From the opening trumpets, to the over-the-top whining electric guitars, to the beautifully detailed and yet still fluid animation, there’s only one word suitable to describe the Thundercats opening theme, “badass”. It’s a slick 1:15 of animation that gets you entirely psyched up to watch a cartoon that’s not nearly as good as what you just saw. Unless you’re seven that is(I was), then everything that follows is pure, unadulterated awesomeness.
I singularly credit this opening theme with planting the seed of interest that led me towards choosing animation as a major in college 11 years after the show initially aired. I would record some of the episodes and attempt to dissect the animation of the theme, because I wanted to know quite badly how they managed what they did. Let me tell you, that’s no easy feat with VHS and a cheap VCR. (OCD? Yes.)
Sad, sad admissions of a geek aside, the theme does manage to hit a lot of notes quite masterfully and you really do have to study it to appreciate how well it’s done. There’s constant motion from beginning to end. Every shot and character pose is dynamic. From the light of the Eye of Thundera racing towards Lion-O early on in the theme to Tygra leaping into the air, disappearing and then reappearing in the Thunder Tank (which is in the process of crashing onto screen), to Lion-O flipping backwards towards the end of the theme using a series of quick close-ups and wide shots (while never taking the camera off the character). The theme only slows twice (excluding the end, of course); once to establish the series’ most recognizable symbol, the Eye of Thundera, and a second time to allow the viewer to absorb a shot of the cast of heroes.
They pull off some brilliant shot transitions, as well. Of note is the one between the introduction of WilyKit and WilyKat to that of Lion-O swinging the sword of Thundera about in front of the Cat’s Lair. The former sequence ends with WilyKit swinging past the screen and tossing tiny colored balls at it. As they explode, a colored cloud of smoke envelopes the screen and matches the colors and motion of Lion-O so closely that, while it takes place in a different location, the swing of his sword in the next frames feels like a natural extension of the previous shot.
There’s also the aforementioned Lion-O leaping backwards sequence that begins with the introduction of Mumm-Ra, as he transforms from a cloaked mummy with bad teeth to super-buff bad guy with bad teeth. This shot ends with Mumm-Ra in an extended pose that suggests he’s about to commit to an action. The next one takes place in an entirely different location, but this goes unnoticed at first because of the extension of motion from the previous one. Mumm-Ra fires a blast from his hand, in close-up and towards the right of the screen. The camera then pulls out to reveal new surroundings as Lion-O dodges the blast and performs a backwards leap, does a dynamic mid-air pose and nails a landing that would make any gymnast cry tasty, tasty tears.
Before I split for a yummy tuna sandwich lunch, I just wanted to mention one thing. Hands down, my favorite part of the theme is Cheetara’s run through a field of mutants, where the camera brilliantly switches perspective from first to third person. It’s deserving of a slow clap.
I leave you with this video clip of the theme to either share my wonderment or look upon with disdain. Don’t forget to let us know what you think by writing in the Comments.