More than three decades after its 1985 animated debut, ThunderCats continues to hold a place in the hearts of fans both old and new. However, early concept art reveals a very different vision for the classic series.
Drawn for Rankin/Bass by Jim Meskimen, better known for his voice work on such series as Justice League and Avatar: The Last Airbender, the concept art includes giant two-legged bats and a rhino dressed in Shakespearean clothing. Meskimen definitely had several influences when coming up with these characters, ranging from samurai to religious and cosmic fantasy.
Some of the concepts made it onto ThunderCats over its four-season run, while others were featured in other media. Some were never used at all, which is a shame, because there’s a lot of creativity on display here.
Airing from 1985 to 1989, ThunderCats is set on Third Earth, where a race of catlike aliens are forced to take refuge while escaping the evil Mutants of Plun-Darr. Upon arriving on Third Earth, the Thunderan Prince Lion-O leads the remaining ThunderCats to fight the incoming Mutants and the planet’s Mumm-Ra, who desires the legendary Sword of Omens to continue his evil rule. ThunderCats inspired toys and merchandise, comic books and a 2011 television reboot.
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