Following the destruction of their home, the kingdom of Thundera, the ThunderCats (a group of humanoidcats) are forced to roam the planet Third Earth, in order to find a way to defeat the evil sorcerer Mumm-Ra, who plans on taking over the universe. Story-wise the series attempts to take a much darker and more cinematic approach than the original show, featuring a lot more focus on characterization and more sophisticated themes.
Initially planned for 52 episodes, it was confirmed by ThunderCats art-director Dan Norton in early 2013 that the show had been canceled after only one season.Reruns of the show later aired on Adult Swim's Toonami block along with Sym-Bionic Titan.
On the planet known as Third Earth, the Cats have lived and thrived for generations in the kingdom of Thundera. The Cats are led by Claudus, with his son and heir Lion-O. However, one night the kingdom is attacked by the Lizard army led by the evil sorcerer Mumm-Ra. With them, the Lizards bring technology (a concept unfamiliar to the Cats). Because of this, Thundera is destroyed, Claudus is killed by Mumm-Ra, and the rest of the Cats are enslaved. A small band of surviving Thunderians led by Lion-O (who wields the powerful Sword of Omens) flee the destroyed city in order to seek out the Book of Omens which is said to have the knowledge needed to defeat Mumm-Ra. Once they find it, the ThunderCats realize that in order for them to defeat Mumm-Ra, they must unite all the different species living on Third Earth. The ThunderCats also discover that they have to find three stones of power which if found by Mumm-Ra will give him power to become the most powerful being in the universe.
The ThunderCats. From left to right: Tygra, WilyKit, Lion-O, WilyKat (foreground), Panthro (background), Snarf (foreground), Cheetara (background).
Lion-O (voiced by Will Friedle) – The leader/current Lord of the ThunderCats. The biological son of King Claudus, Lion-O was a misunderstood teenager in Thundera, being the only one in the kingdom who believed that technology and Mumm-Ra existed. Because of his beliefs, many felt he was unworthy to become king, often favoring his adopted older brother, Tygra, for the position. After the fall of Thundera and the death of King Claudus, Lion-O becomes the new Lord of the ThunderCats, leading the team to find a way to defeat Mumm-Ra. Even though Lion-O can be a bit of a hot-head, he's by far the most patient and understanding cat, even more than Cheetara. Lion-O also believes that the other races of Third Earth should be treated equally, as seen when Lion-O was defending two persecuted Lizards from some Thunderians and when he refused to give into Pumyra's dark temptation to steal the Tech Stone which would've resulted in the deaths of the Avistan birds. During the first half of season one, both he and Tygra had a crush on Cheetara, which only fueled the brothers' rivalry. In the end, Cheetara chose Tygra, which left Lion-O feeling bitter and betrayed. Attempting to move past his feelings for Cheetara, Lion-O attempted to cultivate feelings for Pumyra. However, any possibility of a relationship between them came to an abrupt end after he found out that, in truth, Pumyra was Mumm-Ra's willing agent the entire time she was with the ThunderCats.
Tygra (voiced by Matthew Mercer) – The adopted older brother of Lion-O. Tygra was originally born to Javan, the leader of the Tiger Clan living in the mountains (the Tigers were exiled because of their continued loyalty to Mumm-Ra). During this time, the Tiger Clan was stricken with disease, and in order to survive, they made a deal with the Ancient Spirits of Evil. In return for saving their lives, the Ancient Spirits of Evil demanded that Tygra (who was just a baby at the time) be sacrificed because they considered him a bigger threat to their existence than Lion-O would be. Unable to kill his own son, Javan sent him away in a hot air balloon and Tygra was eventually found/adopted by the royal family of Thundera. Originally, Tygra was the crown prince of Thundera, but after Lion-O was born, Tygra couldn't succeed his adoptive parents as the ruler of Thundera (he's still a prince, but he's next in line for the throne after Lion-O). This would result in Tygra hating his brother for things beyond Lion-O's control, such as losing the crown (and their mother, who had died giving birth to Lion-O) and constantly working to show Lion-O wasn't worthy to succeed Claudus as the King of Thundera. Tygra also possesses extreme xenophobia, a jealous streak, and a combo inferiority/superiority complex, all of which often cause friction between the two brothers and the rest of the team (although it's shown, at random times, that Tygra truly does care about Lion-O). During the first half of season one, both brothers had a crush on Cheetara, which only fueled their rivalry. In the end, Cheetara chose Tygra. After the Trials of Lion-O (parts one and two), Tygra ends up developing a greater respect and appreciation for his younger brother, after he realizes that Lion-O's much better at being the King than he himself is. However, this newfound appreciation doesn't last as Tygra is soon back to his former self, even going so far as to lash out at Lion-O, accusing "the King he would follow anywhere" of trying to take his father Javan away from him, as well as endangering the Cats during What Lies Above by betting their collected Stones in a race against Vultaire after the Bird turned Tygra's own racism and species superiority against him. Tygra has even gone so far as to indirectly insult Cheetara on numerous occasions in his attempts to belittle his brother such as when he implied that in pursuing Pumyra, Lion-O was just setting himself up to get hurt again, indicating how Cheetara chose Tygra over Lion-O in Between Brothers (although he's not actually as vocal about wanting to be the King). Later on in the first season, Tygra also finds out that, in addition to being able to use firearms with the skill of a trained marksman without ever having seen such tech before, he is also a natural ace at flying, even though he has never seen such tech before, due to his ancestors of generations past being fighter pilots for Mumm-Ra.
Cheetara (voiced by Emmanuelle Chriqui) - Initially one of the last remaining cleric warriors. When she originally tried to join the Order of Clerics as a child, she was initially turned down by Jaga, because even though she had the speed possessed by clerics, she lacked the patience. Despite being turned down, Cheetara decided to show Jaga she had the patience needed to become a cleric, and began to wait in front of the Order's doors to prove her patience. Instead of keeping true to her word and proving herself patient, Cheetara cheated and used the petals of a flower given by Tygra to sustain herself. Jaga finally allowed her to join the Order after this. In the aftermath of Thundera's downfall, Cheetara was possibly the sole surviving member of the Order, with the exception of Jaga, who lives on in spirit form in the Book of Omens. Cheetara initially served as a counselor to Lion-O, since she never shunned him for his interests in technology and initially seems to support his kindness to other races. Although, since being paired with Tygra, Cheetara's begun to adopt some of his more negative outlooks and habits, such as his opinions of the Lizards. During the first half of season one, both of the brothers had a crush on her, but in the end she chose Tygra, due to the kindness Tygra had shown her when they were young. As of New Alliances, Cheetara has since abandoned her duties as a cleric, allowing WilyKit to step into the role for her King.
Panthro (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) - One of King Claudus' most loyal soldiers. Panthro, along with his friend, Grune, were originally sent by Claudus to find the Book of Omens, but their attempted search resulted in Mumm-Ra's release and Grune betraying Panthro. While fighting Grune, Panthro fell down an abyss and was seemingly killed. However, Panthro survived and constructed the ThunderTank, which he later used to save Lion-O's group from Slithe's platoon in Song of the Petalars. Though he questioned Lion-O's ability to lead at first, feeling that he was too young to be the King, Panthro eventually accepted him as the new Lord of the ThunderCats. Unlike the other ThunderCats, Panthro never learned how to swim and is very aquaphobic, and in part one of What Lies Above, Panthro realizes for the first time that he has a fear of heights. He also lost his lower arms/hands during the end of the first season, having them replaced with robotic ones built by the Burbles.
WilyKit and WilyKat (voiced by Madeleine Hall and Eamon Pirruccello) - Fraternal twin siblings who were originally from a middle-class family in the countryside, consisting of them, their parents, and younger brother and sister (also fraternal twins). After the twins lost their father to a tornado, the family began to become more down-trodden, with their mother trying make ends meet (she wouldn't let her oldest kids help her). Eventually, the Wily-twins decided to run away to find the lost city of El Dara, so they could become rich and help their family. However, upon arriving to Thundera, the brother (WilyKat) and sister (WilyKit) were forced to become street urchins and pickpockets in order to survive the slums, with their aspirations being the only thing keeping them going. When the Lizards attacked Thundera, the two managed to escape during the chaos before eventually teaming up with Lion-O, Tygra, Cheetara and Snarf on their journey.
Mumm-Ra (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes) - The main villain of the series. An eternal servant of the Ancient Spirits of Evil, Mumm-Ra is himself a Spirit of Evil, with the sole purpose of conquering the universe. Centuries prior to the series, Mumm-Ra used advanced technology and magic to enslave all the animals into serving him. With them under his command, he sought to gather the Four Powerstones, which, if attached to the Sword of Plun-Darr, would give him ultimate power. By managing to take the Warstone (which would later be known as the Eye of Thundera), the ThunderCat known as Leo (with help from the other animals) was able to defeat Mumm-Ra and strip him of the other Powerstones. But when Mumm-Ra's spacecraft was pulled into Third Earth's atmosphere, he entered his tomb to escape the crash and leave everyone else to die. However, the controls were damaged and Mumm-Ra was trapped within his own spacecraft, as the stones and survivors spread across Third Earth. Many centuries later, Mumm-Ra manipulated Grune into releasing him, and was able to orchestrate Thundera's downfall. Now Mumm-Ra not only plans to obtain the Eye of Thundera, but also regain the other three Powerstones and the Sword of Plundarr while gathering some allies to assist him.
Grune (voiced by Clancy Brown) - Grune was one of King Claudus' most trusted generals, and best friends with Panthro. Being very ambitious and power-hungry Grune attempted to prove himself to Claudus for a promotion, but instead Claudus chose Lynx-O, and assigned Grune and Panthro to find the Book of Omens. Grune felt betrayed and drove himself mad with his own paranoia. Eventually, his jealousy towards the king was used by Mumm-Ra to convince Grune to become his follower and serve a key role in Thundera's downfall.
Slithe (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) - One of Mumm-Ra's generals and the leader of the Lizards. Slithe serves Mumm-Ra in order for his kind to take revenge on the ThunderCats for generations of persecution. Succeeding in ransacking Thundera, Slithe pursues Lion-O's group before overseeing the search for the Book of Omens and later the Powerstones.
Addicus (voiced by Robin Atkin Downes) - Addicus is a bloodthirsty ape-like barbarian who committed crimes against the Bird Nation and was sentenced to a death drop from high up in his captors' domain. However, Addicus is rescued from the fall by Slithe and recruited to be one of Mumm-Ra's new generals. Accepting the proposal, Addicus is allowed to get his revenge on the Bird Nation as Addicus states that they "owe him a last meal." Addicus is the revived series counterpart to Monkian.
Kaynar (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker) - Kaynar is a jackal-like psychopath, who is recruited as one of Mumm-Ra's generals. Kaynar was about to be placed in solitary confinement within a Dog Prison when he was recruited by Slithe to be one of Mumm-Ra's new generals. Though preferring his cell, Kaynar accepts Slithe's proposal when he mentions that he can slaughter ThunderCats while allowed to "say goodbye" to his jailers. Kaynar is the revived series counterpart to Jackalman.
Vultaire (voiced by Michael McKean) - Vultaire is a prefect of Avista. Like many of his kind, Vultaire is arrogant and sees himself above those who live on the land, especially the ThunderCats whom he considers to be manipulative barbarians. Though aiding the ThunderCats in fighting off Mumm-Ra's army, Vultaire betrays his fellow Avistans and aligns himself with Mumm-Ra upon witnessing his power firsthand. Vultaire shoots down Tygra and then quotes to Addicus "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Vultaire joins Slithe, Kaynar, and Addicus into fighting Tygra, Panthro, and Cheetara prior to the latter knocking him out before Tygra can get payback for the bird's treachery. After Mumm-Ra claimed the Tech Stone, Vultaire joined Mumm-Ra's forces into retreating from Avista. Vultaire is the revived series counterpart to Vultureman.
Pumyra (voiced by Pamela Adlon) - Pumyra is a cat who originally fought during the fall of Thundera before being wounded and left to die under rubble. In her final moments, Pumyra died disillusioned, hateful, and resentful towards Lion-O and company for leaving Thundera, believing they had ignored her pleas for help and had left her and their species to die. Sensing her hate, Mumm-Ra resurrected Pumyra to serve him as his spy and lover, placing her among the captive Thunderian slaves to be sold to Ratar-O where she was later sold to Dobo. From there, meeting Lion-O and managing to keep her need for revenge in check when she is unable to finish off Lion-O, Pumyra earns his trust and love while serving as a beacon for Mumm-Ra to regain the Sword of Plun-Darr and track the Thundercats' movement. It was by during the siege of Avista that Pumyra reveals her true colors by giving the Tech Stone to Mumm-Ra. After taking hit from both Ro-Bear Bill and Dobo, Pumyra leaves with Mumm-Ra while promising to kill Lion-O the next time they meet.
Ancient Spirits of Evil (voiced by Jim Cummings and Kevin Michael Richardson) - Four dark spirits that are the source of Mumm-Ra's powers and his eternal masters. They resemble a Lizard, a Jackal, a Monkey, and a Vulture. The Ancient Spirits played a role in the creation of both the Sword of Plun-Darr, possessing a Thunderian blacksmith to forge the weapon, and the Sword of Omens, due to the blacksmith retaining the spirits' knowledge to forge a weapon similar to the previous creation. In Native Son, it's revealed that the Ancient Spirits have been worshiped by the Tiger Clan after their ancestors were exiled to the mountains due to their continued loyalty to Mumm-Ra. When the Tiger Clan was on the verge of dying out from an epidemic, the Ancient Spirits offer to cure them in return that the newborn Tygra (who would grow up to become their stated primary enemy, not Lion-O) be sacrificed. When Javan, the leader of the clan and Tygra's biological father, refused to honor his end of the pact, the Ancient Spirits bound the souls of the Tiger Clan to the living world as shape-shifting shadow monsters that obey their every command. Some years later, a fully-grown Tygra found his way back to his ancestral home and freed his kin of the curse.
Jaga (voiced by Corey Burton) - Jaga serves as head of Thundera's cleric warriors, possessing knowledge of ancient secrets, superhuman speed and the power to project lightning from his staff. In his prime, he used the "Sword of Omens" in an epic duel against Ratilla. At the start of the series, Jaga sacrifices himself to ensure Lion-O and his group escape. This resulted with him being tortured into revealing the location of the "Book of Omens" to Mumm-Ra, though doing his best to resist the villain's magic when sealed within a lantern, eventually his free will wavers along with his physical form. Though Jaga destroys the lantern that was keeping his soul intact to save Lion-O from Mumm-Ra, part of his soul took residence within the Book of Omens and becomes Lion-O's guide.
Claudus (voiced by Larry Kenney) - The previous King of Thundera/Lord of the ThunderCats, Claudus is a stern father to Lion-O, his biological son, and Tygra, his adopted son. His wife, the unnamed previous Queen of Thundera/Lady of the ThunderCats, had died giving birth to Lion-O. When Grune and Panthro had fought bravely to get promoted to general, Claudus told them that he has given the job to Lynx-O. Claudus was the one who sent Panthro and Grune to find the Book of Omens. When Lion-O was fighting off some Thunderians who were beating up two imprisoned Lizards (where Lion-O was assisted by Tygra and Cheetara), Claudus arrived to break up the fight. He was convinced by Lion-O to let the Lizards go free and back to their homeland. When Thundera was being attacked by the Lizards, Claudus is murdered by Mumm-Ra (who was disguised as Panthro). Lion-O, Cheetara, and Tygra later hold a funeral pyre for him after escaping with the Sword of Omens.
Lynx-O (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) - Lynx-O was a general under Claudus. He first made a cameo as one of Thundera's lookout sentries. It is currently unknown if he survived the fall of Thundera.
Despite being based on the original 1980s TV series, the 2011 version differs greatly from it, with many aspects of the original show's story and characters being different. When comparing the original series to the 2011 reboot, producer Michael Jelenic stated, that "the old show felt more like a Saturday morning animated series and this feels more like a movie". Jelenic also said, that their take "is definitely darker but we've put a lot more focus on the characters and the arc, and because of that, we might have a few more sophisticated themes going on in this". Michael Jelenic stated that before work even began on the series, the makers mapped out an entire beginning, middle and end for the show's storyline, which was then broken-up into 13-episode arcs. Some stories from the original show will also be seen in these arcs.
The animation for the series was done by Warner Bros. Animation and Studio 4°C. According to supervising director of Studio 4 °C, Shinichi Matsumi, they were handed the basic concepts for the show by Warner Bros. and were assigned to adjust them into the Japanese anime design. Matsumi believed that they succeeded in pushing the style of anime in the show with a variety of visual elements, such as scene compositions, effects and colors, as well as the action scenes. Kevin Kliesch composed the music for ThunderCats, for which he took inspiration from John Williams, James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith, among others. Despite being orchestral, Kliesch also incorporated elements of electronics into the series' music.
Promotional poster for ThunderCats.
ThunderCats premiered on July 29, 2011 and attained a rating of 0.8, with over 2.4 million viewers. The highest rated show for that night received a 1.1, which makes the ThunderCats ' 0.8 a successful showing. The premiere episode of ThunderCats received very positive reviews, with some calling it "amazing" and "epic".
One of the things the premiere was praised for was its anime-inspired visuals. ComicBookMovies.com called the animation "beautiful" and "very fluid in motion", while Jeff Hidek, of Star News Online, described it as "sleekier(sic) [and] edgier", than the animation of the 1980s show. Brian Lowry, of Variety, also felt that the show had a "cool look". Many were also happy with the changes made to the story and characters. Kenneth Carter of The Birmingham News called the story "multi-faceted", and the characters layered and flawed. He also felt that the character's introductions seemed rushed, and that "we get a chance to get to know them a little before the action begins". Edward Adams of Creative Loafing described the show as "moody and character driven, highlighting the all-too-human flaws you'd expect from an action series like this", while IGN's Matt Fowler described the show's re-imagined world as "so original and strange, that even clichés tend to come across like revelations".
ThunderCats was also praised for the changes it made to its source material. Jeff Hidek felt that ThunderCats "successfully echoes the fun, wonder and all-around coolness of the original characters while ditching some of the dated trappings of '80s-syndication". Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly called the show "a rather canny rethinking of a series that probably didn't take a lot of thinking to conceive in the first place", while Edward Adams also said that "where in the original series the environment was bright and colorful, in the pilot episodes [of the 2011 series], the tones are much darker". Despite the changes the show made to the original TV series, many still recommended the 2011 series to fans of the original. Both Kenneth Carter and Edward Adams called the show "a pleasant surprise", with Carter adding that "if you have fond memories of ThunderCats, then you’ll love what you see here". Matt Fowler felt similarly, saying that "if you have an affinity for the old series, then you'll find ThunderCats somewhat entertaining".
Despite the positive response, some aspects of the show were criticized. Variety's Brian Lowry felt the series was designed as a marketing ploy for a new ThunderCats toyline, and that the show "represents a throwback to the drearily toy-driven 1980s, a period that seems destined to keep returning as much out of pragmatism as nostalgia"
A two-disc soundtrack album of Kevin Kleisch's music was released by La-La Land Records in October 2012, featuring suites from all but two of the episodes ("Trials of Lion-O, Part 2" and "The Pit").
Following the end of the show's first season, ThunderCats was not immediately renewed for a second, which led to speculations that the series would be canceled. During the 2012 San Diego Comic Con, Michael Jelenic and Jeff Prezenkowski announced that ThunderCats has been put on hiatus as they haven't gotten any word from Cartoon Network about the series' future yet. In March 2013, Dan Norton posted that further work on the series is unlikely in the near future. The first season ThunderCats episodes briefly aired in the new Toonami block on Adult Swim along with Sym-Bionic Titan. It was confirmed by ThunderCats art-director Dan Norton in early 2013 that the show had been canceled after only one season.
In an interview with Dan Norton, Shannon Eric Denton, and Larry Kenney at Power-Con, they mentioned that if there was a season two, it would detail Mumm-Ra's hand in the creation of the Snarfs, Slithe's history with Lynx-O (which would also explain how Slithe and the Lizards sided with Mumm-Ra), Mumm-Ra tricking the ThunderKittens for them to bring the Sword of Omens so he could send them to El Dara, and Pumyra being transformed into a wicked insectoid monster on a mission to capture the ThunderCats. The name of the final stone was also revealed as the Soul Stone.