Thursday, 26 May 2011

Review: ThunderCats

Complete cartoon series available for <£20.

With the new version due to arrive in the Autumn, and prompted by the children deciding to get out all the toys, I thought it was time to have a look over the best* cartoon of the 80s.


*As decided by University of Birmingham students in 2000andsomething. 2002? Eep, that's nearly a decade ago. I'm so old :'(

For those who've forgotten, ThunderCats charts the adventures of a bunch of anthropomorphic cats whose home planet was destroyed. They crash land on Third Earth and then spend a lot of time fighting bad guys such as the Mutants and Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living who want to get hold of the mystic Sword of Omens, which is the source of the ThunderCats power.

Before I get onto the toys, I want to mention a couple of things of interest (or at least things I find interesting) about the cartoon.

You know how in a lot of cartoons the bad guy keeps trying to get hold of X (in this case the Sword of Omens) from the good guys. He fails. Then next week he tries again. And again. And again. What I found interesting after rewatching it all recently, was that in one episode Mumm-Ra does capture the sword. He then finds that being evil, he can't use it. And thus the plot moves onto Mumm-Ra trying to accomplish other things.

I know it's a minor point, but it impressed me that the writers didn't take the lazy way out and progressed the story.

The other point about the show is that while most cartoons of the 80s had a moral stuck on the end in an attempt to fool the American networks into thinking they were 'educational', ThunderCats was a little different. If you watch the credits you'll see there was a 'psychological consultant'. The plots actually revolve around something for children to learn from. I didn't pick up on it as a kid, but it's clearly there watching now as an adult.

Again, it's nothing much, but it makes it seem that a little more care was taken in the writing.


Testing out these toys are Woody and Thomas. Both have watched ThunderCats in the past, but neither of them could remember doing so. All they knew was that there was a box of Daddy's toys sitting in the Guest Room (also known as The Room Where All the Junk Gets Dumped And Dad Has To Spent Ages Clearing Whenever There's An Actual Guest).

The general opinion online is that the ThunderCats toys don't really hold up against today's toys. But this is the view of old men who complain about paint apps.  What do children think?

Woody was immediately drawn to the Thundertank. Who wouldn't be?


The main vehicle, the 'tank was - and remains - Cool.  I suspect Woody, as a big Transformers fan, was drawn by the 'tank's ability to transform from a mild-mannered vehicle to one littered with weapons.


Thomas is a people person. He liked the Wily-kittens - even more so when I told him that they could fly on their hoverboards.


Ever one for action-features, and with a keen eye for the most expensive items, Woody moved onto Driller.

video

Apparently if you spin him fast enough his 'legs' will detach and fire off with 'some force'. For the safety of the nation, I decided to test this. However, no matter how fast I got it going, everything stayed firmly attached.

I was a little disappointed.

It's not really much of a safety concern anyway - only a complete idiot would give something as pricey as Driller to a child to play with.

Some of the more costly items.

Cruncher takes out Lion-O with his grabbing action.

All the ThunderCats came with action features. Most had a lever in their backs which made their arms raise up and down to attack. You can tell which toys belonged to the more violent children by whether their fighting action still works or not.

video


Everything was going well, and the children were really enjoying playing with the toys. But then someone decided to demonstrate the light-up action.


If you insert a ring (assuming your brother didn't lose it) into the back of Lion-O or Mumm-Ra, their eyes (and ears, but that's only by accident of thin plastic) light up. Thomas was VERY excited about this. He was so excited that he immediately ran and got all the other figures to light their eyes too.

Problem.

Thomas didn't like finding out that it didn't work on everyone else.
Thomas got a little upset.
Thomas stormed off.

ThunderCats play time was over.

For those interested in picking up some toys for their children, I'd give the unexpected (for me) advice for not doing so. Thoughts would immediately turn to ebay to get them, but a lot of the ThunderCats sold on ebay are broken. 'Working arm action' means different things to different people, and a slight movement is not working in my opinion.

However...

Along with toys for the new toyline, Bandai is producing 'classic' toys.
Only two have been announced so far - Lion-O and Tigra - but this is definitely what to buy if you're after figures based on the original cartoon.

I leave you with the trailer for the new ThunderCats cartoon coming soon to a television (and toy aisle) near you. In a fantastic piece of casting they've actually hired the guy who did the voice of Lion-0 in the original playing his father in the new series.


And, yes, Snarf is still in it.

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