My first reaction to the video you are about to see, after a couple of minutes of coming up with anything to say was “WHY?”.
Thundercats was a series created by Ted Wolf, the first of three animated action TV series produced by Rankin Bass. While they had done a few movies like adaptations of Tolkien and The Last Unicorn, there were only three action series–Thundercats, Silverhawks, and for The Comic Strip they made Tigersharks. Yes, they fell into a naming rut but they were each good shows and the only thing not unique about the three were the names. Thundercats was about a group of space refugees trying to survive on a hostile alien planet, a mix of science and magic that was around quite a bit in the 1980s. Silverhawks was about a team of cyborg space cops fighting a galactic mob in a galaxy with weird space physics. Tigersharks was about a team of deep-sea explorers that could temporarily turn themselves into fish people brought into a fight between pirates and would-be conquerors for the fate of an innocent water world. There was action, good characters, and more often than not well thought out story ideas.
In 2011 a remake of Thundercats was produced. Now it was their ancestors who were space refugees along with the other natives of the planet, a victim of a near-immortal slaver, and the current team tried to survive outside their ruined city and make up for past evils by their forefathers. It was also an action show, and while I lost interest in it I thought it was a really good show and I think it’s worth checking out.
Now coming in 2019 we will have a third cartoon, Thundercats Roar. This is going to be a more comedic take on the franchise and fans are not happy with it. As the title of this article suggests I’m one of those fans. But please hear me out. This isn’t some kneejerk nostalgic reaction. I have good reasons why I am not happy with what we’ve seen thus far. But first we need to watch the video explaining what the producers have in mind. Let’s be fair about this after all.
Let me break out some praise here, lest you mistake this for yet another rage assault on the internet concerning Thundercats Roar. I have my problems with it to be sure, but I don’t think the comparison to Teen Titans Go is completely justified. Partially, but not completely, and I think there’s another show this seems to be emulating.
And while I can’t really get into OK KO! Let’s Be Heroes I can’t call it a bad show. It have a good premise, likeable characters, a fair animation style if you watch the actual show, and while I’m not into the art style I don’t think it’s terrible. It’s a fun show, and it does have some actually good action and fight scenes, which is important for a show about a kid learning to become a hero while protecting a grocery store. (It makes sense in context. I think.) I’m also not against the suggestion that the original series has elements that lend itself to comedy. I liked The Super Hero Squad Show, which was also a comedy but using the Marvel heroes. Even Justice League Action often uses comedy when mixed with action and if that’s what this show is going to do it might still work, but I don’t think it is. I honestly like the Thundercats Roar logo, and for the art style they’re going for the intro is actually pretty good…until the last few seconds when some voice says “Thundercats” and sounds all weird at the end. I don’t necessarily think this show is going to be garbage.
However, quality is not enough when adapting a property (as noted in pretty much any Battlestar Galactica rant I’ve ever made) and that’s where I start having issues. Already I don’t think the OK KO style really fits with the Thundercats franchise.
Cartoon Network has been abandoning action series. I’ve written before about their poor treatment of Transformers: Robots In Disguise 2015 and Justice League Action, the only action show in their line-up. (I’m not counting Toonami shows because it’s currently a weekly action anime block run by Williams Street, who handles the late-night “Adult Swim” lineup.) So watching them take an action property and turn it into a wacky comedy is frustrating and annoying. We classic fans and even the 2011 fans were perfectly happy with the action show we got and seeing it dumbed down is a major disappointment. And it does appear dumbed down based on this video. Lion-O sounds goofy in how he talks and refers to the Sword Of Omens, a rather important and mystical artifact of the previous series, as his “magic slicing stick”. Plus his solution to a strange machine is to slice through it with said slicing stick, which would freak out 2011 Lion-O. It’s not a good showing right out of the box.
Let’s face it, Cartoon Network has been dumbing down older action shows into mindless comedy. While the previous Teen Titans cartoon (yes, I’m being pedantic because the “original” was a segment on the old Justice League Of America cartoon featuring four of the original Titans, none of whom are part of the “New Teen Titans” that the more recent cartoons and upcoming live-action Titans show is going by) had its comedic moments it was still treated like an action, with characters people loved and good strong heartwarming character moments that Teen Titans Go tossed out and occasionally mock because fans supposedly can’t handle a new comedic take. (Note to the creators of Thundercats Roar, DO NOT WASTE THE TIME OF PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY LIKE YOUR SHOW BY CREATING STORIES JUST TO TAKE POP SHOTS AT YOUR CRITICS! IT MAKES YOU LOOK PETTY AND STUPID AND WILL ONLY DRAW MORE HATE UPON YOU!) Even The Powerpuff Girls, already a parody of superhero stories, have taken all the heroic factors out of the Girls and made the show a shadow of its former self. Ben 10 had a slower slide since Omniverse was a better continuation than the more recent Ben 10 cartoon. That means action show fans are already concerned about another favorite being drained of what made it good to simply go after the “lowest common denominator” whether that’s the intention of the creators or not.
There also seems to be a major disdain for 1980s TV shows. You need look no further than the movies, where you get mockstalgia like Chips, or not-stalgia like The A-Team or Jem, And that’s on top of 1970s shows and sooner getting the same treatment. But the 80s really has it bad. My Reviewers Unknown colleague the Rowdy Reviewer posted a review of That 80s’ Show, which is obviously based on the concept of That 70s Show but focused less on the characters and more about “this is the 1980s, look how 1980s it is!” mocking. VH-1’s I Love The 80s was not a love letter of the 80s but a raking of it. Rainbow Brite was turned into a spasmastic kid. The Care Bears…mostly escaped but it didn’t care to have actual villains worth caring about compared to the 80s cartoons. My Little Pony somehow managed to survive (and after some failures managed to improve with Friendship Is Magic) while He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe turned darker but still managed to be faithful. Besides there were already many different takes back then thanks to books, cartoons, and other story-based promotional material having multiple continuities already because toylines seldom have a set storyline that everyone has to build off of like other idea sources. Even the minicomics that came with the toys had at least two different continuities. If it’s not mocking, it’s darkened and more “gritty”.
Look, I’m not going to immediately assume Victor Courtright, the producer, is lying when he says he has a love of the original show and wants to tell Thundercat stories, but in a style he’s more comfortable with. This may actually be coming from a fan. But I’ve seen people say this would be more acceptable as a fan project and I would take it as a series of shorts were Cartoon Network actually doing a faithful adaptation or even airing the original 80s show, which Thundercats Roar seems to be getting its ideas from. When the show airs and if I’m still doing reviews I will give it a fair, just, and honest review. However, I don’t think this style is going to benefit the franchise or get kids interested in either of the previous incarnations, and you have to understand why fans are concerned given Cartoon Network’s history and apparent hatred of action shows. It might end up being good but it’s not going to be a proper adaptation and I don’t see classic fans like me being won over anytime soon. Not while Cartoon Network continues on the path it’s on. Is it a raping of our childhood? No, we have WildStorm’s Thundercats: The Return to do that…literally if you’re Cheetara or Wilykit. Is it going to be good for the fans or the franchise? Right now I kind of doubt it.