When we first brought you the news about the new “Thundercats” animated series debuting on Cartoon Network in 2011, details were scarce. All we we had was a promotional image of Lion-O and the promise of a “21st century reimagining” of the classic ’80s cartoon.
That’s why I made sure to pick the brain of “Thundercats” producer Michael Jelenic when he dropped by Splash Page HQ during New York Comic Con last month.
“It’s funny because I’ve been working on a lot of Batman cartoons the last couple years, and I tell people I have a new Batman cartoon coming out and they’re like, ’Cool…'” laughed Jelenic. “But when I say ’Thundercats,’ they’re like, ’Thundercats?!?! Oh My God!'”
“I’m a little surprised by the visceral reaction to the property,” he told MTV News. “It might be because it’s the last great ’80s property that hasn’t been reinvented for this new generation. We’re trying to be respectful to the old material, but bring it into a new era. I think it will be really cool.”
No stranger to animated fare, Jelenic penned the upcoming “Superman/Shazam: The Return Of Black Adam” animated short for the “DC Showcase” collection, as well as various episodes of “The Batman” and “Legion Of Super Heroes” cartoons. Jelenic is also a producer on the celebrated “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” animated series, which we named “Best Animated Series of 2009.”
“We have some great artists [on ’Thundercats’],” said Jelenic. “We’re using a very famous Japanese animation studio, Studio4C, which did ’The Animatrix.’ They’re going to have their signature stuff on it. It’s going to be pretty epic.”
But what about the whole “reimagining” thing? Jelenic agreed that the word “reimagining” could mean a lot of things, so he explained one specific change he’s looking to make with the new series.
“One thing is that I tried to simplify the mythology a little bit,” he said. “It’s a pretty complicated backstory that borrows from a lot of other sci-fi stuff, like Superman and Star Wars. In developing this, I wanted it to be a little more simple. In the other version, there’s something like three different planets involved, and they all converge onto one planet, and nobody’s really connected. I just wanted to bring that all together.”
“It’s reimagined in that way, but at the same time, we’re going to see the characters that we love,” he promised.
Asked specifically about the presence of classic characters Panthro, Cheetara, and Tygra, Jelenic said “all those characters will still be in it” —even Snarf, apparently.
“Everyone always wants to know about Snarf,” he laughed. “He will be in it, and he will not talk. Don’t worry.”
“He won’t be going, ’Lion-O, why don’t you do this?'” said Jelenic, imitating the character’s familiar whine. “We just having him say, ’Snarf! Snarf!’ That’s a way to get him in the show without annoying every single person who hates him. It’s funny, because people are always like, ’I hate Snarf! Wait. you’re not going to put him in? That’s terrible!'”
Jelenic also offered up a little more context for the visual redesign of the Thundercats, which we got a glimpse at in the promo image released earlier this year.
“I think when people see the final character designs, people will think it’s a different take, but it will feel very familiar to the old series,” he said of their visual plans. “The colors aren’t quite as bright as they were. I’s a little darker take, but you’ll recognize everybody.”
“Thundercats” is currently scheduled for a 2011 premiere.