4 out of 5
Created by: Victor Courtright, Marly Halpern-Graser
A beloved – by a dedicated fan base – 80s cartoon that’s kicked around in various formats over the years gets a massive visual and tonal overhaul, baiting claims that it’s been crafted in total ignorance of that supporting fanbase, and then faces massive pushback from those same fans upon release…
It’s not Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – which has managed to scramble to a second season – it’s Thundercats Roar, which… hasn’t scrambled to a second season, or even to the end of its first.
I do get the kneejerk reaction fans had, and the subsequent hesitation to even give the show the time of day. My fandom leans towards TMNT, so I had the same response to Rise… but then I actually watched it, and wasn’t wholly displeased. It’s only very loosely Turtles, and relies a bit too much on modern-kid sassitudes for my tastes, but I realized that chilling out and letting “my” property get leased out to other styles isn’t the end of the world, and I can enjoy it the same way I’ve been able to come back around to something like, say, The Next Mutation.
Thundercats Roar actually has a huge leg up on Rise by two major factors: firstly, it actually maintains the core concept of the original, and the basic characterizations, just blown out to ridiculous extremes. Secondly: it’s goddamned hilarious. But then again, so was Right Now Kapow, which shares a creator with Roar, and that got canceled after one season without having any 80s property to stand up to, so, eh, maybe my tastes in humor just don’t align with whatever earns a cartoon a following.
But then again again, Roar is definitely aiming more for the smart/dumb, self-aware stylings of Teen Titans Go!, which has been able to continue on for several great seasons, so it’s more likely that you just can’t eff with 80s cartoon fans. They’re an unruly bunch.
Roar is its own thing, though, both visually and tonally. I do think it has something of a learning curve, both as a viewer and for the writers and actors, as the exact balance of over-emoting and legitimate action and nonsense humor and “I actually want to watch this” plotting takes a few episodes to settle in to a groove, but once we’ve built up supporting characters of villains, and once the ‘Cats have all had enough individual-spotlight moments and moments to work together as a team to make sure that each episode isn’t just people shouting over one another or sequences exploding over subsequent sequences – something Go! does suffer from on occasion – Roar becomes beautiful, hilarious, genius. It’s so smart, while rolling out a continual stream of funny ways of pitting our heroes against Mumm-Ra and the rest, and features endlessly great performances that take the piss out of all the characters but also make them, like, cool. The animation draws more from Kapow’s hand drawn style, but with an Adventure Time-ish stretch and squish looseness that just looks very fresh, and fun.
So it’s got great visuals, hilarious dialogue, great acting, and 11-minute long chunks of story that continually surprise with their inventive ridiculousness. And then it was canceled after half a season. Can you at least give me a DVD or bluray this time…?