The Thundercats return tonight at 8PM on the Cartoon Network, and in preparation for the premiere, KSiteTV interviewed many of the folks involved with the creation of the series as they were about to make an appearance at this past weekend’s Comic-Con International in San Diego.
We participated in a roundtable junket with producer Ethan Spaulding and Michael Jelenic as well as Art Director Dan Norton.
Don’t miss the show’s premiere tonight!
“This project had been floating around for about ten years. People had picked it up and tried to develop it, and it didn’t get greenlit until 2010. There’d had been various incarnations of the show. People had been trying to reboot the Thundercats because of its popularity, and when it got greenlit, I got brought on. Dan was already on the show art directing, designing stuff, and once it got greenlit, it was full bore,” Spaulding reveals of the show’s genesis. “This has been something people have wanted for years and years. It was really strange, because of all of the Eighties properties, I thought this was the better one of the bunch. And yet, no one touched it. Why not Thundercats?” Dan Norton added.
Michael Jelenic reveals the Thundercats have been attempted several times. “The series had been developed at least ten different times. At Warner Bros. Animation, there’s literally a folder of different developments for Thundercats from 2000-on. Everything from a rock band version from ’06-ish to something more traditional, or something more out there… because it’s a big brand, and people want to see it.”
The rich world of the Thundercats provided some great material for the show’s writers. “In the original series, there was fantasy and science fiction mixed, so we’re having fun playing with that. There’s almost nothing we can’t explore,” Spaulding says. Michael Jelenic adds to what Spaulding is saying. “There’s a bigger mythology to this whole show, and when we start off, we’re only going to see a small portion of it. But when we do start off, all the cats, all of the characters that we call the “mutants,” Mumm-Ra… they all start off on what we’re calling Third Earth. Thundera, on this planet, is a kingdom. It’s not its own planet like on the old show. So we’ve simplified the mythology in that way.”
“I think as fans, we knew what we liked as kids,” Dan Norton says of what they wanted to bring from the original series.
“The original show was great, and we’re going to take elements from that and re-imagine them,” Spauling adds. “We didn’t feel like we had to copy it exactly, so we just felt like ‘How do we take these ingredients and put a new spin on it for the next generation’?”
There are some aspects from the original series that couldn’t change — despite some suggestions from outside. “You can’t change the call. The ‘Thundercats Ho,’ as our culture has gone in a different connotation of ‘ho,’ they were nervous. You can’t scream out ‘ho’!” Norton reveals.
“This is true. In the rock band version, they weren’t going to say ‘Thundercats Ho,’ because they were like, ‘you can’t have kids shouting Ho!’ One of the things I wanted to make sure is that we said ho. That was the most important thing for me, is that this show had people shouting ‘ho.’ So it’s in there,” Jelenic says.
“It’s a battle cry. You can’t mess with that,” Norton adds. As the press room for Thundercats went on, we heard original Lion-O Larry Kenney screaming the battle cry. The creators had the same reaction long-time fans would to hearing it. “That’s your childhood, coming back in a ringtone, it’s bizarre. It’s amazing. And he’s a great guy,” Dan Norton says.
“Working with a lot of brands like Batman, the one thing I know fans want, and one of the easiest ways just so show that you are being respectful of what came before, is to bring a tangible connection to that old show, and there’s no better tangible connection that says ‘We love and respect the old show’ than to have Larry Kenney being in this show,” Michael Jelenic says.
Some characters may not be in the forms we’re most familiar with. Among those are WilyKat and WilyKit, who do appear with a little bit of a redesign. “WilyKit and Kat… characters like that, you have the potential of becoming the Scrappy-Doo characters, the little kids who always get into trouble. But they are probably – I don’t want to say my favorite characters, because I love all of the characters equally, of course – but they are the most charming. This show can get dark and heavy, but every time they’re on screen, regardless of whatever situation the cats are in, it sort of lightens up everything. They’re really fun. We made them a lot younger than they were in the original show, but I think it’s a choice that works. They’re voiced by real child actors, and they’re awesome. So I think they’ll be breakout characters. I think Snarf will be a breakout character. I would say Panthro, but everyone loves Panthro already. There’s really something for everybody in this show,” Jelenic says.
When asked about the classic theme, Norton tells us that there is a version of the theme music in the new show. “We have the theme, but not the electric guitars like the classic, though. We love that. We want to honor that,” he says.
“Also, back then they had a minute and twenty seconds to do an opening main title. Now, the Cartoon Network says you have to do a main title in 15 seconds,” Jelenic adds. “So there’s no way we could pack in a minute and twenty seconds of awesomeness int 15 seconds. And also, it’s the best opening of all time, so how are we going to top it anyway? Sidestepping it is sort of the smartest way to deal with that.”
Before getting cut off by Jelenic for spoiling, Dan Norton reveals that we may see Jackalman and Monkian as the series goes along. Jelenic himself, however, hinted that we might see some characters from other franchises. “I won’t say anything, but it’s possible Silverhawks could appear in this universe. Warner Bros. owns the Silverhawks, they own the Tiger Sharks… it wouldn’t be reaching to think that characters from both of those series might show up in this series. Mon*Star might make an appearance. Stuff like that,” he says.
Jelenic seems to identify with the fan base when it comes to a series like this. “We’re all suckers for nostalgia. We are the Comic-Con generation. That is why I think MASK will eventually be back, and GoBots, and who knows what else.”
“In those first 26 episodes, you found out what happened 2000 years before, and you find out what’s going to happen moving forward. We have this whole timeline that we’re really exploring. We go back to their ancestors and find out about them. It’s really a rich mythology, and hopefully people like it,” he says.
Don’t miss Thundercats TONIGHT and feel free to come talk about it on our forum!