It goes without saying that kid’s shows are supposed to be ridiculous, and if they aired during the 1980s, you can expect an additional layer of corniness added to the casserole. ThunderCats -- a cartoon about humanoid alien cats trying to make a home for themselves on a post-apocalyptic Earth -- is a primary example of this, and after its debut in 1985, the series gave audiences 130 episodes of the never-ending battle between unwavering good and absolute evil.
While many of the earlier episodes became instant classics, the show undeniably fell in quality during the later seasons, and many of the moments that had been ridiculously fun turned into just plain old ridiculous. We’ve recently published articles about forgotten trivia from the series, along with speculation about what a live-action film might look like today, so it only seemed appropriate to also compile a list of all the absurd, offensive, and utterly implausible moments from the original series. And by Jaga, there sure are a lot.
Here are the 15 Most WTF Moments From ThunderCats.
This drug-induced moment comes surprisingly early in the show's run, taking place just nine episodes into the first season. "The Garden of Delights" begins with Tygra departing Cats Lair to investigate a series of small earthquakes around Third Earth, when he falls into a crack in the earth's crust and ends up following a slime-trail all the way to a subterranean garden. A talking plant known as Silky offers Tygra a yellow fruit to eat, but little does Tygra known that Silky is actually Mumm-Ra incognito, and the yellow fruit is actually laced with a hypnotic drug.
Tygra sinks his teeth in and immediately enters a euphoric state. Flowers bud from his body, and he laughs happily at nothing in particular. The hallucination sequence is fairly trippy for a kid's show, and it even ends with Tygra beginning to spiral out of control after discovering that he actually does not possess the ability to fly.
What's even more shocking is that Tygra becomes so addicted to the drug that he agrees to betray Lion-O and steal the Sword of Omens for Mumm-Ra, so long as Mumm-Ra continues to keep Tygra supplied. We're all for movies and TV shows that portray drug addiction pointedly, but we can't help but think these are some pretty heavy themes for a kid's cartoon.
Every few episodes of the series it was expected that Mumm-Ra would call upon the Ancient Spirits of Evil to transform him into... Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living! This upgraded form would allow the undead sorcerer to fly from his Black Pyramid and stand toe-to-toe with the impressively muscular Lion-O. However, the Ancient Spirits would only grant these additional powers in the service of evil, and on a number of occasion it almost seem like Mumm-Ra would have to beg for their assistance.
Despite all of this, in the episode “Hair of the Dog,” Snarf is somehow able to use the spirits to transform into Snarf-Ra, the Ever-Living — making us wonder if the Ancient Spirits of Evil were out to lunch during this particular episode. Snarf certainly isn’t evil, and he even ends up using his new form to defeat Mumm-Ra (which is ridiculous enough in its own right). But what makes this moment even more absurd, is that the episode begins with Mumm-Ra making Snarf and his dog, Ma-Mutt, swap bodies in an attempt to infiltrate Cats Lair. So when Snarf summons the Ancient Spirits to transform him, he morphs straight from Ma-Mutt into a gigantic Snarf. Seriously? WTF?
Since the ThunderCats had been endlessly battling both the Mutants and the Lunataks, you'd think that they would have been the ones to ultimately capture and exile the evil-doers from Third Earth. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. In the 109th episode of the series, the peculiar bounty hunter Captain Bragg flies to Third Earth on his circus train to collect his bounties without receiving a lick of help from the ThunderCats. What’s even worse is the lame and offensive tactics Bragg employs to round up the baddies.
The episode begins with Captain Bragg basically kidnapping and hypnotizing WilyKat into coming aboard his train so he can extract information from him, which already makes us massively dislike the captain. Then Bragg tracks down Monkian and Jackalman and proceeds to entice the Mutants onto his train by promising them a peepshow. Though the word is never uttered outright, Bragg lasciviously describes the female Mutant as “gorgeous, glamorous, glittering” and “the object of your heart's desire.” The Mutants' expressions say the rest, and Monkian and Jackalman fall for the seedy trap and are imprisoned by Captain Bragg, which goes to show that if only the ThunderCats had lacked morals they could have defeated the Mutants on day one.
When Mumm-Ra discovers that the Sword of Omens cannot be used to perform evil, he stops trying to acquire the weapon for himself and sets his sights on destroying it altogether. This leads to the episode "Sword in a Hole," in which the ThunderCats respond to a faux S.O.S. message in deep space only to have Mumm-Ra cast the mighty sword into a spiraling black hole. Our beef with this episode is not that Lion-O is able to traverse the black hole and return with his sword; it's that he enters deep space without the protection of a space suit.
Sure, it's a cartoon. And yes, the ThunderCats are an alien race with superpowers. Like we've already said, we expect kids' shows to be ridiculous, but we also expect them to abide by the rules of their own logic. Since the ThunderCats require breathing devices underwater, we can safely assume that they survive on oxygen. Additionally, the ThunderCats have been known to don their Thermal Catsuits whenever they explore a snowy environment. If they need the extra layers to survive a winter storm, they most certainly would need the protection in the -400 degrees Fahrenheit that is outer space! Plus, it would've been pretty cool to see what a Thunderian spacesuit would have looked like.
The episode “Excalibur” has a pretty solid premise to build. It begins with the Ancient Spirits of Evil recounting the tale of King Arthur to Mumm-Ra, and they inform the undead sorcerer how Arthur once wielded Excalibur, the most powerful sword ever created. Thus, Mumm-Ra transforms himself into the legendary king and tricks the Lady of the Lake into giving him the all-powerful weapon so he can use it against the ThunderCats.
Still wearing his disguise, Mumm-Ra ventures to Cats Lair and challenges Lion-O to a dual, giving audiences the first epic sword fight between the two adversaries. Unfortunately, the climactic scene takes a sudden nose dive when the swords inexplicably fly from their owners’ hands and being to clash and chase each other around the sky of Third Earth. This ridiculous twists sucks all the air out of an otherwise intense mano-a-mano sword fight between the two, subsequently tarnishing an otherwise awesome episode. The writers should have known that a sword fight means nothing if there isn't a pereson on the hilt end of the weapon. What a major let down.
Throughout the series, the demon priest Mumm-Ra assumes many forms, most notably, Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living — a far more muscular and powerful incarnation of himself. But instead of just taking on the ThunderCats with brute force alone, Mumm-Ra has an odd habit of impersonating seemingly harmless creatures in an attempt to trick his adversaries.
In the episode "Queen of Eight Legs,” Mumm-Ra disguises himself as Diamondfly, a cute female butterfly with a squeaky voice, who awakens Lion-O from a nap and tricks him into entering the Kingdom of Webs. While Queen Spidera is the primary antagonist of this episode, Mumm-Ra's transformation into Diamondfly is far more memorable, and not necessarily in a good way. The bizarre juxtaposition of Mumm-Ra's baritone cackle coming from a female butterfly is beyond creepy and would surely freak out any younger viewers. It's no wonder that this eccentric transformation never made it into another episode.
Whether is be the Berbils, Bolkins or Warrior Maidens, the ThunderCats were always quick to provide a helping hand to any race on Third Earth in exchange for friendship. And it should come as no surprise that the ThunderCats formed a special bond with any other cat-like creature on their new home -- even down to the ability to communicate telepathically with their fellow felines. Given all that, the ending of the episode “Runaways” is a giant slap in the face to what we’ve come to expect from the honorable ThunderCats.
Feeling under-appreciated by their elders, WilyKit and WilyKat run away from Cats Lair and find refuge in a stranger’s cave. They mistakenly scarf down some Deadly Brackenberries only to be saved in the nick of time by Kudi, a cat-like creature that lives alone in the cavern. In gratitude, the ThunderKittens invite Kudi away from her lonely existence to live with them in Cats Lair. Of course, Mumm-Ra complicates matters and seizes the opportunity to transform into Kudi and infiltrate the Cats' home base.
Unfortunately, even after Lion-O ousts Mumm-Ra, the adult ThunderCats never extend a genuine thanks to Kudi for saving WilyKit and WilyKat’s lives. Instead, Lion-O and Panthro are too busy berating the ThunderKittens, while Kudi is back in her lonely cave, never to be heard from again.
If you exclude the opening montage and the end credits, every episode of ThunderCats is only about 20 minutes long. With such a limited amount of time to tell a story, it's of the utmost importance to hit the ground running and hook the audiences with a problem that the ThunderCats will be tasked with solving by the end of the episode. That being said, "Side Swipe" has the weakest, most-meandering, and utterly ridiculous first act of the series.
The episode begins with Snarfer flying back to the Tower of Omens with an order of Mexican food. (Seriously, Mexican food?) Meanwhile, Snarf and Lynx-O lounge around the tower talking about how they can't wait to eat said Mexican food. Then, Chilla inexplicably shows up and sideswipes Snarfer's space craft. And then, Mandora the Evil Chaser shows up to cite Chilla for her reckless driving, only to have her throat frozen by the crazed Lunatak. Luckily, Snarfer had some hot sauce on hand from the Mexican restaurant, and he uses it to unfreeze Mandora's throat.
Through it all, there's no mission; no ultimate obstacle for the Thundercats to overcome. Other than Snarfer making it back to the Tower of Omens while the Mexican food is still hot, of course.
This WTF moment comes from episode 100 of the series, titled "Exile Isle," which is so ridiculously outrageous from start to finish that it's earned two slots on this list (continued below). The episode begins with the ThunderCats capturing all six Lunataks and, with Lynx-O acting as judge, a trail is held to determine the fate of the evil-doers -- despite the fact that the ThunderCats have never held a trail before. It is ultimately decided that there is only one humane form of punishment acceptable for the Lunataks: exile from Third Earth.
Holding a trial and exiling the Lunataks seems logical enough, but the ThunderCats don’t just load them up on their ThunderStrike and transport them off Third Earth. Instead, they teleport them through deep space to a deserted planet, known as Exile Isle. Which begs a serious question: when exactly did the ThunderCats develop the ability to teleport? If they possessed this technology, then why did the Cats waste so much time flying between Third Earth and New Thundera? Unfortunately, this single episode undermined the rest of the series and and left serious fans forever scratching their heads.
Of course, we didn't expect the Lunataks to take their punishment sitting down, and once they arrive on Exile Isle we're expecting them to hatch a plan that gets them back to Third Earth so they can seek revenge. You might expect them to commandeer a passing ship, or possibly figure out a way to teleport back. However, those plans make far too much sense, and instead, the Lunataks decide to fire up the engines of a wrecked spaceship and fly the entire planet back to Third Earth.
As if this episode wasn't already crazy enough, Lion-O decides to venture out to Exile Isle to thwart the Lunatak’s plan, and he decides against bringing the Sword of Omens with him. Instead, Lion-O takes a man purse packed with everything he'll need to stop the Lunataks, which includes rock salt (to melt them with), a lie translator (to figure out when they’re being deceitful), and last, but certainly not least, a handful of candy (to distract them with).
Of course, the contents of Lion-O's purse don’t quite do the trick, and the Lord of the ThunderCats ends up summoning the Sword of Omens to his side anyway, which flies all the way from Third Earth, through deep space, and into his hand in the matter of seconds.
If you consider this moment in addition to entry number 15, we think it's safe to assume that Tygra may very well be a drug addict. This episode begins with Tygra and his fellow ThunderCats traveling to Crystal Canyon to retrieve the Keystone -- an all-powerful artifact that the Lunatacks are trying to get their hands on. After a crash landing, Tygra retrieves the Keystone and uses it to repair the ThunderStrike and heal an injured Lion-O, but when they safely return to Cats Lair, he refuses to let go of the artifact.
In his crazed state, Tygra believes that the Keystone is making him increasingly powerful, and we can't help but think that the effects of the stone are strikingly similar to the effects of cocaine (after all, the show was made during the '80s). Tygra refuses to eat and sleep. He stays up all night sweating and spinning ridiculous plans that never come to fruition. The super muscular ThunderCat even looses a bunch of weight and goes gaunt in the face - pretty bleak for a kid's show. Fortunately, cartoon characters bounce back at a miraculous rate, and Tygra is back to his sensible self by the end of the episode.
Even though the series had been deteriorating in quality for the last few seasons, the writers were still able to provide viewers with a satisfying and appropriately serious final episode, titled “The Book of Omens.” Since the series began with Thundera being destroyed, it was only fitting that the finale involved the Thundercats rescuing the landscape of New Thundera. The Cats head out in teams, each possessing an artifact that will heal the geological disaster, and Ben-Gali and Snarfer are tasked with taking the Golden Oar to the Baleful Swamp to turn it back into a crystal clear lake.
There’s just one little problem: the Baleful Swamp was featured in an earlier episode titled “Totem of Dera,” which took place on Third Earth…
For casual viewers of the series, this location-swap will likely go unnoticed, but for die-hard fanatics this was a major plot hole in an otherwise excellent finale. How could the writers not remember where the Baleful Swamp was originally located? Or why didn't they just change the name of the poisonous marsh to avoid confusion? This mix-up encapsulates the lack of attention to detail that plagues the second half of this classic series.
If you have to leave your home planet forever, you would think that it might be a good idea to pack up your wardrobe before you set sail through deep space to an unknown future. Or at the very least, bring an extra pair of undies along for the ride. However, this thought never crossed the ThunderCats' minds since apparently clothes weren't a thing back on on Thundera.
What's most shocking about the ThunderCats walking around buck naked is it's that's how the characters made their debut! Sure, the nudity isn't explicit, as the characters look more like naked action figures than anything else. But for a show marketed to seven-year-olds, the nudity probably raised a few parents’ eyebrows, especially when a naked Cheetara wakes up a 12-year-old Lion-O, who also happens to be naked. Jaga quickly clothes his fellow ThunderCats to better prepare them for the dangers that await them on Third Earth, though we're still not sure how much protection a skin tight leotard could possibly provide.
This cockamamie moment comes from episode 94 of the series titled “The Chain of Loyalty.” As we’ve heard dozens of times before the Code of Thundera revolves around “truth, honor, justice, and loyalty,” and when Lion-O is flipping through the sacred Book of Omens he finally discovers the symbol of the ThunderCats' loyalty. Jaga instructs Lion-O to locate the Chain of Loyalty, as it is one of their races' most prized possessions. Unfortunately, Lion-O doesn't realize that Mumm-Ra has been eavesdropping the entire time.
The ThunderCats travel to New Thundera to search for the chain, but it’s Mumm-Ra who discovers it first on the Mountains of the Moon. While the evil sorcerer taunts the ThunderCats with his shiny new possession, the chain shatters and almost immediately the ThunderCats are at each other’s throats. Apparently, the necklace wasn’t just some valuable representation of the ThunderCats’ loyalty; instead, it was literally the only reason they remained faithful to one another! This comes as a punch in the gut to audiences, as it appears as though the Cats would hate each other had it not been for some golden piece of jewelry stashed away on a distant planet. Of course, Lion-O pieces it back together before the credits roll, but unfortunately the ThunderCats’ true intentions have already been revealed.
At the start of the series, the Sword of Omens had a fairly well-established list of capabilities: it alerted Lion-O to danger, it signaled the ThunderCats into action, and it gave the Lord of the ThunderCats sight beyond sight. We have no problem whatsoever with the sword being sentient. But unfortunately, as the series went on the capabilities of the sword continued to grow to the point that it could literally solve any problem that the ThunderCats were faced with.
When the Chain of Loyalty broke, the sword pieced it back together. When Tygra grew weak due to the Keystone, the sword grew back his muscles. And when Lion-O was stranded on a distant planet in need of help, the sword flew across deep space to reach its master's hand.
The Sword of Omens started out as one of the coolest cartoon weapons of all time, specifically because it needed Lion-O to make the magic happen. But as the show wore on it become a contrived plot device, used to lazily solve any problem that the writers had created for the Cats. If the show had only abided by the guidelines that it had set up for itself at the start, it's quite possible that there wouldn't be nearly as many WTF moments from the second half of the series.
Can you think of any more WTF moments from the original ThunderCats? Feel free to share in the comments!