A successful toy line inspired this feline saga of exploration, exile and betrayal, closely approximating daytime soap operas as much as Saturday morning cartoons. And the successful five-year run of ThunderCats on television endeared it to millions of fans, who remain fiercly loyal to this day.
The story followed the anthropomorphic cats (felimorphic humans?) who had fled their dying planet, Thundera, and settled on Third Earth. Only a few Thundereans survived because their fleet was attacked by evil Mutants from the planet Plun-Darr, leaving the flagship all alone in the galaxy.
That flagship carried the young lord of Thundera, Lion-O, whose body had aged in its cryostasis pod, leaving him with a child’s brain in an adult body. Lion-O was noble and brave but lacked the necessary experience required for leadership. Luckily for him, he was surrounded by an elite team that helped him make a new home on Third Earth. The team included Tygra, a tiger-looking scientist and architect; Panthro, master engineer and pilot panther, who built new vehicles for the Thundercats to use; Cheetara, the lone adult female in the group, who was very brave, incredibly (cheetah) fast and a martial arts expert. She was also very hot and undoubtedly ushered many a young boy into puberty. Rounding out the group were twins WilyKit and WilyKat, two young wildcats, who had endless energy and mischief-making abilities.
The Thundercats were not alone on Third Earth, however. The Mutants of Plun-Darr had followed them and continued to make their lives difficult, constantly scheming to get their hands on the Eye of Thundera, a magic jewel embedded in Lion-O’s sword. The arrival of the two alien parties on Third Earth had the unforeseen side effect of waking the ancient and sinister Mumm-Ra, a malevolent mummified sorcerer, who quickly recruited the Mutants to his side. Mumm-Ra had his own designs on the Eye of Thundera and constantly devised traps for Lion-O and the other Thundercats.
The most memorable moments in the show occured when Lion-O called upon the powers of his sword with the words, “thunder…Thunder…THUNDER…THUNDERCATS…HOOOOOOOO!” The sword would grow to three times its size and also give Lion-O “sight beyond sight,” the ability to observe events far away. Equally memorable but tons creepier was Mumm-Ra’s transformation from dried-up husk to all-powerful demon; he would step out of his sarcophagus and intone, “Ancient spirits of evil, transform this decayed form to Mumm-Ra the Ever Living!” We love a villain with flair. We loved him through 130 syndicated episodes and all the action figures and assorted accessories our meager allowances would buy. In a nutshell, we loved ThunderCats.
If you were a fan of ThunderCats, we’d love to hear your memories in our comments section, as we pay tribute to this classic 80s animated series.