Tuesday, October 04, 2011

(Too late) A Review: Toynami's Thundarr the Barbarian!

Is it the best post-apocalyptic cartoon aimed at little kids? Quite possibly! From the 1980 Ruby-Spears cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, today we have Toynami's 2004 figures, which I've wanted for years. Probably on and off since 1980.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, in the futuristic year...1994, a "runaway planet" (or comet or whatever) passes between the earth and the moon, wrecking them both up something fierce. Two thousand years later, earth is still solidly messed up, humanity barely up to a medieval level and having to face mutants, monsters, and magic. The titular Thundarr the Barbarian rises out of slavery with his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel; together they ride across the land and fight evil and whatnot. Seriously, even as a kid, I never really knew and wondered where they were riding to, since everywhere they went was pretty much just as terrible as where they left; but they didn't seem to have any particular goal in mind.

The series was created by Steve Gerber, who was best known for co-creating Howard the Duck. I had thought Jack Kirby was responsible for the characters' designs, but I was wrong: Alex Toth did the main characters before having to leave the show, so Kirby designed the villains and secondary characters. Although the result of natural disaster and not nuclear war or monkeys or plague, the post-apocalyptic setting was unique; but the show did swipe fairly liberally from Star Wars. Thundarr's 'sunsword' should be no means be confused with a lightsaber, Ariel is a Princess because Princesses are cool, and Ookla's growling and general resemblance to a Wookie...means nothing.

Toynami put out this three figure set out in 2004, and I don't know how I missed them: I suspect I got beat to them, then figured they would restock eventually, and never saw them again. Then for some time, it was something I planned to spring for as a Christmas present to myself from eBay; until the figures seemingly disappeared entirely. They would resurface occasionally, but were about as expensive as refined plutonium. Luckily, I recently found a "Buy It Now" auction at a relatively reasonable price for three that were opened, but may have never been taken out of their trays. (For some reason, these seem to show up in batches on eBay, but shop it around.) I had to look up Toynami as well, since I was thinking they were no longer around, but they are! They still make Futurama figures, for one.

Let's talk the figures, for a bit. They walk the line between looking like the character model sheets and having a bit of articulation. Thundarr has ankles, mid-calves, knees, hips, waist, shoulders, elbows, forearms, wrists, and neck; for a total of eighteen points. The head is ball-jointed, but restricted by his barbarian Prince Valiant hair. His fur outfit is soft plastic, though; and he has a magnet in his left wristguard to store the hilt of his sunsword! The blade removes, and it works great, unless you get the magnets the wrong way and shoot it across the room...

Princess Ariel was the magic-user of the group, as well as being the brains of the operation. She also seemed to be fairly educated for the time, so she often had a vague notion of the history of the areas they explored. Like a lot of female figures, Ariel doesn't get as much articulation, as to not mar the sculpt. Her joints are mostly cuts: hips, boot tops, shoulders, wrists, and a restricted balljoint neck like Thundarr's. (Ariel may have forearm twists, but mine seemed sticky, so I didn't want to push them, and they're redundant with the wrists anyway.) She comes with a magical fireball-like sphere and spinny-shield.

Ookla the Mok, Thundarr's biggest companion, was probably children's favorite back in the day. He's basically Chewbacca the Barbarian, but I'm OK with that. Ookla's solid mane of hair means he has no neck, but he does have wrists, elbows, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, and boot tops. He also has swappable hands, open or fists; and a bow and arrow. I honestly suspect Ookla got a bow because Chewbacca had his bowcaster; Ookla seemed strong enough to just throw whatever was handy at anything he couldn't reach.

Wikipedia points out that although Thundarr the Barbarian was a Ruby-Spears production, the DVD release of the complete series seems to imply it was from Hanna-Barbera. And, so do the trays for the figures! And, checking the figures, so does Ookla's foot! The entry notes Joe Ruby and Ken Spears had been head writers for Hanna-Barbera before creating their own animation studio; but Hanna-Barbera may have ended up with the characters now.

Super-happy to finally have these three. I imagine we'll be seeing them around here every so often, too.

The above was pretty much what I thought the future was going to be. Cyborgs and road warriors fighting their way through a hellish wasteland of gangs and monsters. Best case.


Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

It could happen. Now if you want a really depressing future that actually looks like it could happen say 40-50 years from now? Check out the band Distrubed's video "Another way to die" It pretty much paints a brutal picture about how all the polluting has basically fucked the planet. People have to go according to a time-limited stop-light in order to drink water. It's really messed up.

Here's the link for it in case you're interested:

Nice one w/ Kamandi though.

SallyP said...

On the plus side, everyone in the future is young and built.

chiasaur11 said...

Because everyone else is dead.

Let's be fair, though. Ignoring Komandi, OMAC had a decent future. All Kirby science, all the time.

Hmm. Guess Fallout's alright. I mean, sure. Nuclear wasteland, raiders, mutants, all that.

But you could find somewhere that isn't a hellhole with effort, there's honest cops, and if you're very, very lucky, you get power armor.

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