Lion-O, Tygra, Cheetara, Phantro and gang are back with ThunderCats Roar on Cartoon Network with a very different look and feel.
Looking to the past is a trend now with classic properties revived for a new audience. There have been countless adaptations of Scooby Doo, TMNT, She-Ra and well… the entire Looney Tunes cast, but Cartoon Network has now brought back the Flintstones with Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs, and a new ThunderCats.
ThunderCats Roar is the second time the series has been brought back – the first short-lived attempt was the 2011 reboot that never made it to the second season. The 2011 version basically threw out the whole lore that was developed during the original run from 1985 to 1989, along with an “updated” art style and character design.
ThunderCats Roar not only changes the art style and takes it to a very different place, but changes the tone to a more comedic one ala Teen TItans Go! However, the producers maintain that Roar will stay true to the original lore.
Emmy nominated producer and writer, Marly Halpern Graser, whose previous credits include Right Now Kapow, MAD, Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans and Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, joins forces with Victor Courtight from Pickle and Peanut and Yo Gabba Gabba! to bring the new vision for the ThunderCats to life.
We get on the phone with both Marly and Victor and talk ThunderCats Roar.
Zed: I grew up with the original ThunderCats, loved it. Then there was the 2011 remake… why ThunderCats Roar now?
Victor Courtright: So, I also grew up watching Thundercats. I loved it and was super into the characters, and the crazy world they built. I love sci-fi, I love fantasy, and it just had everything. Plus, I love animation.
As I went to school for animation, and as I was teaching myself how to how to draw and animate cool action, I found myself like revisiting a lot of ThunderCats stuff. So it’s sort of followed me throughout my whole life and career.
I found out that they were looking for some tape on ThunderCats at Warner Brothers, so I started pitching some ideas that I had that just float out supernaturally. ThunderCats Roar is basically all the things that I had in my brain that I love about the show in in a fun comedy take for kids so yeah it all happened pretty naturally.
Z: Why the switch to comedy and move away from the original tone?
VC: I like all kinds of animation, I like a lot of anime, Cowboy Bebop and stuff like that. My personal artistic style is kind of all over the place so I’ll draw super serious cool action stuff and then also super dumb comedy stuff. But, the thing that I liked about this was the fun of the original ThunderCats show just translated really well to comedy and it allowed us to draw characters faster and therefore have more animation to keep the characters really alive.
The animation in the original ThunderCats was a super big part of why I loved it – just like the fact that it was moving so much. The tone is almost a response to going back and revisiting a kind of genre that we haven’t seen in a long time. I think it just lended itself to the sort of fun that the style has.
Marly Halpern Graser: From my perspective, when you’re doing these remakes and rebooted series, especially like old cartoons from decades ago, I think you have to think in terms of, if you don’t do something different, then what was the point of doing a new show.
There’s 130 episodes of the original ThunderCats. We’re not going to be able to make that show better than those talented people made that show. So I think it makes sense. Especially since the 2011 it in as serious, dramatic action serialized direction as you could. To me it made a lot of sense to say, “Oh, so then the next show, we should take it in the funniest direction we can to distinguish it from the other two”.
So that’s kind of how I think of it. I feel like we’re different than the 80s show for the same reason the 2011 was different from the 80s show – which was trying to take it in a different direction, so that there’d be new ground for us to cover with this new show.
Z: So the 2011 show moved away from the original ThunderCats Lore. Is ThunderCats Roar going to stay true to the original, or go its own way?
VC: So in in the 2011 one, they totally re-did all of the original lore. It’s a very different story and from what the 80s show was. We wanted to go back to the lore of the original 80s show. So pretty much everything that we started with in this show was assuming that the 80s show had happened.
Thundera was where they’re from, it blew up. They crashed landed on on this new planet. So every place we started was with the assumption that the 80s had happened and that’s a part of it, unless we sort of retold the story and deliberately stepped away from that. So I would say our show is very heavily based on the lore of the 80s show and not as much the 2011.
MHG: The biggest one is in our show, we never say specifically that Lion-O is a 10 year old boy in an adult body, but as far as I’m concerned, he is. That’s basically how we wrote him.
Z: Victor, this is for you. When it comes to character design, what did you take into consideration?
VC: I think the nature of this show is kind of like carefree and whimsical. We’re revisiting, some stuff that took itself a lot more seriously in the 80s, but was still like intended to be fun and for kids in that time period. This was just kind of style that I have been playing with, for for my own personal work, for four years, and it just kind of comfortably landed on the tone that I wanted – the cool carefree tone for our take on ThunderCat.
So it just kind of like it clicked for me in a way that I was super happy with, and had a lot of fun with.
Z: Marley, you’ve worked on projects that have had a legacy as well like tight Teen Titans, Batman and Ninja Turtles. What’s it like writing for or developing a series that has such a legacy?
MHG: With all of this stuff it’s an honor and a responsibility. It’s really amazing that we get to work on these characters and these properties that we all grew up loving. Especially, you know, for me doing stuff like Batman and Ninja Turtles and what I try to do is try to write stuff that I would want to watch, and I try to write jokes that would make me laugh.
And we hire writers and artists that were fans, and then they make stuff that we’re fans of. I mean, basically running a cartoon show means you get to hire your favorite writers and artists and then ask them to make the show you’ve always wanted to watch. And that’s the amazing thing about working in animation.
ThunderCats Roar is now available on Cartoon Network.