Thundercats original cartoon

Why It’s Taken So Long to Make a ‘ThunderCats’ Movie

If you grew up in the ’80s, chances are you were either a Masters of the Universe or ThunderCats fan. Most people who adore bad haircuts and dance music gravitated towards He-Man, while the rest of us found solace in Lion-O and his band of merry furballs.

Now, 36 years after the O.G. animated series debuted, a hybrid CGI ThunderCats film finally seems to be in early development. Helming it is filmmaker Adam Wingard, who recently brought Godzilla vs. Kong to roaring life and is set to tackle the Face/Off sequel in the near future. But why did it take so long for Hollywood to exploit a franchise that’s been ripe for picking?

The ThunderCats movie has actually been in the works since 2007. Video game art director Jerry O’Flaherty (Gears of War) signed on to direct a script penned by Paul Sopocy. Fans were promised a 2010 release date; however, the project never made it past the concept stage. Some leaked test footage did find its way online, but we won’t share any links here because Warner Bros. lawyers are related to Mumm-Ra.

The movie was likely put aside to not take away focus from the 2011 animated series that aired on Cartoon Network. While the show was actually really good, it was sent to the litter box after only one season. The more kid-friendly ThunderCats Roar didn’t fare any better when it debuted in the middle of the pandemic last year, mostly because no one has a sense of humour nowadays.
Yet, proving that these felines truly have nine lives, Wingard’s ThunderCats will attempt to revive the second-best ’80s franchise after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he promises that he won’t be looking to Tom Hooper’s Cats for inspiration.

The original Thundercats

More importantly, Wingard is a huge fan of the franchise, revealing to Deadline that he wrote a 272-page screenplay for a possible film in high school. (Is it too early to start a #ReleaseTheWingardCut movement for this epic saga already?)

“Nobody on this planet knows or has thought as much about ThunderCats as I have,” he said. “They gave me the reins. I saw this as an opportunity to do a new type of fantasy sci-fi spectacle film that people have never seen before. It’s got a rich mythology; the characters are fantastic. The colours. I want to do a ThunderCats film that takes you back to that ’80s aesthetic.”

Wingard’s comments sound awfully promising. Judging by Godzilla vs. Kong, he certainly understands what it takes to capture the heart and essence of a popular IP. He’s a fan, first and foremost, and this comes across in the presentation of his work that respects decades of tradition and fan expectations.

The question is, will the larger audience turn up for a ThunderCats movie? Even Masters of the Universe can’t seem to get off the ground, forcing Noah Centineo to continue taking the Netflix money and smiling like he actually cares. So what suggests that Lion-O and his peeps won’t suffer a similar fate?

For Wingard’s ThunderCats to be successful, it needs to be fast-tracked into production. The longer it lingers, the less it’ll feel likely. Give the audience something—anything—to excite them. We need to see it to believe it.

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