Considering how nerdy the Tor.com offices is (we have a shrine to Dalen Quaice, for Cthulhu’s sake) we come to agreement on a bizarrely large number of things. But that’s by no means a guarantee, so when we find ourselves on opposite sides of a particular “issue,” we figure we’ll take it to you!
Today Bridget and Ryan are arguing about ThunderCats. Specifically, are they worth the nostalgic fuss? Read our arguments for and against, then join in!
Ryan’s Point: Thundercats NO.
Nostalgia, particularly in genre fandom is probably the most dangerous lens through which to regard anything which we know is objectively bad. We’re all aware G.I. Joe, The Master of the Universe, and Transformers were ridiculous toy-commercials masquerading as plots and characters, but somehow relegate their status slightly ahead of something like The Snorks or the Go-Bots. Even within nostalgic trash, there is a hierarchy. ( I.E. Even though Go-Bot came before Transformers it is still seen as a knock-off, because it just sucks.) And so certain shows, like Thundercats teeter forever on the precipice of pop legitimacy because, ultimately, we want to remember the show as good.
But it’s not. Thundercats, when put up against its peers of the time, is awful. The only reason why anyone likes or remembers Thundercats fondly is because it had a memorable earworm of a theme song, and an insipid catchphrase; “Thundercats, Ho!”
The production value and voice-work on Thundercats is are far inferior to Masters of the Universe or Transformers. The characterizations could not be any more one-note, and I’m not sure I remember the various “traits” of anyone other than Liono was the leader, and Cheeterah was “the girl.” To compound this problem is a character named Snarf who inexplicably says the word “snarf“ the way a valley girl says ”like.“ Orco, I suppose the Snarf analog on Masters of the Universe, had some kind of skills, and power. He was a character. Snarf was a weird furry creature who said stupid things and opened the door widely for Jar-Jar Binks to saunter into the spotlight of ”funny" sidekicks.
Just because the Thundercats are cat people does not make them inherently cool. A weird concept in the 1980s may have been enough to get a show off the ground, but it shouldn’t be enough for us to love it unconditionally for no reason. In short, the Thundercats is the poor man’s everything. It is the poor man’s He-Man, the poor man’s G.I. Joe, Transformers, etc.
Bridget’s Counterpoint: ThunderCats are awesome.
There are many, MANY reasons why ThunderCats is probably the greatest 80s cartoon ever. ThunderCats was, by far, my favorite cartoon when I was a kid — He-Man and She-Ra, G.I. Joe and Jem were all fine, but nothing else really compared to the spectacle of an all-powerful mummified sorcerer waging eternal war against a heroic band of humanoid, talking space-cats with crazy weapons and gymnastic skills that would put Nadia Comăneci to shame…
Let’s start with the totally kick-ass villains: Mumm-Ra, the Ever-Living is, by far, the most disturbing cartoon weirdo to ever darken a Saturday Morning lineup. An undead Egyptian sorcerer and the embodiment of ultimate evil, Mumm-Ra’s a master of disguise, he can enter people’s dreams, and his invocation of the spirits of evil and transformation in every episode makes Skeletor (for example) look like a hot sack of crap. The various mutant henchman were pretty great, too: Jackalman, Vultureman, the Lunataks…the whole show was a veritable smorgasbord of creepy arch-villainry.
Moreover, ThunderCats exhibits all three hallmarks of a latter-day Rankin/Bass production: offbeat subject matter, high quality animation, and an excellent cast of voice actors, including Earl Hammond (who’s voiced everybody from Mumm-Ra to Santa Claus to the Pope), veteran Shakespearean actor/Cosby Show alum Earle Hyman, voice acting legends Larry Kenny and Bob McFadden, and so on; it’s a great cast, and they do an excellent job bringing the characters to life.
Generally I think the series took an interesting approach to engaging kids on their own level, featuring heroic younger characters (WilyKit and WilyKat) as well as a protagonist who is a child in an adult’s body (Lion-O), giving ThunderCats a unique appeal to young viewers. And lastly, the show’s theme song and intro sequence speaks for itself…it says, “I am awesome, and anyone who disagrees is straight-up crazy”:
Okay, gloves down you guys. Name something you like about the show, Ryan:
I will give the ThunderCats this: I like the villain Mumm-Ra. In a world of cat-people, you’d think they’make the baddie something really dumb, like a Dog-Man or a Wolf-Lord. But instead, they determined the naturally enemy of a cat-people was a mummy-thing. For me, is perfectly dumb enough to be great, and oddly memorable.
Name something you don’t like about the show, Bridget:
Admittedly, Snarf is the show’s one weak point, and clearly he should be relegated to the same circle of hell as Scrappy-Doo.
And that’s it! What do you guys think?