Posts Tagged ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’

One piece of pop culture the 1980’s are fondly remembered for is its original action adventure cartoons. Such original content did not, however, come immediately.  In 1980, many animated shows were merely reruns of previous entries such as Hanna Barbera’s “Godzilla.” Filmation ran its second year of the Flash Gordon series, and continued their “Tarzan/Lone Ranger Adventure Hour” with reruns of Tarzan but new Lone Ranger episodes. Ivan Naranjo, a Native American voice actor provided the voice of Tonto, who was given more dialogue and was portrayed as more educated than he was in the old black and white TV show. Long time actor William Conrad voiced the Lone Ranger, credited as J Darnoc. Lone Ranger episodes were tagged with shorts with historical figures such as Mark Twain and Annie Oakley. Also noteworthy is one episode about the first transcontinental railroad had a plot similar to the 1999 film Wild Wild West.

The long running Superfriends series, by Hannah-Barbera, had a season in 1980. Packaged as an hour long show, it began with a half hour re-run, followed by three new seven minute shorts. 

Ruby Spears, founded by two former Hannah-Barbera sound editors, would be the studio to add something new. In an interview on Thundarr.com, Joe Ruby recalls reading in a magazine that a Conan movie was coming soon. Often a movie would come out first, then, if successful, would spawn animated series and other merchandise. Star Wars of course changed all this, and Joe bet on the idea that a barbarian like fantasy series would succeed. 

Two initial ideas for a new cartoon were pitched to ABC’s Marilyn Olin and Judy Price. One was a post-nuclear war show, and the other was a natural disaster from outer space. Given this was to be a children’s show, the then current Cold War era nuclear scenario was scrapped.

Debuting on October 4th and running until Halloween day of the next year, Thundarr the Barbarian was a post-apocalyptic warrior who fought wizards and mutants on a ruined Earth. The story went that in 1994 a runaway planet sped between the Earth and the Moon, causing natural disasters and societal collapse. A thousand years later, Thundarr, with his lightsaber like Sunsword, fought evil alongside New Earth princess Ariel, and Ookla the Mok, a Chewbacca like character. Together, they would travel across the lands fighting evil in a world that was a mix of sorcery and science, with nomadic tribes wandering through lost technological ruins. 

Legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby provided production designs. Alex Toth, another revered artist, designed the main characters, though Gemini, one of the shows villains, strongly resembled Kirby’s DC comics villain Darkseid. 

A mix on Conan, Kirby Comics, and Star Wars, Thundarr the Barbarian was the first original action adventure property of the 1980s.