I know, we’ve all calmed down until next year, when Thundercats Roar hits Cartoon Network but I found this video and I wanted to show it. And while Thundercats is used as an example the arguments in the video hold true for the direction kids TV has gone and the arguments against getting upset at not-stalgia and mockstalgia when it comes to kids TV.
Really the defenders of these shows use one very insulting argument to the creators of the original show: “it’s only a kids show”, as if somehow that’s a bad thing. As if kids shows don’t have a lot of work put into their lore. You know what else is “only a kids show”? Steven Universe, Star Vs. The Forces Of Evil, Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend Of Korra, Batman: The Animated Series, Ducktales, Gargoyles, and that’s the shows made for kids that get heapings of praise by adults for their lore and characters. You know what other show had a strong lore and well thought out characters? Thundercats!
I’ve been following the channel of author and modern mythology teacher Michael Critzer, aka “Professor Geek“. One of the reasons is this follow-up he did to his previous video on Thundercats Roar, the comedy-fied mockstalgia of the classic series. He counters some of the arguments made in defense of the new incarnation and why fans of the original are right to not be happy with the new incarnation. And it starts with the Iliad, which is also a work of fiction but we call it mythology.
Since the link has been replaced with a promotional link for the original Thundercats on YouTube’s paid service here’s the video he referred to, discussing how modern audiences aren’t connecting with literature and modern TV/movie myth as they used to. But this one makes all the arguments I want to focus on.
I want to add something to the “it’s just supposed to sell toys” nonsense. Ted Wolf didn’t create Thundercats to sell toys. He created a TV show, a mythology around science and magic cohabiting in the same race and universe. Between Wolf and the writers they created a lore and memorable characters. If they didn’t (a) the toys wouldn’t look as good and thus wouldn’t sell as well and (b) that wasn’t the first thing in the mind of the writers, actors, and other creators. They wanted to make a good show and at times were hampered by the toy company wanting to add some new characters to sell. But Thundercats isn’t based on a toyline like Masters Of The Universe was. The toys simply paid for the show. Notice how the animation dips in later seasons when the toys weren’t being sold and that part of the overall budget was lost. No television show comes out of nowhere and back when first-run syndication existed the ad revenue wasn’t always enough. Heck, it wasn’t always enough on Saturday Mornings and those were network shows.
Writing something off as a kids show is insulting…first of all to the audience, as if they’re only getting crap (I refer you again to the list in the second paragraph) and second of all to the creators as if lacking gore, boobs, swears, and being less complex than adult shows to cater to child sensibilities and interests means the writers produced crap. Only the writers who think like these people produced crap. He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe gave us Bob Forward, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, J. Michael Straczynski, and other writers, creators, and directors you’ve heard of and enjoyed the work of.
And as the Professor said (he’s an actual professor at an actual college by the way) these modern mythologies, whether it’s Thundercats or Star Wars, register with their fans. Ted Wolf worked hard to create a functional universe and he deserves credit for that, not ridicule and indifference. At least appreciate the work he put into it. This is why fans are not happy with this mockstalgic insult to a show they grew up with, and it is based on the original series. When you take a cultural artifact of highly conceived world and civilization like the Sword Of Omens and call it a “magic slicing stick” you ridiculing it. Do you see anyone calling Excalibur a “stabby thing”? No.
If you like the idea of Thundercats Roar then go ahead and enjoy it. But understand that those of us who have one of the previous incarnations as an important part of our childhood, who enjoy good characters and moral lessons mixed with high action and suspense, are not going to enjoy it no matter how good you think the new show is. And it’s the only game in town unless you buy the DVDs or pay some fee to watch it online. Today’s kids are missing out on a good fun action show because everyone only wants to make gritty or comedic remakes and it’s an insult to one man’s hard work.