REASON TO WATCH
Revival of popular cartoon series.
Friday at 8 p.m. on Cartoon Network
"ThunderCats . . . HO!" He or she who grew up in front of the TV in the mid-'80s knows well the battle cry of mythic cat people possessed of super-feline strength. They vanquished evil largely with the aid of the "sword of omens," which was studded with the "Eye of Thundera."
To make a longish story shortish, their planet exploded and they had to find a new one -- an Earthlike place ("Third Earth"), which they've colonized / conquered. And after a 25-plus-year hiatus, that brings us up to . . . Friday. The gang is back, with minor differences. (Snarf, the comic relief, no longer talks.) Peace reigns on Third Earth, although Lion-O -- best known of the original ThunderCats -- is reluctant to take his place as King. His bro, Tygra, seems to have a better head for this king thing. Trouble -- naturally -- is brewing abroad, abetted by the evil Mumm-Ra.
MY SAY Long ago and far away, in a land called "syndicated TV," there once was a tribe of cartoons called "animé." They conquered the evil master race on Planet Saturday Morning TV, stormed the ramparts of "Weekdays / Afternoon Kids TV," and ere long, they multiplied. "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" . . . "The Transformers" . . . "The Centurions" . . . "She-Ra: Princess of Power." They all ruled wisely and profitably, but in 1985 would be conquered by "ThunderCats." For a time, peace reigned . . . until "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" came along, but that's another column. To non-fans, the appeal of "TCats" may not be readily apparent, but it was once enormous. This was one of the great cartoon franchises of the decade, now a cult fave, which means that Cartoon Network is about to toy with some precious and nostalgic memories.
Does this version succeed? Sure. The animation is superlative, and the story lines pure sword-and-sandal, high-mythic hokum. As usual, the male 'cats are ripped, the female ones are well-endowed, and the bad guys have slight paunches and very bad posture. It's all wonderfully familiar.
BOTTOM LINE "ThunderCats" fanboys and girls will approve, although the story does feel a lot darker and more violent.