When you think of 1980s children’s entertainment, you tend to think of a specific set of franchises; He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Care Bears, Transformers, M.A.S.K., My Little Pony – that kind of thing. One of the most prominent is undoubtedly the ThunderCats.
The ThunderCats franchise was created by American writer Theodore Walter “Tobin” Wolf and began life as a cartoon series in 1985. It has spun off into other media, such as comic books, video games, a rebooted cartoon series franchise that aired in 2011 and 2012 and, most iconically, a classic toy line (as well as various other forms of merchandise).
It really is a great concept – it’s about a bunch of humanoid cats who can kick some serious ass – and it spawned some truly weird and wonderful characters. Fans of the franchise can name everyone from Lion-O and Mumm-Ra to Captain Cracker and the Snowman of Hook Mountain – but there are some facts about the franchise that are lesser known. This article will list 10 of them. Hoooooooo!
10. Snarf’s Real Name Is Osbert
Everyone who knows the ThunderCats knows who Snarf is. He’s the ThunderCats’ agile but sometimes lazy and clumsy ally who actually served as Lion-O’s nursemaid and protector when he was growing up. He’s an elderly member of his feline species – but what’s that species’ name? Well, believe it or not, he’s actually a member of the Snarf species!
That’s right; Snarf’s real name isn’t Snarf at all – that’s just what species he belongs to. His actual name is Osbert, but he hates it and the ThunderCats seem to make no effort to call him it – and that’s fine by him. Snarf, Snarf!
9. “Third Earth” Is Actually Our Earth
Third Earth became the adopted planet of the ThunderCats after their own planet – Thundera, home of the Thunderians – was destroyed in a massive fiery explosion by Mumm-Ra and the Sword of Plun-Darr.
But what is Third Earth? Everyone knows it’s where the ThunderCats live, but we bet not everyone knows it’s actually just the Earth we all live on right now, here in the real world. In the ThunderCats mythos, it was once called First Earth and Second Earth and is simply in its third stage of evolution. This is evident by the humans who still live there and the various legends that are referred to, such as King Arthur and Ancient Egypt.
8. Original Marketing Was Targeted At Parents
In the 1980s, cartoons were just starting to be criticised for their violent content and because it was believed they only existed to sell toys (both true in most cases). With that in mind, Telepictures (who owned Rankin/Bass Productions – the company behind ThunderCats) took out print adverts in advance of the show’s 1985 debut that attempted to dispel those concerns for parents.
The main advert read “ThunderCats has all the action and adventure your children love, but it also has something else… lessons about respect, friendship, truth, honesty and justice.” Another advert even suggested to parents that “sometimes you need help” when it came to raising their children – the suggestion being that watching ThunderCats would help to raise them right!
7. Every Script Was Reviewed By A Psychologist
A fact very much related to the previous entry about marketing the franchise towards parents, in order to make good on their promise to said adults, ThunderCats’ producers actually employed a psychologist – a man named Robert Kuisis, Ph.D. – to evaluate every script, in order to make sure a strong moral lesson was being imparted in each episode.
Kuisis was so thorough that the psychologist even wrote brief reports on the first sixty-five installments of the cartoon series for station affiliates to read. Suffice to say, most parents ended up quite happy and content about the fact that their children were fans of the ThunderCats.
6. The Toys Have Sold For Up To $25,000
The original ThunderCats toys are extremely valuable if they’re in mint condition – especially if they’re still in their original packaging. (Seriously, if you have any in your possession and you can find it within yourself to part with them, you should definitely look into it.) But one in particular has pulled in a fortune.
That particular toy specimen is the Mad Bubbler – a horrible little character that burped bubbles, but never made it past the prototype stage. Toy dealer (and star of the Travel Channel’s Toy Hunter show) Jordan Hembrough told website Mental Floss that a painted version he obtained from a toy designer was later sold to a collector for no less than $25,000.
5. They’ve Crossed Over With Other Franchises
As with pretty much any franchise worth its salt, the ThunderCats have been involved in a number of crossovers with other franchises throughout their history – most notably with DC’s Superman himself (someone the Masters of the Universe – another popular 1980s franchise – has also crossed over with multiple times)!
DC Comics released ThunderCats/Superman in 2004 and it saw the Man of Steel and the ‘Cats facing off against each other, before joining forces against Mumm-Ra. The ThunderCats have also crossed over with the likes of Doctor Who’s Gwanzulums and the characters from Japan’s Battle of the Planets (the latter on two separate occasions).
4. Professor X Is A Massive Fan
Every television show or movie has its celebrity fans, but the ThunderCats boast one of the leading men in the current X-Men movie franchise as a fan of theirs – Professor Charles Xavier himself, James McAvoy.
In a 2013 interview with UK magazine Total Film, McAvoy raved about the franchise and how much he’d like a movie based on it to be released. He said; “I would love to see a ThunderCats movie, but it’s never gonna happen.” He did, however, also suggest a certain character should be omitted, saying; “But not Snarf. He was just this really annoying thing we need to get rid of.” Harsh, James (but probably fair)!
3. Lion-O Was Going To Be Called Lion-L
Although the writer behind the creation of the ThunderCats was Tobin Wolf, the head writer who was brought in to flesh out Wolf’s concept was actually a man called Leonard Starr. At the point of his arrival on board the franchise, Lion-O was actually called Lion-L, but Starr opted to change that to avoid a potential lawsuit.
After a discussion with some forward-thinking producers, Starr pointed out that Lionel Trains also made toys, and figured that “Lion-L” was too close to “Lionel” and could be considered an infringement of copyright therefore. He did, however, have no problem with superstar soul singer Lionel Richie!
2. There Was A Live ThunderCats Arena Show
When ThunderCats rose to the top of the syndicated ratings in the United States of America – which it did extremely quickly after its first airing – Telepictures decided to mount a traveling stage production incorporating the characters from the show. It was headlined by Lion-O and company, but also blended several Rankin/Bass Productions properties into the show.
They also had possession of Gumby, for example – a big green glob – so him and his friend Pokey were on hand to act as the audience’s hosts. In the show, they moved from one “world” to the next (on roller skates, no less), mingling with different characters from different franchises – the ThunderCats included.
1. There Was A Movie Script Written
A ThunderCats movie is long overdue. If popular 1980s franchises like G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Transformers and Jem and the Holograms have all been given the Hollywood treatment (which they have), then there’s no reason why the ThunderCats shouldn’t be given one too.
It has long been spoken about and in 2007 writer Paul Sopocy was reported to be developing a screenplay for it for Warner Brothers. In fact, a script that was purported to be Sopocy’s work actually leaked online a few years later. Fans have often discussed possible castings, with the most popular being Vin Diesel as Panthro – that would rock, right?!
Did you enjoy this article? Do you know any other interesting facts about the ThunderCats that other people might not? Have your say in the comments section below.