Thundarr was truly ahead of its time. No cartoon since has tried to tell a story without a comicbook or toyline as a lead in. Thundarr to many may look like a rip off of star wars. And maybe it was. Wherever they go the basic idea they didn't stop there. The very event that caused this was new. Not some nuclear war or biological disaster but a comet traveling between the earth and the moon. Then there was the cast. Thundarr may have had a gruff exterior, yet his love for humankind was beyond question. He was willing to place his life on the line for total strangers. Thundarr never quested for power or a Kingdom of his own. If anything the title of Barbarian is a misnomer. Behind his ever angry scowl was a man that cared deeply for any that sought to live in peace. His hatred for wizards and mutants was based on their use of power to hurt others. Then there was Princess Ariel. If she was a a princess for real was never revealed but she had a way about her that could be called royalty. An African-American woman of great intelligence. Ariel had power enough to enslave cities and was a match for many of the wizards and sorceresses that they came across. Yet Ariel believed in Thundarr's dream of freedom and peace. and while Thundarr never really cared for Ariel's impromptu history lessons. Her knowledge of earth's history was invaluable to the success of their adventures. Ookala was the comic relief and I don't fault him for that. The tone of the show was deep and needed a little lightening up every now and then. And many times his Mok strength was needed to save the day. Their adventures were on par with the original Jonny Quest series of the 60's. With recurring characters helping to build a more believable world. This series was truly a gem between the superfriends and fat albert days of the 80's. I hope that one day it will be placed on DVD for new generations to enjoy.
I remember fondly getting the part of Ookla the Mok... (not the voicing, but the acting was me)... I just read the script and thought WOW! Wizards and Warriors... in the Future!?!?! What a great concept!!! And now it seems to be a reoccurring theme... From Warhammer 40K's tabletop wargames to the up-coming Neil Marshall movie "Doomsday" are using the basic concept that was shown on our little Saturday Morning cartoon... I'd like to see Space Ghost or the Herculoids say that!
While in retrospect, the voice acting and direction were corn-ball by todays standards, we definitely raised the bar for more edgy, darker cartoons in a realm ran by cereal mascots and 30 min. toy ads...
In 1994, a runaway planet hurtles between the Earth and the Moon, causing widespread damage and destroying civilization as we know it. 2000 years later, a new world filled with mutants, barbarians, wizards and all manner of beasts has been built upon the ruins of the old. It is the world of Thundarr the Barbarian, Princess Ariel and Ookla the Mok, who travel the globe battling evil doers who seek to oppress the ordinary people who struggle to survive.
Clearly influenced by Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian and period comic books, Thundarr the Barbarian was a show that truly surpassed the usual fare of Saturday morning TV. With top notch writing, great animation, strong character design and wonderful background scenes that feature the destroyed ruins of modern civilization, the show set a very high standard.
Thundarr has a look and feel similar to the adult oriented "Heavy Metal" which was released in theaters about time that Thundarr was in production and some modern Japanese anime. Considering the fact that this show was intended for Saturday mornings, it is a truly amazing piece of work. American TV animation did not return to this level of sophistication until Warner Brothers introduced "Batman, The Animated Series" over a decade later.
I give this show high marks. Thundarr the Barbarian only lasted a couple of seasons when it was released but I am sure that it would have lasted much if cable TV were commonplace during that era. I'm surprised that the production company has not revisited the series because I think it could still be a hit. Highly recommended.
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