Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thundarr the Barbarian, please come back!

It seems there is a cycle of bringing the old back as something new. This cycle isn't a regular one- sometimes it is sporadic, other times it is quite active, but it is one anyone can observe as going through these highs and lows.
 Recent revivals/ re-treatments of older properties have been the Green Hornet, Snow White, Sherlock Holmes, the Smurfs and the soon-to-be released Lone Ranger. One could make the argument for Spider-man and the entire DC universe- and Superman has certainly been rebooted in movies and comics. The difference with these latter things as compared to the former properties is that they were still recent and active when they suddenly got the "total extreme makeover."
 There is a Saturday morning property that I really hope a JJ Abrams/ Chris Nolan/ Josh Whedon-type will look to reboot and bring to a whole new generation- Thundarr the Barbarian!
 Many of you may ask, "Who?" but for those of us who remember the show it was a high-point of the Ruby-Spears animation portfolio filled with sorcery, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic landscapes, mutants and villains. Character designs and settings came from the hands and minds of legendary comics icons Alex Toth (who also designed the timeless Space Ghost costume among many other things) and Jack "King" Kirby (the art part of the Marvel Age that created the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Avengers and more!).

The show borrowed from Star Wars, John Carter, and Conan the Barbarian yet it was still very much its own show, its own universe, and managed to be unique despite the influences it derived material from.
Ookla the Mok- part yeti, part Wookie, part cat-person.
 I've seen people post "reviews" of Thundarr online, going on and on about how  unrealistic the show was, how the use of magic made no sense, how silly the weapons and creatures were, etc., etc. This was a Saturday morning cartoon! It was meant to entertain and, hopefully, inspire kids. The show was FUN. Ookla the Mok was muscle and comic relief- like in the "Black Pearl" episode (No, no skeleton pirates and ghost ships here. It really IS a black pearl!) where he doesn't get the hang of flying a helicopter his first time out, so he smashes and crashes the thing instead. Ariel (or Princess Ariel) was a sorceress who wore basically the same outfit as Tara, the mother on the Herculoids, but Ariel has darker hair and complexion than her blond-haired counter-part.
 And then there is the title character Thundarr, who could see the world in terms of wrong or right, with no grey area in between. This allowed Thundarr to make snap decisions on what to do and who to help. Thundarr spoke in such a way that speech seemed difficult for him, yet he could read, he could rally the troops with a short and stirring speech, and he could even figure out how to pilot a large helicopter on the fly (see what I did there?). Strong and almost cavemanish in his attitudes, you just knew trouble was going to find this guy no matter where they traveled to on the globe.
Princess Ariel in a similar outfit to the Herculoids' Tara.
 The post-apocalyptic world, combined with the variety of monsters and oppressors seen on the show each week leaves a lot of material to build a movie around. Thundarr, according to the introduction, is out to fight injustice and to right the wrongs. I figure this could mean he is trying to re-establish civilization, so a movie version would involve him toppling various wizards who have enslaved people and leading those people to a safe place to start anew.
 Clips of Thundarr can be found online, and you can piece together enough YouTube shorts to make full episodes. Beware, that if you only speak English, you may be disappointed to find many of these clips in Spanish.
Tara. Most similar thing on the ladies are their heads.
 So what do you think- should Thundarr be the next property to be brought to the silver screen? If not, is there another cartoon show you think would work better?

Gemini- he could turn his head "Exorcist-style" to a face on the other side!

I forget who this guy is, but he is pretty freaky!

I always thought these guys were inspired by "Beneath the Planet of the Apes". Watch it to see what I mean.

The Rat King found work after the nutcracker!

Our heroes on their steeds. Ookla's mount is about as weird as he is.

Thundarr and Ariel jump about 70 feet from a window onto his horse. Don't try this at home.
Thundarr the Barbarian

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cartooning Club studies Animaniacs!

In June, the Cartooning Club learned about creating multiple characters and looks off of a single model. In this case, we used the Animaniacs, or more accurately, the Warner Brothers Yakko and Wakko and the Warner Sister Dot. It's not hard to tell that these three characters are all built from the same model and constructed the same way, with minor adjustments along with superficial differences like Yakko's mussed hair, Wakko's hat and baggy shirt, and Dot's "pony-tailears". Other cartoons use a similar technique- Tom & Jerry cartoons, for instance, have all the characters use the same basic model to build the characters from- cats, dogs and mice are all constructed the same way and have the minor adjustments and superficial additions to make them stand out.
 This saved time for animators and made it easier to get artists and in-betweeners up to speed on how the characters should look.
 Our exercise was to draw each of the Warners, but with a different expression- sad, happy and goofy. While they may not look like the polished creations you see on TV (they are on the HUB- Hasbro's channel- these days) you can tell the kids built each of their characters using the same starting model and adding accordingly.

Goofy Yakko and Wakko and sad Dot by Preston!

Bored Yakko and surprised Wakko by Sam Peebles, age 12!

Warner expressions by Jack, age 16!

Brinton, age 13 gives us smiling Dot, sad Yakko and a goofy Wakko.

Sad Dot, happy Wakko and an exhausted Yakko by Maya, 10.

Suave Yakko, goofy Wakko, and sad/bored Dot by William Mimy, age 11.