some top-shelf entertainment to our childhoods.
What do remember most about the ThunderCats? Let us know in the comments!