October 19, 2010

DVD Review: Thundarr the Barbarian

"The year: 1994. From out of space comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruin!
Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn...

A strange new world rises from the old: a world of savagery, super science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword against the forces of evil.

He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!"

So begins one of those cartoons that remains indelibly etched in my mind since my childhood. Of course, many of the details are either fuzzy or non-existent, but the important ones are still there and that is what counts. Warner Brothers is helping me fill in those blanks with their release of the complete Thundarr the Barbarian series and believe me when I tell you that it has been a blast watching these old cartoons. Granted, they don't quite have the same effect on me but I love the nostalgia that comes with them.

 I always loved watching Saturday morning cartoons. It didn't matter what channel you turned to, wherever you went was some manner of animated goodness. Thinking back on those glory days just makes me sad whenever I take a spin around the modern Saturday dial. It is tough to find a cartoon and even tougher to find anything that matched up to the classics of the 1980's.

Thundarr the Barbarian is a show that I cannot say I knew exactly when it was on each week, but when I did happen to come across it my face would be plastered with a big grin. Why? I am not quite sure. I don't think I would call it one of my favorites (that would likely go to something like Transformers or GI Joe). Whatever it was, the post-apocalyptic world presented was one of wild mystery and adventure with an engaging trio and plenty of crazy bad guys to oppose them.

Our heroes are Thundarr, a Conan-esque character armed with strength and a lightsaber-like weapon called the Sunsword, Princess Ariel, a sorceress with a wit and an answer to everything, and Ookla the Mok, a Wookie-type creature whose language is grunts and growls. They travel around the re-emerging world battling mutants, wizards, and anyone who gets in their way.

There is nothing in the way of a continuing storyline. Each episode pits the three against another batch of bad guys, including the two faced villain Gemini (who bore a striking similarity to DC Comics villain Darkseid). In addition to the villain of the week and heroic exploits of Thundarr and his compatriots we also got to see some familiar settings. Episodes treated us to such ruined locations as New York City, San Francisco, St. Louis, and even Mount Rushmore! Princess Ariel was always ready to let us know where we were.

The series ran for two seasons beginning in 1980 and spanned a total of 21 episodes. It is interesting to note that the man who created the series, Steve Gerber, is also responsible for Howard the Duck! Another cool fact is that comic legend Jack Kirby worked on character designs for many of the secondary characters, including Gemini.

This set looks surprisingly good. It is not perfect, of course, exhibiting a good deal of grain and occasional mark along the edge. Still, the colors are crisp, bright, and the detail level is pretty good. The series was made from the best available video master and has not undergone any re-mastering. It should also be noted that the release is only available through Warner Brothers and is part of their new Made to Order service. This means that they are burned DVDs and not regular pressings. The disks are burned and packaged when you order them (helps them not get stuck with lots of disks for titles that don't sell).

There are no extras, but that's all right. The nostalgia that watching the show brings me is enough. Thundarr will never be counted among the greatest examples of animation, but there is a lot to enjoy here. From the non-stop action to that great sword, to the subtler moments like when Ariel tries to get Thundarr to agree she's beautiful (it happens a couple of times and the reactions are priceless).

Bottomline. If you are a fan of classic Saturday morning fare or of Hanna Barbera action cartoons, this is one to enjoy right alongside The Herculoids.


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Article first published as DVD Review: Thundarr the Barbarian on Blogcritics.


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