Saturday, July 30, 2011

OUT OF PLACE. The new ThunderCats and its characters is an anatopistic mistake; won't make sense if you've seen the original.

It's heartbreaking for me to say this but the new ThunderCats is a disappointment because of a major anachronistic, and more specifically a non-sensical anatopistic character flaw.

The re-imagined setting is fine but the characters don't fit. The original characters are back (although only in name and superficial appearance). But here's the thing: they simply shouldn't be, and shouldn't exist within the world where they're placed in the new animation show.

Let me explain.

I just finished watching the first two episodes of the new updated animation show on The Cartoon Network which will most probably be shown on the channel feed for Africa on DStv sometime within next year. A South African broadcasting date still to be determined, although I have asked The Cartoon Network again today about it. Sadly however, in my opinion, the new ThunderCats is not good because its just too ... well, weird.

Whereas, if you've watched Star Wars, you will love Star Wars The Clone Wars since it follows the canon of the established lore and mythology so well and colour in little backstories and details, my guess is that you're (sadly) not going to like the new ThunderCats (if you've watched the classic 80s show).

Here's why. The new 2011 ThunderCats is too Japanese manga-looking (although that's not the big problem). It's other things. The first thing is a big word, and it's called anachronism: things that don't belong in their setting and time (like gunpowder in Egypt or a horse and carriage on a modern-day highway). And while anachronism usually refers to objects out of place and time, in the new ThunderCats its the very characters that don't fit in their time.

It goes even beyond anachronistic - the same characters operate in the future world of the original show - but they're still the same characters. This new ThunderCats - and from now on you'll only understand if you're familiar with the original show - is still taking place in the same setting but the set-up is different. It's very anatopistic.

In line with the established original ThunderCats story, everything starts off fine. However, imagine time has moved forward an indeterminable amount of time. So the Cats' Lair is still there, on the planet Third Earth, but it's now a palace, surrounded by a sprawling city - a civilization and a population. Nothing wrong so far and actually quite a neat idea because, of course, time has moved on. So the cats have multiplied and conquered evil and all that stuff.

Now the first weird bit. All the characters from the original ThuderCats are present but they're different (and I don't mean drawn differently, that goes without saying). They have the same names and the same characteristics and the same skills, but their back stories are completely different. It's like the original ThunderCats arrived on Third Earth, struggled and won and created a society. Then at a time in the future - their own future - they're all suddenly present again as their characters, with their same names, but different.

Therefore, the new ThunderCats is in essence a sequel, yet takes the original characters, ''brainwashes'' them; changes the socio-links between them (Tygra is now Lion-O's resoonsible brother; Cheetara will be Lion-O's love interest; Jaga is alive) and plops them into a framed future that you're asked to accept - yet here's the very characters who created this future in the first place and now they're still here. It doesn't make sense and doesn't feel right. As a viewer you're asked to accept and believe that one part of the established show has evolved, but then the producers want to completely interject and weirdly change this other part that has not evolved. The mish-mash is too much when it comes to the willing suspension of disbelief.

Think of this. The original Battlestar Galactica from the 1970s got a 2000's remake. The new Battlestar Galactica was a new show with a new Starbuck and new Adama and new stories but it was the same idea and took place in the same time period of the original show. Now imagine that the new Battlestar Galactica of 2000 took place in the future time of the 1970s Battlestar Galactica story time. Nothing wrong with that. (It would be like Robotech New Generation and Robotech Masters following Robotech The Macross Saga). What you simply cannot have though - not even in science fiction - is then the original Starbuck and Adama characters, still being that very Starbuck and Adama but in their ''future'' again as themselves. That is the crazy that is the new ThunderCats - characters placed there, but who don't belong in their own future.

The milieu integration in the new ThunderCats is correct. Sadly the character integration is completely wrong. The new ThunderCats, if it kept the new setting and set-up, should have changed the characters to a ''next or new generation'' - or should have given them different names. Just have new characters. If they had to, the new protagonist could have again been called Lion-O (but what about Lion-E (''lioney?'') or Lion-O2) and would have worked better and have been believable as something like the great grandson who've only heard of his great ancestor (the original Lion-O) but don't know the full tail of how their society has lost sight of the technology and ideals of the original ThunderCats.

Then Lion-O could have met up with other characters that contain vestiges or the traces of other ThunderCats forebearers (instead of weird adaptations of the original ones) and together experience a new adventure and move forward with their own new story as they uncover some of the past original story. Now its just a mess.

Another weird bit, which could be cool, and is plotcentric (and is now not cool because of the character problem) is the exposition that the future setting and the society of the cats has no technology. So basically something happened that the currently superficially happy (although it's clear that the society is no longer utopian and actually oppressing other species on Third Earth) is in a medieval state where technology is scarce. Technology isn't outlawed per se, but science isn't pursued. It's clear that whatever the new Lion-O's quest is going to be, it's also going to be about finding new (lost) technology and why the society lost the knowledge of that.

Sadly I won't be a part of that TV journey. If you've watched the original, and you see the new ThunderCats, you will see exactly what I mean when I say they've messed up the characters. The characters are messed up though in a way where there's nothing really wrong with them - it's just that they shouldn't be able to exist as they are. Oh, if Snarf could talk.

ALSO READ: The first trailer of the new ThunderCats updated cartoon series.
ALSO READ: The first official look at the new new ThunderCats series starting in 2011 on The Cartoon Network.
ALSO READ: The new Lion-O in The Cartoon Network's new ThunderCats animation show.
ALSO READ: Mumm-Ra will NOT be happy. The Cartoon Network is reviving the classic 80s animation series ThunderCats.