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Thundercats Hooooooo-ld Up. Save Thundercats!

Judging by the nostalgia boom revolving around the cartoons and toys from our youth, one could be forgiven for thinking they’d time-traveled to an alternate reality version of the 1990s where nothing is quite as it seems. From GI Joe to Transformers to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or was it just Ninja Turtles?), the properties we grew up with are being stripmined, retrofitted and rebooted for a new era. One property that was a bit slower to get out of the throwback gate was Thundercats. After years of attempted film adaptations – both live and CG animated (thankfully aborted) – and being thoroughly outclassed by a Photoshop-filled fan film, Cartoon Network finally gave Lion-O and the ‘Cats new life in their animated series Thundercats last year. And sadly, the adventure is being cut short; they’ve pulled the plug.

The adventure-based series managed to get two seasons under its belt before the axe fell; The adventures of Lion-O and company was not on Cartoon Network’s list of returning shows in a recent press announcement. The show played closer in tone to Avatar: The Last Airbender than the campiness of the original, which was a point of contention for many diehard fans. Some decried it for its less-than-faithful look at the tale of the Thundercats, but many more praised it for bringing more complex storytelling, character development and morality tales to the genre. Seeing a teenage Lion-O being forced to deal with the loss of his kingdom and family, while also attempting to combat the ever-growing armies of Mumm-Ra by seeking out the Book of Omens, was an incredibly rich experience for the viewers who had been weaned on a steady diet of battles against a monster of the week to rescue Snarf from the clutches of Mumm-Ra’s ineffectual minions.

The question remains: if the show was so good, why is it being cancelled? What went wrong? Where were the droves of people who own t-shirts and belt buckles emblazoned with the iconic Thundercats symbol? Why didn’t the crossover audience from Avatar: The Last Airbender switch the channel to Cartoon Network? While Avatar was an undeniable success for Nickelodeon, the story of Aang becoming a massive hit came as a surprise for many people who didn’t see room in Nickelodeon’s stable for a more serious, adventure-based series. So, the question then becomes: has Cartoon Network’s demographic shifted?

One of the network’s biggest draws is its Adult Swim programming block, which brings in the coveted 18-34 stoned-on-your-couch-at-home demographic. All snarkiness aside, Adult Swim brings in surprisingly good numbers and has made the network a staple of late-night television. So, was Thundercats the victim of poor timeslotting? The show debuted with an hour-long episode on a Friday night at 8PM, then shifted to Friday nights at 8:30PM for subsequent episodes. Friday night can be something of a death sentence for television shows, as it’s traditionally a night where many go out, leaving their Nielsen boxes at home collecting dust. It could be argued that 8:30PM is too late for the after-school crowd and too early for the Adult Swim audience. In effect, Cartoon Network missed both the opportunity to hook younger viewers with a slick, Avatar-esque show that seems tailor-made for them and to cash in on the nostalgia factor of older viewers who are probably staring down a pint of beer at their local watering hole at 8:30PM on a Friday rather than sitting at home reliving the 1980s. Thundercats may very well have been stuck in television’s Bermuda Triangle, a time slot where many shows enter, but none ever leave. The shift to Saturday mornings may have come too late, especially for a serialized show where the new audience would not have yet caught up with the original episodes.

All of this leaves us with one final question: is there any hope to save the show? After Adult Swim’s April Fool’s Day prank, in which they revived the popular anime-centric programming block Toonami for a night, a #BringBackToonami campaign ignited the Twittersphere, giving Cartoon Network execs genuine pause for a moment and leading to the block’s revival on May 26th. Could we see a #BringBackSnarf in our future? A group of very attractive fans with that mission in mind have made a home on Tumblr. Save Thundercats features four young ladies in pseudo-cosplay of the team (including our own Chloe Dykstra as Lion-O) to bring awareness to the Thundercats’ plight. Organized by Marisha Ray, the Tumblr is trying to get people to sign this petition to get Warner Bros to reconsider and save programming she finds worthwhile. Will it be enough? Only time will tell, unless, of course, you have the Book of Omens.

What do you think went wrong and do you want to see the show return? Let us know in the comment section below.

Additional reporting by Dan Casey.

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95 comments

  • at best, i would say the show is okay. i was very excited for the premiere and made a point to watch it. the major flaw for me the whole premise for the series. as Innocent and kind lion-o was, rooting for the cats felt like rooting for the bad guys. they thundercat kingdom either enslaved anyone who want a cat or condemed them to live in slums on the outskirts of the city. no wonder everytone else rebelled and destroyed them.

  • For me it was not story.. it was not character development.. it was little things that were missing that bugged me.. little things that were changed that made me not as interested.

    I’m not too fond of Lion-o’s voice for one.. i expected something manlier, like in the old show.. plus it lacked a real intro theme.

    Plus i LIKED when Snarf talked, he did not talk in this… but instead had some kinda meow…. they changed everything too much.

    I just prefer the old one i guess.

  • Wow , are people here sirious? they complain about lack of character development and story . and then praise the classic cartoon for being better .

    SIRIOUSLY?! this show added so much deph , and backstory to everything , we actually have relationships (and not just hints to them) and the characters are alot more than cardboard cutouts now . please , re-watch the show , and honestly try and tell me how it was better at ANY of those departments .

    Most of the commenters obviously havent watched the show, and even when they did , they they tried digging each episode to find something to complain aboutt . just sad .

  • BUT FRIENDS IN THE END THE STUDIOS ONLY CARE MAKING THE SHAREHOLDERS HAPPY THIS IS WHY AVENGERS EMH IS GONE AND AVERGERS ASSEMBLE IS TAKING IT’S PLACE ALL BECAUSE OF THE MONEY THE MOVIE HAS MADE AND IT WILL SUCK COUNT ON IT AS FOR THUNDERCATS WB WILL BRING IT BACK AS A CGI SERIES IN A FEW YEARS COUNT ON IT AND THEY TRULY WILL SCREW IT UP BIG TIME.

  • PEOPLE REMEMBER IN THIS AGE OF DVR ‘S WHEN WE RECORD THE SHOWS WE LOVE AND NOT WATCH LIVE WHEN THEY ARE ON IT HURTS THE SHOWS CHANCE FOR RENEWAL OF THE NETWORK DON’T DO US ANY FAVORS WHEN THEY GIVE GOOD SHOW A GOOD TIME SLOT (SYFY CHANNEL :SGU & SANCTUARY)
    ARE EXAMPLES AND LIKE THESE SHOWS WHICH SHOULD STILL BE ON THE AIR GOOD SHOWS WILL HAVE TO GO TO THE INTERNET TO SURVIVE BUT NEED MAJOR MONEY TO DO SO

  • REMEMBER PEOPLE IF THE TOY LINE DOESN’T SELL WELL THE COMPANION TV SHOW WHICH THE MERCHANDISE IS BASED OFF OF AND RATINGS ULTIMATELY LEAD TO CANCELLATION ,EXO- SQUAD,WAR PLANETS , PHANTOM 2040, GALAXY RANGERS AND THE 2002 REBOOT OF HE-MAN SUFFERED THE SAME FATE BECAUSE OF THIS GENERATION’S LACK OF INTEREST IN GOOD
    CARTOONS BUT THE BS ONE’S THAT LACK ANY QUALITY THE STUDIOS WILL TAKE BS OVER SUBSTANCE TO MAKE A BUCK

  • I’M 40 YEARS OLD AND I REMEMBER WATCHING THUNDERCATS ,SILVERHAWKS AND TIGERSHARKS YES THEY WERE CAMPY BUT IT WAS THE 80′S,SO WHEN THE THUNDRCATS REBOOT WAS ANNOUNCED I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO SEE HOW WB WOULD HANDLE THE MATERIAL. LIKE THE REBOOT OF BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ON THE SCI-FI CHANNEL(NOT SYFY) I BELIEVE THE REBOOT WAS DONE WELL SAD TO SEE IT GO JUST LIKE AVENGERS EMH MAY YOU BOTH R.I.P

  • No they can’t do this why do the good shows have to die I want it to stay they can’t do this Please air more season please I don’t want it to end on a cliffhanger

  • Well, for me it was … it was too different… it even lacked that awesome intro from the original 80s toon… i mean.. it had a VERY short intro.. that sounded similar… but i was expecting something awesome with a rock guitar playing like the old series….

    I wanted to be excited.. but i ended up just buying the original thundercats on DVD and been watching them.. which is really all anyone needs… to me anyhow.

    I don’t like when something is changed too much… and it was changed too much.

    How much you wanna bet they reboot the show AGAIN and use that horrible CG animation that’s been being used in Green lantern? lol…ugh.. just a sinking feeling i have.

  • This Thundercats reboot was the exact same situation as the He-Man reboot a little while back – very slick-looking, very “updated”, and not really all that good.

  • I would really like to see more of the new Thundercats, I enjoyed the show very much even though I have only seen it on the recently release DVD box sets, I hope to see more in the future.

  • I want them to be saved! I am tired of the crap that currently serves at animation entertainment. I WANT this incarnation of ThunderCats! I hope something can be done!

  • I signed the petition because it makes me sad that it’s being cancelled, but the story of this reboot is just siiigh. Whoever wrote this script was way too worried about reaching the emotional teens with the love triangles and love interests. An underlying romance is okay, but I definitly didn’t need a 22 minute episode of Cheetara and Tygra flirting and making out. I would have preferred more fighting and less angsty lion-o. Panthro was the best character and he never even crushed on someone.

  • @Frost215
    Neither of those shows has any bearing on the quality of the new Thundercats. Dislike them all you want but there’s absolutely no need to negatively bring up two random shows just because you like a different one.

  • Seriously guys are analyzing this cartoon too much. I love the new show and the new telling of the tale. We got better grasps of the characters and what they could bring to the table. Have you recently watched the old cartoons? I can barely sit through it, but when i was a kid you had to peel me off the couch to stop watching it. The new show also rewards older fans by doing nods to old shows like Silverhawks and even short lived Tigersharks. The show is great, I want to see how it all unfolds.

    Personally, I will watch Thundercats any day over Sponge Bob or Adventure Time.

  • The new Thundercats was okay, but nothing terribly noteworthy. It has to compete with a higher level of programming in the cartoon department these days, when even the old Thundercats would have a hard time making a dent. It’s kind of sad that it’s going, but I probably won’t even remember it two seasons down the line.

  • The show started off with a lot of promise, but as the season kept going the story telling was a mess. There were background episodes that had nothing to do with the main plot. There was no development with the characters. One of the main original cast members (Cheetara) has now be subjugated a side character to promote the newer female (Pumyra). Continuity issues there is a whole laundry list of reasons why this series failed and I’m not supporting getting another season for it. It’s like the person who’s writing these episodes doesn’t know the first thing about story telling and it shows. I mean the whole season half of the first season episodes 14-26 felt like fillers that have nothing to do with what’s the current plot.

    To be honest I’m glad, it’s getting cancelled, maybe someone who actually gives a damn about the franchise will take over.

  • I started watching for the nostalgic factor and it’s a really fun show and I’ve enjoyed it but I wouldn’t compare it to Avatar, one example is that on Avatar all the characters where fleshed out and had their own journeys, on Thundercats it’s mostly about Lion-O dealing with his boring issues while his friends try to do what he tells them to and wait for his sword to get bigger.
    But, like I said, it’s fun and sometimes really freaky, I mean fishes as pirates is fucking inspired. And the campiness is still very much there because hey, who doesn’t like blue lightning vs. red lightning fights? So I don’t mind another season but I’m not going to fight for it unless they can promise me half cheetah half tiger babies next season.

  • I wasn’t a fan of the original classic show . I watched it a bit before the reboot just to see what it’s about , and , honestly…it didn’t age well . it had a cool idea and a creative world and characters , but it was so cheesy and pointless that I couldn’t handle more than a few episodes …

    so I watched the new show with ZERO expectations and man it suprised me . this is the only show that has the same level in quality as Avatar . which is also one of my favorites . and while they are different , and Thundercats didn’t have enough time to become as big . it does have the potential .

    The character designs , and the fantasy world the creators have built is AMAZING . the show deals with mature themes , and moral dilemas . the characters develop , and events on episodes effect the whole story .ot to mention that at times it delivers awesome action full of andernaline .

    this show really takes the best in the way cartoons are aproached nowdays , with american writing , and japanese bringing it to life , and it’s so sad to me that alot of people are stuck in their nostalgia and don’t appriciate this show , letting it just disappear just like that … especially when you can just sense that everyone who worked on this show , including the great voice actors , really put their hearts into it …

  • The premiere delivered a lot of promise. I have to agree with an earlier poster who pointed out that character arcs kept resetting each episode, so no one ever really developed (and even for a teenager, that isn’t believable).

    The biggest failing of the series was probably their failure to include the full theme song. Each episode started, and I couldn’t tell if they were on the move, or loose. In fact, I never once felt the magic or heard the roar.

  • The show has not gotten two season. The first 26 episodes is SEASON ONE. Why CN aired it as two i dont know. Just look it up anywhere that people want “a season two” and look through the DVDs that are for sale.

  • I loved the original Thundercats and I hate when networks try to re-invent a show by changing everything about it. I like re-boots as long as they are faithful to the original. With that said, this new Thundercats series is AWESOME! I really tried not to like it, but in the end it won me over. Save the cats!

  • I loved the reboot. As a 29-year old woman who watched the original series, I can say I loved it. I liked the new spin on the characters, which I felt looked nothing like cats in the original. I am sad that it has been cancelled, when I can think of a couple of shows on Cartoon Network that should go in Thundercats’ place.

  • Honestly, I can’t in good conscious support an effort to save the series. Frankly, I thought it was very poorly executed, save for perhaps the animation and character designs. The show’s plot in season one was a meandering mess, with sub-plots just being seemingly abandoned along the way. Characters seemed almost Bi-Polar at times, and the “love triangle” the show tacked on at the last moment of season one, trying to validate it with a “flashback,” was some of the worst “dramatic” story-telling I’ve seen.

    The most disappointing element was that, in the year before the show premiered, it’s creators were promoting it as a “dark, gritty, more mature re-imagining,” when, in point of fact, it wasn’t. The “mature” elements were few and far in-between and were often quickly glossed over with forced humor or kid friendly moments that completely dissolved any sense of dramatic gravitas, see: Robears giving Panthro “Hugs.”

    Those fans that wanted the campy original should have, honestly, just gone back and watched the original. “Thundercats” as a Universe has such amazing potential, something which was highlighted in the premier episode. Unfortunately it’s almost as if someone came along and changed the entire direction of the show’s narrative and even the motivations of it’s central characters. I can only assume the studio came in with notes and TC became a victim of too many fingers in the pot.

    While I can respect that there are fans of this new Thundercats, and I certainly would not wish that they fail to save the show, I, personally, believe the show isn’t worth another season. Honestly I was surprised when it got the green light for the second. I really think it needs to go, with Warner Bros waiting a few years and trying again with something that not only makes the most out of the universe and the characters, but maintains a more modern take.

  • In the end Thundercats is not a Cartoon Network property. It airs on the network sure but their parent company pretty much thrusts it on them to air it like all the DC Superhero stuff. That’s why anime has all but dried up on the network. Great ratings don’t mean a lick if you aren’t getting most of the revenue the show generates.

    They have much more incentive to push their own properties like Adventure Time and Regular Show then Thundercats. Of course just look at how they treat their own action oriented shows like Sym-Bionic Titan and it seems like the network doesn’t care much for action shows in general, or Robots *coughRobotomycough*. Generator Rex exists because Man of Action created Ben 10 and executives love it when lighting strikes twice.

    Yeah it sounds like I’m pointing the blame solely on the network itself but I no longer have cable or satellite so I’ve never seen a single episode of the new Thundercats. Maybe it was a misfire and doesn’t connect with enough people, I can’t personally say.

  • What went wrong? Besides the Friday night slot already mentioned, the first two episodes after the premiere weren’t all that good. It failed to hook me in at all after that good premiere. I can’t be the only one that stopped watching after the first couple episodes…

  • I stopped watching about 6 episodes in. I feel like it was trying way too hard to be as good as Avatar: The Last Airbender and never quite got there. The character arcs were re-set at the beginning of each episode (seriously, how many times did Lion-O have to learn humility?), the characters were a little too arrogant for my liking, the episodes felt like adventures of the week and the main story amounted to little more than a fetch-quest, which seemed utterly uninteresting to me.

    It certainly had potential, the first episode was great, but after that it just felt listless.

  • The He-man cartoon from several years ago was done in a similar style, except the artwork which wasn’t done in a pseudo-anime style, and met the same fate on that very same network. Despite that Mattel is still producing new He-Man toys for collectors so old school fans still might have that to look forward to from Bandai.

  • Could this be considered an opportunity for network tv to put TCats out. Back when it was popular in the 80s, there were a lot less option for entertainment. And how did it land on CN instead of the Hub channel which carried GI Joe Renegades for one season. That was another show with a carrying story arc that lead to cancellation.

  • WB Studios has become the new Disney, and NOT in a GOOD way. They’re producing shows only for the “viral” clips that can be edited and posted so that they can generate MORE AD REVENUE. That’s what it’s ALL about these days. The bottom line. If a show isn’t pulling enough of a profit, they pull the plug, and fans be damned. I don’t want to name names, but his name rhymes with Ham Shmegister. Hahah!

  • I was a huge fan of the original and it held a lot of nostalgia for me. I had the toys and watched the show every chance I could during my childhood. I always hoped that they we bring it back some day and after seeing Transformers get a million reboots and He-man even had one that I felt wasn’t too bad, I hoped they would bring Thundercats back, too! When I heard they actually were bringing it back I was stoked. When I saw the artwork I was actually impressed because I enjoyed Avatar very much and it reminded of the same look. Even though I was a die-hard fan, I still love this reboot of Thundercats. The music, story, and artwork are great! The toy line is also very cool and I have purchased quite a few so my son can play with them when he gets older. Hearing this news makes me quite sad and hopefully this is just a hiccup and we will see Thundercats back on the air for a few more seasons! Thundercats Forever!

  • I always liked Thundercats because they always seemed to be more ponderous. There were some wonderful animation shots that seemed more japanese and meditative than anything else. It was like watching 25 minute 80s music videos.

  • This is a terrific example of why you don’t need to be faithful to the source material every time. They took a genuinely lack luster, hollow show and turned it into an interesting, character driven story. The week to week adventures of lion-o and his gang in the 80′s wasn’t maintainable, just as the X-Files showed, it gave the mythos a story arc, which it desperately needed.

  • Best written toon in western animation history so of COURSE it gets the death slot cancellation. Don’t be ridiculous. At least we got a full season (not two). If it were on fox it wouldn’t have lasted 3 episodes.

  • Solid show. I really hope it makes it. I loved it as a kid and my daughter and I never miss an episode. Although I suppose I’m part of the problem because i never watch the friday broadcast and I dont believe they record DVR numbers.

  • The new incarnation of Thundercats was not all that great. I kept watching in hopes of getting a top notch story and it never came. Now I can get past the re-imagining of the story and characters but the development of both fell flat.