I think we can all agree that reboots of '80s cartoons—the kind we old people used to watch after school while eating Zooroni (true story)—scare the bejeezus out of us. Why mess with the classics? Some things just shouldn't be remade.
But Cartoon Network has ignored my mental letters of protest and gone ahead with its planned relaunch of ThunderCats. The series debuted on Friday, and it totally sucked. Wait, that's not right. Sorry—force of habit. Actually I just finished watching it, and it's... pawsome.
The new producers of the series have taken some big liberties with the new version, most notably going with a full-on reboot and completely remaking the origin story rather than picking up where the original left off. Combined with the sharp new animation and character tweaks, the new story works well for old folks like me as well as for kids who didn't pop out of the womb during Reaganomics.
But the most impressive part of the new version is how grown up it is, while still appealing to kids. The new series plays out more like an actual serialized television series or an epic movie rather than something meant to babysit your kids while you "work" (or whatever it was Mom actually did). There is some seriously dark stuff in here—like, Bambi-type of dark stuff. But the series also throws in some laughs, and humor and drama are both used well, extending the depth of these anthropomorphic cats. Overall, a very impressive start for something I thought would smell like a week-old litter box.
Twelve years of college and a steady diet of canned, various-shaped pastas consumed during my formative years didn't exactly do wonders for my memory, but there are some pretty sizable changes that even I recognize. They are (with grades and some spoilers from the first two-part premiere!):
In the premiere of the new series, Lion-O didn't start out as a buff, handsome ass-kicking man-lion like he did in the original (he was a kitten in a cat's body, though, as he aged on the trip away from the already exploded home planet of Thundera). Which means that he's now a wishy-washy prince and heir to the title of Lord of the ThunderCats. This probably means we'll see him come into his own as a leader while he's still a young cat, as he learns from mistakes and early successes. Grade: B. Something about young Lion-O young works well here.
Cheetara's rockin' new bod:
In the old cartoon, Cheetara was hot in a Daryl Hanna kind of way. In the new one, she's hot in a Kate Upton way. Grade: A+. Like duh, obviously.
Tygra is Lion-O's adopted brother:
In the old cartoon, Tygra was just another member of the gang, and a bit shy. The new Tygra is a borderline a**hole, cocky, arrogant, and Lion-O's adopted brother. He's also the favored son of Lion-O's dad Claudus, creating a bitter rivalry between the two bros. Grade: B-plus. While it's sad to see one of the originals get such a big makeover, it's better for the story.
Panthro is DEAD?:
In the original, Panthro was like the Michael Clarke Duncan of the ThunderCats' world. In the new one, he's dead. Grade: F. Wait, no, A. OMG Panthro is DEAD?! F! Of course he's not actually dead, right? So we're giving the move an A for fake-killing him and actually keeping him out of the premiere.
Snarf isn't begging to be murdered:
The old Snarf was at the top of my list of "things to kill" when I was a kid, just ahead of whoever invented vegetables. "Snarf snarf snarf," the jerk would always say, making my ears bleed with murderous rage. He also looked like the town drunk or a child-molester version of whatever species he was. The new Snarf is much cuter and quieter, albeit in a Pokemon sort of way. Grade: A-plus. It was a good decision to keep Snarf, and it was an even better decision to shut his ass up.
What did you think of the new ThunderCats? What other changes did you notice, and how would you grade them? When you were little, did you mistakenly call Lion-O "Lionel" like I did? And when is someone going to reboot Zooroni?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom