Thundercats – Producer Interviews

We talk to Thundercats producers Michael Jelenic and Ethan Spaulding and art director Dan Norton.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

The producers of the new Thundercats premiered their first animated footage at WonderCon in San Francisco. In the press room, producers Michael Jelenic and Ethan Spaulding and art director Dan Norton spoke about the new reboot of the classic ‘80s cartoon. Here are the questions I asked them about the credits, the toys and the controversial Snarf.

 

CraveOnline: Is this grown up and aged up for the people who were fans in the ‘80s?

 

Dan Norton:I think this is skewed slightly older, probably 10 and up. We definitely had the Thunderdads in mind. We are Thunderdads ourselves, mainly me, but there’s definitely something in here where old school fans are going to watch the show and they’re going to get those Easter eggs and get that familiarity from the old show and at the same time, it’s going to be new. We kind of have a way to wipe the slate and pay homage to everything of the spirit of the show. So the older crowd or the previous fans are going to be into the show just as much as the new fans.

 

CraveOnline: What were the great unanswered Thundercats questions you always had that now you get to answer?

 

Dan Norton:I think when you look at even the characters, a lot of things were said without being shown. Tigra’s a great example of being the scientist, he’s a smart guy. Did you ever see him doing science experiments? Not so much but we want to show okay, he is an intelligent guy and develop that and see it through and make it earned throughout the show. That’s that level of exploration, maybe the little nuances of stories that we want to go further with.

 

CraveOnline: What is this WonderCon presentation going to mean for the show?

 

Michael Jelenic: I guess we’ll get our first reaction from people right in front of us. Comic-Con crowds are pretty honest with their feedback so we should know fairly shortly if people hate what we’re doing.

 

CraveOnline: Today kids have cell phones, Twitter and all the new things. What do you have to do to give them what they want in entertainment?

 

Ethan Spaulding: I think what’s different about this is we’re approaching it as a film, as a feature film. Even the soundtrack is like a movie score, so I don't know if that’s old fashioned now but it feels like a movie when you watch it. I think that’s what’s going to separate the show from the shows that are on the air right next to it.

 

Michael Jelenic: And I think even modern audiences are going to respond to good stories. Hopefully we’re telling good stories, or not. We’ll find out.

 

Dan Norton:We are! We are! It’s good.

 

Ethan Spaulding: We’re developing the characters more realistically so it seems like the situations they’re in are going to be more life and death. There is something at stake. I think that adds a lot to the drama.

 

CraveOnline: How important is the opening title sequence? That used to be where you told the whole backstory.

 

Dan Norton:I think it’s arguable. Some people may say that the opening of the show is what the old show was known for and then the content kind of became less memorable. We want the content to be the most memorable. While there’s limitations now in how opening sequences can be on television, there’s time restrictions and stuff, we can’t do what the old show had. A minute and 20 seconds I think is how long it was.

 

Michael Jelenic: We just can’t compete with it. It’s the best opening so we’re not going to top that. The original show did so many things really well. They had iconic voices, iconic music, iconic characters. [Our opening] will be 15 seconds and it’ll have the original theme and it’ll call back to that original title sequence, but we’re doing it in 15 seconds so I don't think it’ll have the same impact as that old one. So we’re not trying to compete. We gave up trying to win that battle. They’re better than us on that.

 

CraveOnline: Will people love Snarf now?

 

Dan Norton:I think we’ve moved him away from that naggy comedy of him speaking in that kind of comedic way, and we’ve brought it more to a Charlie Chaplin-esque more physical comedy. So you’ll enjoy his presence and get that cuteness factor.

 

Michael Jelenic: He is adorable. You will buy Snarf plushies for everybody.

 

CraveOnline: How involved have the toy companies been?

 

Michael Jelenic: I’ll tell you a secret. The whole reason the show’s getting made is because of toys but they’re not interfering I will say. Bandai is doing the toys and the toys look awesome. They’re not coming in and saying, “You’re going to do this toy, you’ve got to put this in.” Instead it’s been really collaborative and the toys that they’re making really reflect the storytelling and the role play aspects that we want to see from it, so it’s actually one of the better toy partnerships that we’ve had. I think people will really like the stuff we’ve got coming out on the toy side.

 

CraveOnline: At the same time, do you get to see your designs in toy form?

 

Michael Jelenic: Yeah, we’re right now starting to see the final sculpts, the Thundertank, all the original characters. That’s one of the great thing about Bandai. I’ve worked on Batman shows and they’ll only make like one or two characters but Bandai is making WilyKit and Kat, they’re making Snarf so any character that you like you’re going to be able to get them in toy form. Whenever you see the toy version of your show, it sort of makes the show real in a different way. It’s like okay, this is actually happening. It’s pretty exciting so I’m excited for the toys.