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Thundercats Thundercats

Thundercats, ho! Again. The humanoid cat creatures are being revived for a theatrical feature at Warner Bros., with Godzilla vs. Kong director Adam Wingard set to helm the project.

The characters, who come from a dying planet named Thundera, first appeared in the eponymous Rankin/Bass animated series that aired from 1985 to 1989 (image at top). They were rebooted for two Cartoon Network series, in 2011 and 2020, neither of which were renewed beyond their first season. The franchise has also spawned comics, toys, and video games.

A spin-off feature was in the works at Warner Bros. as early as 2007. The project has been developed by Rideback’s Dan Lin and Vertigo’s Roy Lee (who were producers on Wingard’s Death Note), with a script by David Coggeshall, but Wingard will rewrite the script with Simon Barrett. A Thundercats reboot is a passion project of Wingard’s: he says he wrote a 272-page script in the tenth grade.

A question mark hangs over the techniques the film will use. Deadline, which first reported the news of the reboot, describes it as “a hybrid of cgi and animation.” The meaning here is unclear, as cgi in a filmic context is a form of animation. Taken at face value, the description suggests that the film will at least be fully animated.

The confusion grows in the website’s interview with Wingard. The director says:

I want to do a Thundercats film that takes you back to that ’80s aesthetic. I don’t want to reinvent the way they look; I want them to look like Thundercats. I don’t want to do it live action, either. I don’t want it to look like Cats, I don’t want those kinds of issues … I want to do a movie you’ve never seen before. A hybrid cgi film that has a hyper-real look and somehow bridges the gap between cartoon and cgi.

There are several competing impulses here. A hyper-real look will be hard to square with a faithfulness to the ’80s aesthetic: the original series is a work of highly stylized 2d animation.

We’re also unsure what Wingard means by a “hybrid cgi film” if he won’t use live action. Does he want to avoid the hybrid approach used on Cats, or does he simply hope to dodge the pitfalls of that approach?

No studio wants a Cats-style debacle on their hands, of course. The best way to avoid that is to make clear, informed creative choices early on. Let’s hope Thundercats gets that, no matter what techniques are used.

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