A Conversation About ThunderCats Roar

May 21 • FEATURES • 623 Views • No Comments on A Conversation About ThunderCats Roar

ThunderCats Roar is a new updated take on the beloved animated series, which is now being reimagined for a new younger audience. Marly Halpern Graser and Victor Courtright are producing this new series, which is based on the 80s Saturday Morning Cartoon. Both come with a wealth of experience working on a number of hit animated shows.

Graser, an Emmy nominated producer and writer, previously worked on Right Now Kapow (executive producer/showrunner), MAD (writer), Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans (writer) and Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (writer). Courtight’s previous credits include Pickle and Peanut (character designer) and Yo Gabba Gabba! (animator).

In this exclusive interview, we talk to the producers to find out more about the new ThunderCats Roar series.

Marly Halpern Graser

Q: Tell us about the early discussions you had when first creating ThunderCats Roar?
Victor: I was talking with some Warner Bros. people about possible properties they were interested in reviving and I basically had one specific show in mind and that was ThunderCats. I was so excited about the possibility of doing anything with that property, so after talking with them about the possibility of it happening, I pretty much went home and, in a bubble, just started sketching the characters, very close to what they are right now. A lot of the initial development is basically just this thing that had been lurking in the back of my head for a while, so it was a natural type of creative experience.  

Q: Were you worried at all taking this beloved franchise into a new realm and updating it for a new audience? 
V: I think this is a big responsibility. The only thing I can do, when (this show) was in development, was try to make something that I would be excited about as a fan myself and as an artist. That’s what I feel we did.  Everyone did an amazing job. I hope many people will come on board and join us in loving this show.

Marly: One thing I would add is that when I work on reboots or remakes like this, I don’t think of it as updating… because you can do it in a million ways.  I don’t think there was anything outdated necessarily about the 1980s ThunderCats; so I don’t think what we did was an improved and evolved modern version (of the show).  I really think of it as we are doing a comedic parody of ThunderCats.  The decisions we made were based on what would make this the funniest show possible.

Q: What changes to the new series were made from the 80’s cartoon?
M: I think the biggest adjustment we made, and from what I can tell has been almost universally approved of, is that in our show Snarf does not talk. 

Q: How are the characters different from the old series to the new one?
V: I think that the biggest one is definitely Tygra. I think a lot of the original ThunderCats are very stoic, very serious hero kind of characters, and we found a lot of elements in the original characters that could be pushed to an extreme. There is a little nugget in Tygra that was a little bit less confident than some of the other characters, and we sort of expanded that out into a much more uptight and reserved older ThunderCat with a little bit more experience. But I think that it still holds from the original in some ways.

Q: Are there elements from the original show such as episodes that you wanted to borrow or replicate for this new one?  
Vi: Yes definitely. A few episodes from the original 80s show are a big part of (ThunderCats Roar), but beyond that, there are specific storylines that are totally new.  We wanted to make sure that people who are new to the show have the opportunity to experience (the original)…like we brought back an episode featuring Mandora where it’s a one-to-one comedy take on her whole intro episode from the 80s show. There were a few different places like that with one to one (retakes of the) original storyline and episodes where they are 100% new with 100% new characters.

Victor Courtright

Q: What are some of the key aspects you included in this new series for today’s viewership?
V: I love the original show. I think that obviously since that show came out in the 80’s the tone of entertainment has evolved and changed, and my own personal taste has changed too. A lot of content is so much faster and so much more jam-packed with excitement and details and things like that, so I think that more than anything else, the tone of the show has been updated to track what I hope modern viewers are excited to see. It is the kind of thing that I am excited about. I really love the energy and pace of the show; you get a lot out of an eleven-minute episode that would have probably taken twice as long or four times as long to get across in the original show.

M: A lot of what we do on our show is take a story that the original show did in 22 minutes and pretty much just speed it up and cram it into eleven minutes and then try to tell the full story twice as fast.

Q: A lot of 80s animated series were rooted in seriousness, would you say that today’s audiences are more geared towards a lighter tone?
V: There’s a wider range of viewers now.  There will be kids and adults who are all about the action.  There will also be adults and kids who are all about the goofy comedies.  And with so much content available, you can be hyper focused on whatever you love.

M: I think comedy and action have always been popular. In the 80s when ThunderCats were very popular, there was also Smurfs which was a popular comedy at that time. I think there’s always going to be room for different shows with different tonality. 

Q: What can those who are familiar and unfamiliar with ThunderCats expect from the new series?
V: I love the characters from the original show. I think they are super fun and I fell in love with them when I was a kid – and what we are doing is mostly exaggerating the original show and taking those characters and pushing them to extremes. But I hope that at the core they still have a lot of what was great about the original 80’s characters, especially characters like Panthro and the Thunderkittens and Cheetara and stuff like that. We sort of lean into some elements which were a lot smaller in the original and explode them up into full blown character traits. As a fan personally, I am so excited about what we are doing with these characters. I feel like it brings them to a new place and hopefully new viewers fall in love with these and eventually go back and fall in love with the 80’s ones too.

Q: Are there any surprises for viewers to look forward to?
M: Hopefully all of the episodes are pleasantly surprising. I would say that in the first half of the first season, the storyline people should be keeping an eye out for is when the ThunderCats first meet Mumm-Ra. He is very powerful and then they defeat him and then he is not as powerful anymore, and the first chunk of episodes are about Mumm-Ra becoming powerful again and slowly becoming more of a threat and getting back to how dangerous he was when they first met him. I think people should keep an eye on that and they will be pleasantly surprised. 

Q: Had you watched the original series again as an adult?
V: Yes, definitely. I watched it as much as I could when I was a kid, but it was an episode here and an episode there. I didn’t really get every single episode in order. But in college I was going to school for animation and I found it again. We watched the whole thing and I was very obsessed with the sort of animation philosophy of it and the origin of it in animation history. I’ve watched it multiple of times since then.

M: I actually watched ThunderCats for the first time as an adult. I didn’t watch it as a kid. I started working at Warner Bros. Animation when they were making the 2011 version of ThunderCats. My co-workers were making that version and I grabbed some DVDs of the 80’s ThunderCats from them and started getting into it back then. So, I watched it for the first time in 2011 and then years later got to meet Victor and did this version which is really great.

Q: If you could revive another cartoon series from the 80s, what would you pick and why?  
V: The drawn franchise from the 80s that I love and never got to do anything with it and would love to have any involvement with at some point in my life would be the X-Men. They are probably their best in the 80s. 

The all-new action-comedy series, ThunderCats Roar, premieres on Saturday, 23 May, 1pm on Cartoon Network (Astro Ch 615 HD / 635). New episodes air every Saturday and Sunday at the same time.

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