8 Things The ThunderCats Movie Must Include To Do The Classic 1980s Cartoon Justice



  • Focus on key characters for ThunderCats movie adaptation to do justice to the original show's rich history and dedicated fanbase.

  • Adam Wingard is set to direct the ThunderCats movie with a passion for the story, which is crucial to honoring source material and engaging new and old fans.

  • Adapting live-action for ThunderCats presents a challenge, but CGI and a proper script could lead to success if done right.



ThunderCats is an animated show from the 1980s set to be remade into a movie, but to do the original cartoon justice some key aspects need to be done right. ThunderCats was initially released in 1985, when it established a dedicated fanbase, and ran until 1989, with a total of 130 episodes over the series' run. The show was a classic action-adventure cartoon aimed at kids, which had striking similarities to shows like He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

The show follows a group of animal-human hybrids from the planet Thundera, which is dying and under attack by mutants. The nobility of the planet, also known as the ThunderCats, fight against the mutant forces, but they are driven back and forced to escape in hopes of fighting another day. The ThunderCats eventually land on Third Earth, where the natives are mostly warm and welcoming, but the mutant monsters are close behind. From there, the struggle for power and freedom continues. And thanks to a dedicated fanbase, anyone ThunderCats movie adapting the story has a lot to live up to.

8th The ThunderCats

ThunderCats main team in the animated show

The first essential element of any ThunderCats movie that needs to be properly adapted is the primary cast and characters of the show. The ThunderCats have had their story told over dozens of hours in 130 episodes, with a rich history and storyline that was expanded throughout the show. A movie, however, will have very little time to open up the story of these beings and provide context that can adequately develop their origin story and their other adventures.

The series is almost 40 years old, which means it is likely that there will be a large number of new viewers who may come with parents or grandparents and have not seen the show before. While the story has elements that feel reminiscent of Superman's origins, and some of the action is similar to He-Man, ThunderCats is a unique and separate story. Ensuring that attention is given to the origins of these noble warriors and that the story can engage old and new fans is vital for its overall success.


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7 Lion O

Lion-O holding up his sword in ThunderCats
Custom Image by Grant Hermanns

Lion-O is the face of the ThunderCats show and potentially the most popular character of the entire series. However, his story is also one of the most complex. Lion-O was the youngest member of the ThunderCats royal family who escaped to Third Earth. However, due to his hibernation chamber being incorrectly programmed, it appears that his body has matured while he was entombed, while his mind remains the same. This character, a child with a fully grown, powerful adult body, creates the perfect anchor for kids who grew up watching the show.

Lion-O has an incredible arc over the course of the series, as his mind races to catch up with his body, so he can better serve his people and fight back against the forces that would rather see the Thunderians dead. Just like Aang in Avatar: The Last AirbenderLion-O is endowed with great power and enormous responsibility, but he must grow into his role, and stand as his people's last hope against evil.

6 Mumm-Ra

Mumm-Ra, in his mummy form, peering out of his crypt

The primary threat to the survival of the ThunderCats, once they reach Third Earth, is a terrifying sorcerer with seemingly endless powers. Mumm-Ra is an ancient being who resides on Third Earth, and when the ThunderCats arrive, he decides to steal their powerful artifacts to increase his own powers. However, as the ThunderCats develop a relationship with the people of Third Earth, and as they establish their home on the planet, he seeks to destroy them entirely.

Mumm-Ra is a terrifying villain, able to bend the will of others and exercise the power of the gods, who use him as a conduit on Third Earth. Ensuring that he does not appear as some kind of joke, and properly portraying him as a fearsome threat, is a non-negotiable part of developing a ThunderCats story. While there have been other villains in the series, Mumm-Ra is the ultimate threat to the ThunderCats, so excluding this pivotal character would be a grave error.


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5 The setting

Planet Thundera from ThunderCats

Whatever direction ThunderCats movie chooses to take, it needs to properly establish the story and setting. The series plays out mostly across three main planets. Thundera, where the ThunderCats hail from, is destroyed early on. Third Earth, where the ThunderCats land and begin to make a new home for themselves, and eventually New Thundera, the reformed planet where the ThunderCats are able to once again establish their kingdom.

Ensuring that the right setting is chosen, or if the story will play out over different worlds is vital, because these environments massively impact and mold the story. The loss of the Thunderian homeworld is a motivating factor for the story, while the ThunderCats' powers appear amplified on Third Earth. Changing the setting would not only affect the background and scenery but core parts of what is happening in the narrative.

4 The Costumes

Lion-O and the other members of the Thundercats
Custom Image by Sam MacLennan

The costumes that appear throughout the series are similar to wrestling outfits, and typical superhero attire that appeared in comics and on toys popular in the 80s. This, of course, makes perfect sense as one of the major reasons behind the creation of the show was the toys that were released alongside the series. The colors are vibrant, but also simple, evoking a sense of the series taking place in a sort of space-bound medieval times.

The ThunderCats sport simple armor or clothing that highlights their muscular physiques and emphasizes their role as superheroes. Rather than simply appearing in casual or modern clothes that are popular today, these outfits are a vital part of establishing the world and nature of the characters. The series may be fantastical in its approach to magical beings and mystifying creatures, but it is just as much a sci-fi series, which is shown in the outfits, technology, and gadgets of the ThunderCats. Ensuring that this is accurately shown is an important part of establishing context.


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3 The Tone

Custom Image by Robert Wood

ThunderCats was ahead of its time in terms of the tone and messaging of the show. The series blended together elements of sci-fi, fantasy, animation, and action to create something that stood out in the crowded landscape of kids' TV in the 80s. While it was a treat for kids to see so many different genres coming together to create something that stood out, the show also never lost sight of its audience. ThunderCats was fun, engaging, and always had a moral lesson at the heart of each episode that was highlighted by the characters at the end.

Capturing this same tone and messaging could potentially make or break the series if handled correctly. The show had a way of communicating valuable life lessons, about bravery and friendship in a meaningful and impactful way, without feeling forced or preachy. Shows aimed at children should often work to offer some sort of lesson to help those children develop and admire positive attributes, such as kindness, loyalty, and honesty through their stories, and ThunderCats did it well. A ThunderCats movie would not feel complete without focusing on some core principles that the heroes display, and the viewers can aspire to.

2 Human-Animal Hybrids

Victoria in Cats Movie (1)

However, even if the message and the characters are all well-written and performed, there is no escaping the immense hurdles that a ThunderCats movie faces when trying to recreate the series. Animated shows sometimes struggle to adapt to live action. A series that features wild creatures, aliens, and distant planets, with a variety of advanced technology thrown in for good measure is absolutely going to prove challenging to adapt for the big screen. With recent movies like Cats showcasing how badly a humanoid cat can appear on-screen, ThunderCats has a significant challenge ahead.

Despite this, some movies like Sonic the Hedgehog have proven that even the most unusual and unique designs can be adapted to live-action with positive results. As long as director Adam Wingard avoids the mistakes that were made with the first live-action Sonic design, the series has a strong chance of success. It is highly likely that CGI will be an essential component of the ThunderCats movie, but it is possible to create convincing otherworldly characters, as long as the budget is there.


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1 The Script

thundercat's lion-o attacks

Finally, at the heart of the movie, the story and script have to be right. Adam Wingard is set to direct and co-write the story and has previous experience in doing this to varying degrees of success. When creating a story for the 2024 movie Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, Wingard managed to create an action-packed film with a narrative that matches up to previous entries in the franchise. Wingard does not have a wealth of experience in writing major hit films, but he does appear to have a great deal of passion for them ThunderCats story.

Wingard has revealed that he was a devout fan of the series when he was younger, to the point that he wrote a 270-page script while still in high school (via Screen Rant). Hopefully, this means he can put that passion to good use and deliver a story that will honor the source material, and take the story further. Whether the narrative will pick up on New Thundera after the series finishes, or attempt to reboot the original story remains to be seen, but if done correctly, it could mean that ThunderCats find their 10th life.