She-Ra Princess of Power isn’t the only ’80s-era cartoon returning soon to TV screens. We recently learned that the sci-fi action cartoon ThunderCats will be getting a 2019 Cartoon Network reboot named ThunderCats Roar. But while the 1985 original and its 2011 reboot featured the feline warriors in a muscular Japanimation style that made us feel weirdly tingly during our pre-pubescent years. However, ThunderCats Roar has softened their looks considerably, making them more round and cartoonish — kind of like the characters in The Amazing World of Gumball — not so very sexy. So while the new show isn’t likely to jumpstart any young kid’s queer sexuality, let’s revisit what made the original the cat’s meow.
You may recall that the original 1985 ThunderCats cartoon series featured red-haired leader Lion-O, grey-skinned tech-whiz Panthro, wise warrior Tygra, super-fast Cheetara, twin tricksters WilyKit and WilyKat and their worrisome companion Snarf.
They all lived in the “Cat’s Lair” on Third Earth (after their home planet of Thudera exploded), wore sexy skin-tight outfits and spent their time fighting the monstrous Mutants of Plun-Darr, a group of jackal-, ape- and lizard-like beasts, led by Mumm-Ra the Everliving, an undead demon-priest endowed with shapeshifting and other sorcery.
Lion-O had a special sword, the Sword of Omens, which gave him “sight beyond sight” allowing him to see events happening elsewhere. The sentient sword was also able to cast the ThunderCats symbol into the air in times of need.
The 1985 series had 130 episodes, some of them quite serious. The ThunderCats regularly stumbled across other exploited communities on Third Earth; got kidnapped, taken hostage or placed in life-threatening situations; and sometimes they were even forced to fight each other thanks to Mumm-Ra’s magical manipulation.
And let’s be clear: Lion-O and his pals were proper fit. They looked like performers from Broadway’s Cats who’d started exercising with Cirque Du Soliel. They were acrobatic, had deep adult voices and well-defined muscular bodies barely contained in skin-tight leotards. Hell, Lion-O and Panthra basically wore S&M harnesses and briefs that showed off their bare pecs, abs and legs. No wonder we found ourselves wanting to do battle with them — rawr!
Not since He-Man had we been so turned on by a cartoon’s erotic undertones.
Here’s the 1985 ThunderCats intro:
The 1985 cartoon (which lasted until 1989) spawned action figures, comic books, lunch boxes, a board game and even a PC video game. But although the series remained popular with fans who’d seen it as kids, it largely disappeared from the cultural landscape through the 90s and early 2000s.
In 2011, Cartoon Network rebooted ThunderCats for one season of 26 episodes. The reboot had a decidedly darker tone as Mumm-Ra killed Lion-O’s older mentor, Claudus, and then enslaved the entire race of Cats. Similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, the series was broken up into different parts in which the ThunderCats sought the three magic stones that gave Mumm-Ra his immense power.
It also introduced new protagonists and antagonists, including a few Cats that helped do Mumm-Ra’s bidding.
But most importantly, the 2011 reboot maintained the character’s sexiness. Their new costumes hid their fantastic bodies, but the newly redrawn characters all had great physiques, looking like slender young adults with some light romance thrown into their usual heroism.
Here’s the 2011 ThunderCats intro:
Now in its third iteration, the ThunderCats are back in ThunderCats Roar, but they’re much more cartoonish, much less dark and serious than before. And they’re not at all sexy. They look like something your nephew or niece would watch rather than something you’d longingly bite your lower lip while viewing.
Speaking of the original’s far-fetched magical and sci-fi plots, the producer ofThunderCats Roar, Victor Courtright, says, “I think the world that they built lends itself really well to comedy because of how silly and crazy and outlandish those ideas are and some of those settings are. But at the same time, it wouldn’t be ThunderCats if it didn’t have super cool action elements because that’s what people came back to.”
He continues, “So with the new show, we’re not walking away from the action in any bit. Every step we take towards comedy, we take two more towards really cool action scenes and explosions and lasers and action effects.”
Here’s a behind the scenes look at the 2019 ThunderCats Roar intro:
Comedy?!? While the old show was fantastical and over-serious, it was hardly comedic.
And while new show looks like rapid-fire fun, it has also replaced the ThunderCats darkness for something lighter geared towards younger viewers rather than the YA set. You probably won’t find any young kids lusting after Lion-O and his group of fierce felines any longer: Its sexual edges have been smoothed away and they don’t even resemble cats anymore so much as oddly colored humans.
Lion-O and Panthra wear boxer briefs now. Their “muscles” are just round lines, Lion-O sounds like he’s voiced by a perky college student and even Snarf has lost his beard and his cubbish body shape. Oh well.
All the same, we may find a new generation of kids inspired by their heroic tales and eager to re-discover the 1985 original that stimulated our imaginations and lusty appetites back before we went on the prowl ourselves.
Featured image via John Hom Studio