Sunday, May 13, 2012

These were days of peace and prosperity

I can't say that I love the new Thundercats...

...because it would be to take the easy way out.

Since the Fall of 2011, when I first got the opportunity to experience the reboot of this classic 80's show, I have sensed an impact of high level pop cultural art that I haven't felt in a long time. 

Growing up in the 80's, being exposed to the immortal cartoons such as He-Man, Transformers and the original Thundercats show, I knew what symbiosis of action and drama that grants the younger generation a solid adventure. However, as this season took off, nothing could prepare me for what was about to come. This animation quickly became something that was no longer about cats with super abilities and badass looks – but about characters with flaws and dreams. 


Ok, so they are shadowed by the old episodes which are glowing like diamonds on our nostalgia sky. But being exposed to the epic words "These were days of peace and prosperity" from the pilot episode, I was deeply affected by the story and the universe. I felt like it came from creators who had worked on the concept until it was done – and done right.

I listened to Wilykit's flute as she was playing on the ruins of what once were the kingdom of Thundera [Episode 3 - "Ramlak Rising"] and I could sense a long lost feeling that spoke to me. Perhaps it was the overall fairytale theme of a father’s death, a young king and orphans with nothing but their wits and charm? Combine this with the jealousy of a step-brother and the betrayal from the king’s guard and it made Shakespeare's "Hamlet" feel like a old family picnic.

But to me, there was something deeper beneath the surface, something about the challenge of growing up with a purpose in life that isn't always chosen. It generates a present unsureness while at the same time, it helps you realize who you want to become. The characters in Thundercats are as complicated as they are simple and that's what makes them real.

There are still four episodes left of Season One and I might update this list to a top-10 after the summer. But for now – here are my Top-5 favorite Thundercats 2011 moments from Season 1:

5. Episode 8 - "The Duelist and the Drifter"

Lion-O's encounter with the drifter just blew me away like the drifter himself. This episode was a lesson in learning that first impression never counts. It also pointed out that there is always a deeper underlying intelligence to the simplest things. Also, I really dig all the cool swords in this epiosde...

The Drifter
Full episode (if it hasn't been taken down yet...)

4. Episode 14 - "New alliances"

The execution moment of Monkian hanging on the cliff will always be a brutal moment in the cartoon universe, however, it also serves as a reminder of our savage history from times long ago. The scene doesn't end the way you expect, instead it brings out the scariest introduction of one of the main villains.

Monkian gets introduced...
Link to full episode (if it hasn't been taken down yet...)

3. Episode 18 "Survival of the fittest"

A special episode in which the life and upbringing of Wilykit and Wilykat was shown. The sudden loss of their father affects the life on the farm as well as the family. My favorite moment is the scene at night by the window, when Wilykat and Wilykit chooses to run away with the vision of coming back which riches and hope. There is something very strong and brave about this part. Sometimes when we zoom out and look at our situation with realistic and senseful eyes, it will give us determination needed to go through with a tough decision.

Wilykat and Wilykit running away
Link to the full episode (if it hasn't been taken down yet...)

2. Episode 20 "Curse of Ratilla"

These two episodes really set the perfect example on how an epic quest should be presented. Indiana Jones meets Lord of the rings meets "Don't taunt the curse". This piece includes blood, slaves, an exciting build-up mixed with superb one-liners, revenge, mercy, fear and desire. Storming dialogue, chimeric flashbacks and... yeah, I could go on. 

What I really like about episode 20 is that it doesn't say that the "bad guys" are bad by simply saying, "they are bad". Because, just like real life, there is no clear evil – just different interest and trying to survive a long the values that you were brought up with. It is also epic to see a young Jaga kickass. *SPOILER* My favorite moment is the passionate kiss during the collapse of the cave, but the epic battle among the ruins of the fallen rat-kingdom comes close as second.

The ThunderCats discover that the Thunderian slaves are being forced to excavate the
Sword of Plun-Darr for Ratar-O and his Rats.

1. Episode 4 "Song of the Petalars"

Never have I seen a cartoon episode get me so emotional. Some scenes in this episode are on the same level as when Optimus Prime died in "Transformers The Movie" (1986). Emrick's quotes to live by are beyond tearful... I wish I could explain how philosophical this story is, but I suggest you watch the entire episode from the beginning.

 Episode 4 "Song of the Petalars" - the best Thundercats episode

While completing this list, I finished watching Episode 21 – "Birth of the Blades" which was quite close to excellent. It featured some wild flashbacks with Lion-O and Mumbra combined with a bunch of stunning one-liners and overall great dialogue. It is really cool that multi-talented Will Friedle wrote this episode a long with doing the voice of Lion-O. It really makes this show feel even more realistic knowing that there actually is a "real Lion-O" speaking.

Will Friedle is not the only writer for this show deserves a great deal of cred. Three of the Episodes on the list comes from the talented writer JM DeMatteis. He has a way with story telling that isn't afraid to grab a hold of your heart and this is one of the most important ingredients to any kids show. I am also really excited for Episode 24 – "The Soul Sever" by the incredible storyteller Brandon Easton. He has been very successful with his comic book Shadowlaw and I think this episode will be something quite spectacular.

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In overall, nothing gives me a greater pride than to know that the younger generation watching "Thundercats" today, will be able to look back on this show as grown-ups with that certain crystal-clear brightness in their eyes. As I am writing this in may of 2012, I know that 25 years from now, some grown-up man or woman will find this text and agree with me, because the new Thundercats reboot really is out of this world.

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Gustaf Lingmark is a freelance writer and his favorite cartoon show "Thundercats" airs Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. ET/PT on Cartoon Network

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