Cartoon Network is set to premiere a new incarnation of the popular 80’s animated series, Thundercats, to their successful slate of Friday night action shows. In conjunction with the new series, Warner Brothers has released a two disc set of the first twelve episodes from the original show. Although these episodes saw the light of day on DVD in 2005, this new release is certainly more affordable (there are fewer discs) and act as a solid introduction to the show. At our home, within the the first ten minutes of the first episode, my son looked at me and declared, “This show is AWESOME!” I don’t think you can get a better ringing endorsement than that. Thundercats was not part of my era of cartoons, so I never really paid attention to it back in the mid 80’s. Therefore, watching these initial episodes was new to me, as well. I don’t think I felt as strongly as my nine-year-old, but I did find myself engrossed with the adventures of the half-human/half-feline aliens known as Thundercats.
The opening episode sets the course for the series. After their home planet, Thundera, is destroyed, the Thundercats must journey through space to find a new home. Their group includes: Lion-O, the young boy destined to be king; Jaga, the eldest and wisest warrior; Tygra, who is level headed and smart in science; Panthro, the chief engineer; Cheetara, who is as beautiful as she is fierce; the brother and sister twins, Wilykat and WilyKit; and Snarf, Lion-O’s nursemaid and the comic relief. Each character is based on some kind of cat, in case you didn’t figure that out. The Thundercats are pursued by their mortal enemies, the Mutants of Plun-Darr, who spare Jaga’s ship because on board is the mystical Sword of Omens. The ‘cats fend off the mutants, but their ship is damaged. They must head for Third Earth, which will be a long journey. Jaga takes command of the ship and orders the others into suspended animation capsules. When the ship lands on Third Earth, we learn that Jaga has died of old age and that Lion-O’s capsule didn’t stop his aging, but merely slowed down. Instead of being a cub, he is now an adult. On their planet, the Thundercats begin a series of adventures of discovery and survival while making new friends (including Ewok looking creatures) and a new, menacing enemy, Mumm-Ra.
My son was enraptured from the opening notes of the jubilant theme song while I was more skeptical. However, aside from the dated music, I was quite surprised at how fluid and natural the animation was produced. This was not your typical anime production with limited poses and reused actions. While it would seem that one of the reasons for this show was the huge potential for toys (ya think?), a great deal of care still went into the writing, performances and overall production. If Warner Brothers intention with this release is to create excitement for the new series, it worked. My kid can’t wait for the new one. I’ll be interested to hear what he thinks of the update.
As I mentioned, Thundercats joins a lineup of popular action shows on Cartoon Network. One of those shows is the hit, Young Justice. The DVD release of the first four episodes are included on Season 1, Volume 1. Young Justice is not about sidekicks. In fact, these characters HATE being called sidekicks. They are teenagers coming of age after years of training with some of the world’s greatest heroes. As the two-part first episode explains, Robin, Kid Flash, Speedy (whose mentor is Green Arrow) and Aqualad are all invited to come to the Justice League headquarters. The Justice League is the collected group of heroes who take on the jobs that are too big for just one of them (i.e alien attacks). The youngsters assume that they are being invited to join the League. Instead, it turns out to be like a field trip. Speedy gets pissed as walks off, ending his relationship with Green Arrow and the others. Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad, while disappointed, decide to go off and secretly investigate some trouble at a company called Cadmus. They uncover a secret program developing a super race of people. Among them is the clone of Superman.
The clone, who is called Superboy (although he’s clearly a teenager) joins up with the other three to bring down this nefarious lab. Afterward, the kids are chewed out by Batman and the other Leaguers, but they’ve impressed the adults and offered to become convert operatives for the Justice League. Martian Manhunter’s niece joins by the end of these four episodes (a fifth member, Artemis, appears on the cover art, but she joins the team later). The producers of Young Justice have approached their series like a YA adventure. Not only do these five teens have to fight to save the planet, they also must deal with issues like abandonment, fitting in, teen love and parents. This series has something for just about every age group: action and adventure for younger kids, character development for teens, and, uh… action and adventure for geeky adults.
This show is a huge hit in our house. It helps that this is a slick, well made animated series with a continuing storyline that draws you back in episode after episode. The writing is excellent on Young Justice, adhering to the established DC comics mythologies, yet also creating its own, stand alone world. All of the actors do a fine job, although Jesse McCartney’s Robin can get a little grating at times. Overall, though, this is a quality show. It’s a little disappointing that there are only four episodes on this one disc. However, there is enough here to keep kids and their fanboy dads entertained until the next DVD or whenever the series returns with new episodes.