Find out how Toy Story connects to ThunderCats as we feel the magic and hear the roar of the 30th anniversary of those denizens of Third Earth… even Snarf!
A Peter Pan Book and Recording
Peter Pan Records C-265-35 (Cassette / Mono)
THUNDERCATS: The Mutants’ Alliance
A Peter Pan Book and Recording
Peter Pan Records C-266-46 (Cassette / Mono)
Released in 1985. Producer for Peter Pan Records: Donald Kasen. Characters Created by: Ted Wolf. TV Executive Producers: Arthur Rankin, Jr., Jules Bass. Associate Producer: Lee Dannacher. Writer: Leonard Starr. Music: Bernard Hoffer. Theme Music: Jules Bass, Bernard Hoffer. Head Writer: Leonard Starr. Script Consultant: Peter Lawrence. Engineers: John Curcio, Michael Farrow.
Voices: Larry Kenney (Lion-O, Jackalman); Bob McFadden (Snarf, Slithe); Lynne Lipton (Cheetara, Wilykit); Earle Hyman (Panthro); Peter Newman (Tygra, Wilykat, Monkian); Earl Hammond (Mumm-Ra, Jaga).
After Filmation broke new ground in syndicated animation with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the floodgates were wide open for five-day-a-week “strips” of original animated programming, usually produced in unprecedented quantities of 65 episodes a season.
For fans of Rankin/Bass, the arrival of ThunderCats in this hot new marketplace was cause for celebration. The small New York independent had given monoliths Hanna-Barbera and Filmation a bit of a competitive jolt with several years’ worth of Saturday morning animation, but despite such hits as The Jackson 5ive, The Osmonds and King Kong, Rankin/Bass became more successful as TV’s preeminent creators of animated holiday shows.
ThunderCats was the icing on the R/B cake, combining the serpentine storytelling and absorbing personalities of their specials with the sword-and-sorcery fantasy look and feel of their award-winning version of The Hobbit (c’mon—Slithe might as well be Gollum). The series also brought the great Bob McFadden back to a regular animated TV series for the first time since shows like Cool McCool and Milton the Monster.
Because the show was based in Manhattan, such fine actors as Larry Kenney, Lynne Lipton, Peter Newman, Earl Hyman and Earl Hammond were given well-deserved exposure (and eternal fan affection). You can also hear this cast in the last Rankin/Bass network holiday special, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
He-Man is a rousing old-school comic book adventure, histrionic melodrama and a campy gigglefest (we kid because we love, remember). ThunderCats dialed it up to eleven. The dialogue was so staccato; it was as if everyone in the cast was channeling Gary Owens. The whole production glowed with élan; it was irresistible to anyone remotely partial to such art. It was fun to make connections between characters even if the scripts barely suggested any truth to the assumptions. Were Cheetara and Tygra an item? What were they doing in that cave—just inspecting it? And were Wilykit and Wilykat their love kittens? It was a blast to come up with origins, suppositions and stretchy facts no matter how silly they were.
One message comes through loud and clear, though. The ThunderCats win because of their respect for each other, their brave willingness to self-sacrifice and their combined talents. Each of them are very skilled in their own way, but alone, they’re not much of a match for the mutants, who on the surface have knowledge, resources and Mumm-Ra’s magic on their side. The mutants fail because they never trust or support each other. While the ThunderCats make the “lion’s share” of dumb mistakes, their unity and support make all the difference. This is a powerful message for any age group.
He-Man ended each episode with a social lesson (“Orko should have faced his responsibilities…”, etc.”) This had become a Filmation tradition (especially weird and wonderful when it happened on the Gilligan cartoon: “Well little buddy, we sure learned about suspicion and distrust today”). ThunderCats also had such messages inherent in its stories (Tygra’s addiction to the evil fruit comes to mind), but the strength of character and positive support messages were constant, even if not always stated.
So, what does Toy Story have to do with ThunderCats? A new Blu-ray of the 2014 ABC holiday special, Toy Story That Time Forgot was just released. It’s an entertaining special, if a slight departure, because this one stresses adventure over comedy (though there is plenty). The story focuses on Trixie, who develops a crush on a polyvinyl-testosteronic dino hero called Reptilius Maximus.
The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes and an audio commentary (thank you), but what stands out as mind-blowingly funny is the theme song to the fictional Battlesaurs animated series. Yes, Battlesaurs spoofs the ’80s toy line/cartoon phenomenon as a whole, but the animation, music and freneticism of this little mock TV theme is a direct, spot-on tribute to ThunderCats–right down to the Eye of Thundera, the transformations, you name it. It’s just as fantastic as was the original ThunderCats theme sequence.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
ThunderCats “Exodus” Read and Listen Book & Cassette
Peter Pan Records was very generous in their content with their ThunderCats book and cassette packages. The soundtracks were kept nearly intact, with the narrator filling in the visuals. Most read-alongs are about twelve minutes long and these each run slightly over 24 minutes. Nice!
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
ThunderCats “The Mutants Alliance” Read and Listen Book & Cassette
This is the other Peter Pan read-along, based on episode 2, “The Unholy Alliance.” Now if only there were a soundtrack album of Bernard Hoffer’s original ThunderCats soundtrack music! La-La Land recently released a two-disc set with music from Filmation’s He-Man series, and there is a soundtrack album of Warner’s ThunderCats reboot series, but no album of the Rankin/Bass series music. Maybe someday…snarf, snarf…