My first experience with Thundercats toys came a Christmas season long ago, during our Boy Scouts holiday party. We had a grab bag where each kid would pull out a present. I got a shitty plastic tank, everyone else got Thundercats. You could say I was a bit soured from the getgo, but that didn't stop me from amassing a nice collection of the figures.
As far as the cartoon went, I've got to admit it was pretty unique and creative. Almost every cartoon/toy genre is a ripoff on another, but there really hasn't been anything quite like Thundercats. For better or for worse, of course. Lion-O and his gang of feline warriors did their best to keep the peace on their homeworld of Thundera from the evil forces of Mumm-Ra and his band of sometimes-idiotic minions.
There's really only four points I want to talk about from the cartoon...
Jaga was Lion-O's guiding light and mysterious, ghostly mentor. In other words, Jaga was Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Nearly every Thundercats fan I've talked to regards Panthro as the token minority character. And it's basically true. As hard as it might seem to get a black stereotype into a children's cartoon about a bunch of humanoid cats with Twisted Sister hairdos, they pulled it off. Essentially, Panthro is the 'black guy' of the group. And if you've watched enough cartoons in your day, you'd know that the producers somehow firmly believe that every black guy must talk like a weathered jazz musician who knows how to fix cars, and Panthro's no exception. Also, I'm not sure if I'm right on this or not, but I always considered Panthro the oldest of the group. I'm not sure if that's due to his grand insight, calm and collected outlook on things, or simply because he's bald. Either way, even for a Thundercat, those are some pretty fucking pointy ears.
An ongoing legacy in cartoons, even to this day and age when we're all so intelligent and infallible, is the idea that the lead villain must have an extremely shitty weakness. Case in point: Mumm-Ra. The badass villain of the show seemed to have all the tools...red eyes, Adonis physique, sword, confetti hanging off his helmet...but there was one very dubious way to end his evil ways: show him his reflection. Nice, huh? Lion-O and Mumm-Ra would be about to fight their long-awaited duel, and all us kids would jump from our seats waiting for the swords to strike. Then Mumm-Ra would see his reflection in Lion-O's sword, turn into a mummy, and run off. This happened in about 80% of the episodes. Tell me something...if that's all it took, why didn't all the good guys just wear mirrorplates on their chests? Mumm-Ra's really stuck in a tough spot...let's say he was pining to attack, but all the Thundercats were off eating in a Chinese restaurant. There's no way Mumm-Ra could even think about winning the battle there...those places are covered in mirrors.
Cheetara was an essential ingredient to the show's success for more reasons than one. In the first episode, her tits were flopping around like this was cartoon pornography. I'm not kidding...all the Thundercats were nude in the first episode for some reason, and while by this point we were all desensitized to seeing the bare male chest after watching He-Man so many times, seeing Tigra try to keep a straight face while staring at Cheetara's nipples really made this show a keeper in my book.
I really can't believe that the show's producers didn't get in trouble for that one, but I'm not complaining. Though it is kind of upsetting that until age 10 I figured all tits looked like Cheetara's. That's definitely not a good misconception to have.
But anyway, that was the cartoon. Now let's talk about the toys. I had a bunch of them as a kid, but certainly not a complete collection. For action figures, they were kinda pricey for their time. I was the type of kid who'd get my parents to give me money and let me pick out the toy. Problem was, I'd get less if I did that. If I asked for money, I'd get a 5, but if I let Mom buy it, I could easily sneak a ten dollar item. I guess it was my parents way of punishing me for wanting options. Nevertheless, they were some cool ass action figures. And while the cartoon did a good job of making us want those action figures, nothing can do a better job than an actual commercial starring those action figures. So let's take a look!
Commercials that starred little boys making their toys battle was a big thing back then. Now we get cartoons showing the characters battle, but that's not nearly as fun as watching two kids make extremely odd faces while throwing their toys at each other.
There's our little cartoon teaser, just to make those of us who couldn't read quite sure that these crazy action figures were indeed Thundercats, and not some other wild action figure line.
Here we find Mumm-Ra, villain supreme. I was never lucky enough to get this version of Mumm-Ra. I got the shitty mummy version with legs that didn't move. In my opinion, this was definitely the coolest figure in the set. Stood about 7" tall, had a removable helmet, and his eyes lit up! With those three elements, this figure equated into weeks upon weeks of playtime.
Haha! Notice how in every one of these old commercials, the kid playing with the bad guy figure is universally evil looking? I'd be more afraid to run into that kid in a dark alley than Mumm-Ra himself. Look, they even dressed him in all black. And he's chunky, just like every other villain. I'm also just realizing that while nowadays, parents keep little boy haircuts to a few inches at most, back then, they really let things grow out of control. Every little boy ended up looking like he was wearing a faux army helmet.
Lion-O wasn't your everyday action figure. With the help of a little gadget that you plug into his back, his eyes could light up! Choke on that, Masters of the Universe. Could He-Man's eyes light up? Nuh uh. Hell, He-Man couldn't even stand up. Advantage: Thundercats.
The final battle! No trick mirrors here, folks...this one's to the death. Notice the boy puppeteering the Lion-O figure getting a little too into the action. These lucky fuckers also got to play with their toys on the coolest set I've ever seen. My action figures battled on dirty carpets and cardboard boxes...these kids get a handcrafted mountainous battlefield. God damned lucky Hollywood socialites. Actually, I don't remember making my action figures battle like this all that much. Usually they were all employing the use of political power to gain control of the Ewok Village and Snake Mountain. Such barbaric acts really had no place in my toyworld, unless of course we were playing with my friend's toys. Then I didn't give a shit if I smashed and broke 'em.
Lion-O employs his special move, the dropkick of doom, and our evil friend is none too pleased about it! I'm hesitant to believe that this kid was that great of an actor, so it's probable that he was legitimately pissed about what went on. I'd be pissed too if I was scripted to lose the all-important televised toy battle. Whatever the case, the face he decided to make has garnered his picture a special spot on my dartboard for months to come.
And Lion-O's victorious! This is just about the only time Lion-O was able to defeat Mumm-Ra without taking the cheap way out by pulling out a mirror. This was probably the first Thundercats toy commercial of many to come, and I guess we've gotta give credit where it's due - it served it's purpose. Millions of kids had the toys, and probably about 50% of you reading this might even have the elusive Snarf figure stashed away in your attic somewhere.
If pictures aren't enough, and you'd like to hear what was going on during this commercial melee, click here. Thundercats, Ho. Enjoy!