The ThunderCats are loose. After months of teasing, Cartoon Network showed off a full trailer for the new cartoon series at WonderCon last weekend. It was released to the Internet shortly thereafter.
The trailer represents the first extended look at the classic characters in their revived forms, with full battle sequences and voice accompaniment. Fans are also treated to their first glimpse of classic ThunderCats villains like Mumm-Ra and Slithe.
The tone and direction of the series seems to be taking a significant shift from the original cartoon. There's a significant bit of geopolitics on display on Third Earth (for a kids' show, in any case) and a more pronounced prophecy plot device.
The biggest stylistic change of the new series: character differentiation. Changes to body type, color patterns and facial structure allow viewers to easily pick out the individual characters, though Panthro is notably absent.
Easily the biggest gripe that fans have had with the new series is the depiction of Lion-O as a teenager. His more child-like stature is on display as he spars with his father Claudius (voiced by Larry Kenney, the original Lion-O) and wields the Sword of Omens.
Personally, I'm OK with the change. Lion-O was originally a 12-year-old who was artificially aged - a detail lost on many. The new design should make him more appealing to the 8-12 target demographic, and get the point across that he's very much a leader in training.
Judge for yourself - watch the ThunderCats trailer below:
The '80s version of ThunderCats took place in an unmistakably sci-fi universe, with spaceships, battle tanks and (gasp!) laser guns. The new cartoon seems content with more sword-and-sorcery fare, with bows and arrows, catapults and such, in addition to the close-quarters weapons of the original. There's still room for sci-fi elements including missile-firing mechs and a Thunder Tank, (gotta sell the kids something!) but the action of ThunderCats will be more He-Man than G.I. Joe.
The animation is good, if not great. Warner Bros. Animation is turning out some truly impressive stuff these days, and Studio 4°C seems to be demonstrably behind, even in the action-packed trailer (WBA provides the character designs and artwork, while Japan-based 4°C is doing the actual animating). Even so, it's a noticeable step above the old series on a technical level, and much more appealing than leaked footage from the cancelled CG adaptation.
Be sure to watch the trailer until the very end: there's an auditory treat for fans of the original series.
ThunderCats is currently slated for a July release on Cartoon Network.
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