Though my memories are now hazy, I was something of a Thundercats fan as a child (I think I liked the Silverhawks more). Reboots are all the rage nowadays, and I was rather annoyed to see that this classic cartoon series had received such treatment. Somewhat coincidentally, I watched the first episode and was amazed that it actually was a good show – I found out later that the animation was done by Studio 4 degrees (an anime production house in Japan), and the producers/writers were aiming for the series to be cinematic rather than just an episodic kids’ cartoon series.
So, Thundercats 2011 is an excellent reboot, with well-written, well-told stories – I found that even the one-off episodes were engaging, and didn’t lean too heavily on cliche. The relationships between the characters was more interesting than a kids’ cartoon series, with slow-burning jealousies, feelings of inadequacy, and betrayals. Even the hastily-sketched characters were likeable.
The story conjures up a medieval fantasy setting and then throws in disruptive sci-fi and a “time chasm” backstory to give a sense of scale. The writers incorporate deliberate formulaic touches (Leo finds himself in a pinch and exclaims “Whiskers!” every episode) but avoid overusing the pay-offs – for example Mumm-Ra transforms for the first time only midway through the series, and his clashes with the Thundercats find different expression each time. Snarf doesn’t talk, instead squeaking “Snarf! Snarf!” like a Pokemon – from what I remember, this is an improvement 😉
The animation is excellent, with great incorporation of CGI, consistent use of visual effects (eg speed trails and stealth modes on certain characters), a wide variety of settings (a fortified city, sea of sand, a frontier town, a lush valley, and so on), and distinctive character designs.
The new Thundercats is a great series, and I recommend it to those who enjoy some sci-fi/fantasy adventure.