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WonderCon 2011: Producers And Character Designer Talks ‘Thundercats’

Posted by MM on April 4th, 2011
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We had the chance to speak with “Thundercats” producers Michael Jelenic and Ethan Spaulding, as well as character designer Dan Norton during the press rounds at WonderCon 2011 in San Francisco. In this interview we had the chance to hear more about the development process of the new show and why they decided to reboot the iconic 80s’ classic. Here’s what they had to say:

“Thundercats is a pretty popular brand. For the last 10 years people have been trying to reinvent it. There have been a lot of stops and starts. You might remember that there was a rock band version of it a few years ago. So it’s been in active development for years . and it came together at a great time where we were all in the right time… the new show skews slightly older, maybe 10 and up. We definitely had the thunder dads in mind, being thunder dads ourselves. There’s definitely something in there that old school fans are gonna watch the show and get that familiarity from the old show. And, at the same time, its going to be new. We’ve kind of found a way to wipe the slate and pay homage to the spirit of the show.”

When asked how they found a way to wipe the slate clean to reboot the series, Jelenic described the approach as the deconstruction of a mythology. It was done in order to allow their writers to tell cleaner stories and give all the central characters deeper character arcs while still being able to go into the more interesting parts of the original show.

“We didn’t want to just redo the old show, so we focused on the themes.”

“For example in the old show the series took place on the planet of third earth and the Thundercats were survivors of the planet Thundera. Now, Thundera is a planet on third earth… and Thundera will be destroyed, but they won’t leave the planet.”

“Also, in the original series, because of the cryo-aging, he’s a boy in a man’s body. Now he’s a young man thrust into a role that he’s not prepared for. That’s not to say he won’t age in the show, but he won’t start off that way.”

“Another example is that instead of just talking about Tygra’s science experience, it will become a more active part of the show.”

It’s mentioned that the series will start in the middle of the story and you won’t find out the whole plot right away or even in the first 26 episodes, you have to be patient and watch it unfold over time.

In terms of the eastern influence of the animation, everyone agreed that people tend to forget the original was an anime as well.

“The original was actually done in Japan also. In fact several of the animators for this series are the same ones who worked on the original.”

Furthermore, they are hoping that the new show will be timeless, rather than like the original which could be dated.

Character designs were all overhauled. A lot of time was spent redesigning them to and making them individuals. The examples that they give include changing their size and height. Panthro for example is a better fight so he’s made larger and more imposing. Each character’s personality and strength are better emphasized. Spikes were given to Panthro because he himself is a living weapon.

Score wise, the music for this new series “will definitely have the same feel as the original series, but it will feel more like a movie score than normal animated series music.”

And as for Snarf?

“A lot of fans hate snarf and didn’t want them in there. They especially hated that he sounds like Lion-O’s grandmother. The solution is to keep him quiet and when he does talk it will be him saying ’snarf’. He’ll still be a comedic focal point of the show but it will be more Charlie Chaplin physical style comedy.”

Jelenic assures us that Snarf will be very cute and that we’d all want a plush Snarf once we see him on the show.

Lastly, all the major classic villains are set to return. Some will be strength and upgraded, while some will be completely brand new.

“Mum-ra is there, the mutants are all there as generals. We’ll bring back a lot more characters that fans love like the Driller”


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