Thundarr the Barbarian was a Saturday morning animated television series, created by Joe Ruby and produced by Ruby-Spears Productions. It was broadcast during the early 1980s. Action figures of the three main characters were released by Toynami in 2004.
Concept and characters
Twenty-one half-hour episodes were produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, an independent animation house formed by the co-creators of Scooby-Doo, from October 1980 to September 1982, when the show went off the air. The show ran on the ABC network. Reruns of the program appeared on NBC's Saturday morning lineup in 1983.
Loosely inspired by R.E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, Thundarr the Barbarian was set in a future (at the time of production) post-apocalyptic wasteland divided into kingdoms or territories--the majority of which are ruled by wizards--and whose ruins typically featured recognizable geographical features from the United States, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Mount Rushmore, New York City, San Francisco, or Washington, D.C. Other episodes with recognizable settings are located in Central America, while one is in London. Another notable feature of this future Earth is that the Moon is now in two pieces, though both pieces still orbit in proximity to one another, and seem to orbit at roughly the same height as the intact Moon once did. The shattered moon and the ruins of the former human civilization were supposedly caused by the passage of a runaway planet between the Earth and the Moon in 1994, which, from scenes shown in the opening sequence, caused radical changes in the Earth's climate, geography, and tidal effects, the latter presumably because of the damage to the Moon. However, by the time period in which the series is set (2000 years later circa 3994 A.D.), the Earth and Moon seem to have settled into a new balance.
In this setting, Thundarr, a muscular warrior, and his companions Princess Ariel (who was a formidable sorceress) and the Wookiee-like Ookla the Mok travelled the world on horseback, and battled evil wizards who combined magical spells with technologies from the pre-catastrophe world. Other enemies included werewolves, a predatory, malevolent alien being, humanoid lizards, and mutants. Intelligent humanoid-animal races include the rat-like Groundlings and the cat-like Moks.
Further Star Wars influences can be seen in Thundarr's weapon of choice, the "Sun Sword", which projects a blade-like beam of energy when activated, and can be deactivated so that it is only a hilt. The Sun Sword is magically linked to Thundarr and as such, only he can use it; however, this link can be disrupted.
Bob Ridgely was Thundarr's voice actor, frequently uttering such pronouncements as "Demon dogs!" and "Lords of Light!" Princess Ariel was played by Nellie Bellflower, and Henry Corden voiced Ookla.
Comic book writer-artist Jack Kirby worked on the production design for the show. While many people believe that Kirby was the primary designer of the show (mainly due to his similarly themed Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth), the main characters were in fact designed by fellow comic book writer-artist Alex Toth, who also designed the popular character Space Ghost for Saturday morning television. Toth, however, was unavailable to continue working on the show, so most of the wizards and other villains and secondary characters that appear on the show were designed by Kirby. He was brought onto the show at the recommendation of comic writer Steve Gerber and comics and animation veteran Mark Evanier, who realized that the same imagination that produced Kamandi could contribute significantly to the series. Indeed, the evil wizard Gemini, the only repeating villain on the show, resembles Darkseid, an infamous Kirby villain.
The show itself was actually the creation of Steve Gerber, creator of Marvel Comics' Howard the Duck. The name Ookla actually comes from UCLA. Gerber and friend Martin Pasko were having dinner in the Westwood area one night during the time Gerber was writing the bible for the series. Gerber commented to Pasko that he hadn't yet decided upon a name for the Wookiee-like character the network insisted be added to the series, over Gerber's objections. As the two walked past the gate to the UCLA campus, Pasko quipped, "Why don't you name him 'UCLA'?" Pasko later became one of several screenwriters also known for their work in comics, such as Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, to contribute to the show. After writing several scripts, singly and in collaboration with Gerber, Pasko became a story editor on the second season. Other writers included Buzz Dixon and Mark Jones.
The opening narration to the show is as follows:
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!
- In Episode 1:"Secret of the Black Pearl", Ariel has a stepfather. It is in his library that she learns of Old Earth.
- In Episode 1: a small poster for the movie "Jaws" is seen in a scene where the heroic trio enter a subway in Manhattan. Thundarr mistakes it for a marker to a hideaway for humans and Ariel explains that it is a poster for a movie before telling Thundarr nevermind.
- In Episode 3:"Mindok The Mind Menace", Ariel stops at one point and breaks the "fourth wall" by looking directly at the screen and exclaiming "Outvoted again".
- In Episode 3:"Mindok The Mind Menace", Thundarr is shown slicing a Gemini Space Capsule in half out of anger.
- In Episode 4:"Raiders of the Abyss", the wizard Morag has a Concorde aircraft sitting nose up as part of his lair. This scene mirrors the missile found in the mutant lair in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
- While Thundarr and Ariel ride normal looking Horses, Ookla rides a futuristic equine called an "Equort". Where he got the animal is not revealed but the name of the animal species is mentioned by Ariel in a few episodes.
- In the one with the train on stilts Thundarr utters the memorable phrase "humans are not your prey" in response to the bird creature's "theeeeerree is our PRIIIIIZZEE!!"
- In Episode 7:"The Brotherhood of Night", The leader of the werewolves was named Zevon, also the name of the performer of the song "Werewolves of London" Warren Zevon.
Episodes and locations
Season 1 (1980-1981)
- "Secret of the Black Pearl" - New York, New York (Manhattan)
- "Harvest of Doom" - Chichen Itza, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico
- "Mindok the Mind Menace" - Cape Canaveral, Florida
- "Raiders of the Abyss" - Seattle, Washington
- "Treasure of the Moks" - Norfolk, Virginia
- "Attack of the Amazon Women" - Mount Rushmore, South Dakota
- "The Brotherhood of Night" - Washington, DC
- "Challenge of the Wizards" - Las Vegas, Nevada
- "Valley of the Man Apes" - San Fernando Valley, California
- "Stalker from the Stars" - Denver, Colorado
- "Portal Into Time" - San Antonio, Texas
- "Battle of the Barbarians" - San Francisco, California(Chinatown)
- "Den of the Sleeping Demon" - San Jose, California
Season 2 (1981-1982)
- Executive Producers: Joe Ruby, Ken Spears
- Produced by: Jerry Eisenberg
- Directed by: Charles A. Nichols, John Kimball, Rudy Larriva
- Story Direction: Kurt Connor, Gordon Kent, Dick Sebast, Hank Tucker, Doug Wildey
- Supervising Story Director: John Dorman
- Location Director: Bill Reed
- Voice Director: Alan Dinehart
- Art & Stories Design: Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, Mike Ploog, Doug Wildey, Gil Kane
- Character Design: Jack Kirby, Alex Toth, Jerry Eisenberg
- Models: Alan Huck, Michael Mitchell, Edgar R. Saller
- Model Supervisor: Ric Gonzales
- Layout Production Unit Supervisor: John Ahern
- Layout: Hal La Ferre, Margaret Harrison, Debra Pugh, Greg Garcia, Karl Hepworth, Richard Graham, Guy Smith, Marcia Bales, Charles Hards, Stuart Heimdal, Dave Sharp, Doug Vandergrift, Ray Smith, Lyle Bends, Keith Sargeant, Boyd Kirkland, Elaine K. Hultgren
- Layout Supervisor: Larry Huber
- Background Layout Supervisor: David High
- Background Layout: Kathleen Vaslett, John F. Guerin, Bruce Zick
- Color Key: Bunny Semones
- Animation Stock: Sandra Benenati
- Cel Service: Jim Stock
- Titles: John Dorman
- Lettering: Robert Schaefer
- Graphics: Iraj Paran, Tom Wogatzke
- Production Controller: Jerry Goldman
- Production Supervisor: Natalie Shirpser
- Assistants to the Executive Producers: Jodi Berman, Janie Fields
- Assistant to the Producer: Erika Grossbart
- Unit Auiditor: Henriette Pacile
- Production Assistants: Madlyn Goldberg, Loretta High, Kayte Kuch
- Studio Manager: Jeff Cooke
- Music by: Dean Elliott
- Supervising Film Editor: Chip Yaras
- Effects Editors: Kevin Spears, Karla McGregor
- Music Editor: Mark Green
- Post Production: Lenore Nelson
- Negative Cutting: Mary Nelson
- Camera: Take One
- Laboratory: C.F.I.
- Recording: Heider Scoring Services
- Dubbing: T.V. Recorders
© 1980 Ruby-Spears Productions, Inc., A Filmways Company. All Rights Reserved
Allusions in other fiction
- A Cartoon Network promotional bumper features Thundarr, Fred Flintstone, and Chicken (of Cow and Chicken fame) supposedly commuting to "work" at Cartoon Network, and trying to find a parking spot in Fred's foot-powered car. Another features Thundarr and company with their voices dubbed over by toddlers speaking gibberish. Still another, from the Screwey, Ain't It? series, features Ookla the Mok repeatedly bashing a giant squid.
- Thundarr appears as a goon in the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode "The Dabba Don", even though he wasn't a Hanna-Barbera character like the others.
- The NEN parody show Meltdown devoted an entire half-hour episode to an animated parody of Thundarr, which itself contained countless parodies and ribs at '80s cartoons. The episode is most likely from 1995 since the outdated 1994 year cited in the opening narration is used as a constant running gag ("Last year, from out of space..."). The parody's premise had Thundarr wandering a post-apocalyptic Earth searching for root beer; during the course of the show, Thundarr battles and beheads an obvious He-Man knock-off character who insults his haircut, explores the ruins of a train similar to the USA Cartoon Express, and fights a wizard who wants to turn Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla's horses into food in a Soylent Green type plot. Any mentions of a "lost episode" of Thundarr are probably actually references to this Meltdown version. The parody episode's intro was later re-used as one of the rotating segments before Meltdown commercial bumpers, but the episode seemed to be absent from post-'90s airings of the show (since it was a parody is free of any copyright issues with the original Thundarr).
- An episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends shows "Ookla, Ariel, we ride!" on a list of catch-phrases.
- In the episode "Good Duck Hunting" of Duck Dodgers, Duck Dodgers proudly displays a Thundarr the Barbarian poster featuring Thundarr, Ookla and Ariel in his ship.
- In 2005, on the cartoon website Homestar Runner, as part of that year's Halloween cartoon, The Poopsmith dressed as Ookla as his Halloween costume.
- The Barenaked Ladies song "Michael Brennan" mentions Ookla the Mok.
- There is a nerdrock/nerdcore band called Ookla the Mok. Their site can be found here: Ookla.www.ooklathemok.com/
- The Computer role-playing game Wizardry has a brief once-only appearance of the trio on the final level.