I don’t really follow Twitter these days. Occasionally I’ll peek in to see what’s happened and my browser start page is still the Notifications page to see if anyone is trying to get my attention or retweeting something I did post, but posting is otherwise all I use it for anymore. There’s too much in-fighting where nobody listens to what the other is saying (“agree with me or die” is the norm whether you talk politics, sports, or storytelling) and just wants everyone to agree with their angry rant. Anyone who disagrees is a “toxic manbaby” (even if they’re women) and whatever -ist they can use in that given situation. Not the responders are always much better as they let their rage take over rather than explaining WHY they don’t like something in a way only a die-hard extremist can misinterpret. Then again, it’s Twitter. The character limit can work against even the best social media users.

Recently I tried to prove that the dislike of ThunderCats Roar isn’t just fans of the original series who just want to hate everything by posting a review from someone with no ties to the original also hating the show. (He also put down the term “Cal Arts style” by highlighting why the term is garbage, though I have noticed a few shows using a bean as the starting point for designing character heads so there is at least some interesting similarities out there.) My own response to the pilot was basically “meh”. I was expecting another mockstalgia (the original announcement video didn’t exactly offer hope, and neither did the arguments for it) and while I can’t proclaim it a loving parody it wasn’t the garbage I was expecting. It just didn’t impress me outside of a few gags, including the “don’t say his name” gag that others hate but I thought was used well in the end. I just hope they dropped it afterwards.

A defender of Roar popped up on Twitter and contrary to how Twitter usually functions these days he was rather nice about it. He is a fan of the original who I guess went in with a more open mind than I did and found it good. He honestly enjoys it and was concerned I was joining the ragefest. Honestly I didn’t get enough out of it to rage against. There were parts I found bad from a storytelling perspective, like how the ThunderCats were introduced, but it wasn’t as bad as expected. During the conversation, he said this:

I’m breaking my resolution to not engage Roar critics to req one thing: please stop holding up 2011 TC as an accurate or even faithful adaption of ThunderCats. It absolutely is not. You just like it bc anime action & mature themes, the direction you want. The rest: fine, bang on.

Yes, during the conversation (I’ll post the actual tweet if he approves it…no sense making a target just because we don’t agree) we discussed reboots versus re-imaginings and the 2011 ThunderCats reboot came up. He does have a point on this one though. Back when I reviewed the pilot episode I did note that changes were made that I didn’t care for. Since then the full series has been out and I did catch the first batch, though I missed most of the episodes when it moved to the Adult Swim version of the Toonami programming block because I didn’t know it was there. The only thing they really fixed from the pilot was bringing back the sci-fi elements. And while there is a reason people use the show as a good example of a reboot, it’s not as good as He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe, and that messed with things, too.

Our Heroes

In the original Lion-O was a ten or twelve-year-old boy who, due to a malfunction in his suspension capsule, physically aged to a man but didn’t go through the life experiences that bring emotional maturity. His character arc was not only learning that being Lord Of The ThunderCats meant more than a hereditary title (and soon had to actually earn the title officially in the story arc, “Lion-O’s Anointment”). In the new version he’s a teenager but still needs to learn the same lessons, except instead of being a quick-to-act-without-thinking boy he’s an idealistic, naive one. Sometimes it works in his favor, and actually saves his life and Tigra’s when a lizard man he defended earlier helps him escape in gratitude, and sometimes it doesn’t, especially when he needs to win the other ThunderCats to his cause. It’s not a bad change, but it does make him the most accurate of the ThunderCats to his original incarnation since he has the same character arc. The problem really comes from everyone else.

Lion-O is probably the only one who believes in the traditional Code Of Thundera: truth, honor, justice, loyalty. And remember, he’s the idealistic one. His character arc seems to also be about proving it to the others, who are increasingly altered layers from their original selves. The closest after Lion-O are the Thunderkittens, but Wilykat and Wilykit are more interested in some fabled treasure rather than being young ThunderCat nobles. Their bag of tricks are still around and as updated personalities they aren’t so bad. Especially compared to Panthro, who is now this gruff, angry person who lacks the relaxed cool of the original. Panthro could get mad but he had times when he was also quite chill. Also the new Thundertank, which now serves as a mobile headquarters with no Cat’s Lair to hang out in, is this huge, extreme death machine instead of transport and battle vehicle. I’m kind of mixed on that one really.

The real changes come from the rest. Tygra is no longer an engineer with his own share of wise council. Geez, even ThunderCats Roar got that right while parodying it in the pilot. No, he’s one of two de-aged characters, convinced he’s better than his now stepbrother Lion-O and wants to show him up. Also, he has his whip but would rather use his laser pistol he swiped from the mutants and his power of mental illusion is gone. Cheetara is also de-aged so early on she could start a love triangle between the already feuding brothers, ending up with Tygra because of something nice he did for her when they were younger. (It sounds better in context.) She keeps her superspeed but if she has her premonition powers I don’t remember them being in the episodes I saw. Then there’s Snarf the Pokémon, which was deserving of its own article. Jaga doesn’t do anything after he dies except in the odd flashback, and Pumyra, the only one of the second batch of ThunderCats to make it to the show, ends up working for Mumm-Ra and is out for revenge on Lion-O because he didn’t see her under a bunch of rubble after searching all over for survivors in the pilot. Not really the best showing here.

Our Villains

The only real problem I have with Mumm-Ra is the lore so let’s shelve him for now. Slithe is probably the closest to his other self except here he’s a more willing servant (when it suits him) of Mumm-Ra rather than being forced into servitude along with the other mutants. He is the only one to keep his army of lizards as the others don’t have access to armies made of their race. This was something that was dropped in the original series rather quickly, though other mutants would drop in later.

As for Monkian and Jackalman…you mean Addicus and Kaynar. Jackalman (at least according to the ThunderCats wiki) is more of another name for the Jackals race. Monkian doesn’t even get that. I guess someone thought their original names were too silly or something, because that’s how it goes with modern writers. They’re also more vicious and talking about eating people (I thought monkeys were vegetarians?) Grue is also here alive and gladly betraying his own people to Mumm-Ra…when he isn’t seeking to betray Mumm-Ra himself.

I could probably do an entire article on the lore itself and how wrong everything was. Don’t misunderstand me, 2011 fans. It’s a very well-told story with great characters. I’m a fan of it as well, though I didn’t get to see all of it. However, the comment is about how it isn’t an accurate or faithful adaptation, and with a few exceptions it really isn’t. Let’s start with the origins of Third Earth itself and Mumm-Ra. Old rags was a collector of anthropomorphic animal people (I forget if he even had a reason other than he liked to conquer and control them) and the cats that would become the ThunderCats used to work for him until one named Leo grew a conscience. It was his opposition that led to Mumm-Ra and his pyramid-shaped ship to crash on Third Earth. I guess there were no humans, thus why the warrior maidens didn’t show up. In the original the only other race from off-world were the Berbils, who also crashed on Third Earth but not much else is known about where they came from.

On Third Earth the ThunderCats formed the most powerful kingdom but rather than adhere to the aforementioned Code they suffered from a superiority complex and looked down on everyone else. Now maybe they were right to keep the Book Of Omens and the Sword Of Plundar away from the less than honorable races but the cats don’t seem all that better. Claudius certainly didn’t remind me of what little we saw of his 1980s self (though I do like that they got Larry Kenney to voice his own father). That and previously working for Mumm-Ra is why the other races often want nothing to do with our heroes even though they oppose Mumm-Ra (or sometimes because of it for different reasons). Lion-O, like his ancestor Leo, is trying to convince everyone of a better way of life. This isn’t what the original show was about, beyond maybe learning to work together. It’s a well thought out (mostly–I’m sure someone who has seen the whole thing found a plothole or two) and well written, but it doesn’t really match up to the original. And it’s not because the new show “did its own thing”, because the remake of He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe that preceded it did it’s own thing without messing with the lore or the characters to any great degree. (Again, I could point out some nitpicks but it did a better job as an adaptation than the re-imagined Thundercats did.)

Yeah, I’m pretty sure the second one (if the right video is still up) is a fan-made intro from before the series debuted (hence Kenney’s Lion-O for the call to action instead of Will Friedle) but the real one is up top and I like this one better.

So Why Is 2011 Used As A Defense Against Roar?

The original tweeter (and I’m translating from Twitter’s character limit) said we old other old fogeys “just like it because anime action & mature themes, the direction you want”. Granted, but it doesn’t invalidate his claim that 2011 isn’t a great adaptation. Something I’ve noted time and again here at BW Media Spotlight in recent years is that a good show doesn’t necessarily mean a good adaptation. However he also notes that it is an action show, just like 1980s ThunderCats. There is a bit more anime inspiration because it has become an inspiration to a new generation of creators who grew up during one of the two anime explosions in the US (funny given that the original was actually animated by a Japanese studio, TMS Entertainment) and it’s targeting an older audience than the original did. I don’t think that’s the only reason, though being a comedic remake or a parody (at least it wasn’t the mockstalgia I feared it would be, at least from the pilot) doesn’t help ThunderCats Roar in the current climate, considering a lot of people are still upset with the direction Teen Titans has taken, Cartoon Network’s abuse of what few action shows they show (if it isn’t on Toonami it’s buried like Justice League Action was and Transformers Cyberverse still is), and what appeared to be from the promo another mocking of a beloved 80s favorite. And some of these same people probably watched the ThunderCats skits on Robot Chicken and found it funny. I’m not really into their brand of humor but more power to them.

Some of the themes are still there, just in a rather odd direction compared to the original. Lion-O and Mumm-Ra are find, altered lore aside. Some of them hate 1980s Snarf so they got behind 2011 Snarf (I was not one of those people), and others just like the fact that they made an action show instead of a comedy. While I’m not saying Roar doesn’t have a right to exist (it’s rare that I will make such a proclamation) I do wonder why it exists. If the creator thought the concepts of 1980s ThunderCats lent itself to comedy, why not take those ideas and create an original property? Why create a comedic version of a 1980s show, target kids in the late 2010s (this was supposed to come out like 2018 or something) when those kids wouldn’t get the references? ThunderCats fans want to either see 2011 get the finished story they were denied (1980s has a proper finale) or a new version of the original that gets the lore right while still being an action show about a kid learning to become a man on a world filled with great wonders and great danger. Cartoon Network has shown they hate action shows, though I’ve heard there was a recent changing of the guard, yet see no evidence thus far of the treatment of action shows changing anytime soon.

At least neither of these were a “raping” of our childhood like a few other shows, movies, and comics that could be listed. WildStorm fans or people who saw my reviews of their run knows Cheetara’s suffered enough. And that one actually stuck to the source material. Not necessarily honored it, mind you, but it shows things could have been worse…because they already were.

About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

6 responses »

  1. Sean says:

    Very thoughtful commentary. I only saw the first episode of Thundercats 2011, and that was way back in August 2011! So reading your commentary refreshed my memory a bit on what I had seen in the first episode. Shortly after that episode, I went away on a trip to the Pacific Northwest for 2 weeks, and when I returned, then a new school year soon started, so I was busy with teaching work. Thus, I never got around to seeing other episodes. Honestly, I don’t feel a strong desire to try to see more of those episodes. I’m quite content with 1985/1986’s Season 1 of the Thundercats and a couple of Season 2 episodes where Hachiman and the Berzerkers appeared.

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  2. Sean says:

    I looked it up, and I actually saw that first episode on Friday, July 29, 2011, the first time it was shown. It was close to August, but not actually in August.

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  3. Sean says:

    The other thing I remember about the first episode of 2011 Thundercats was that it seemed to have a darker tone when compared with 1980s Thundercats.

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    • To be fair 80s ThunderCats was dark for an 80s kids show. Like the episode where Tigra trips out on magic fruit.

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      • Sean says:

        True, very true. One of my reactions to first seeing Thundercats 2011 was that it appeared to be a more violent and dark, brooding world.

        So what was Snarf like in the 2011 Thundercats? I know that he looks a little different, but how did he act?

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  4. […] write that last sentence. As far as 2011 someone got me to discuss how flawed an adaptation it was (and it was) but it at least had the right tone and got a few (but clearly not enough) details. After that […]

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