Produced in 1983, Rankin-Bass' Thundercats was one of the several daily cartoon shows of the period primarily designed to sell a line of toys and action figures. The half-hour series was offered to local stations on a percentage-of-profits basis, said profits based on the toy sales. At the time, however, the FCC had a number of tight restrictions in effect regarding programs that were essentially half-hour commercials. Nearly two years passed before FCC rules relaxed and Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe proved that an animated series inspired by playthings could not only "fly" in the syndicated marketplace, but also prove immensely entertaining and extraordinarily successful as well. Thus, Thundercats finally debuted in most markets in the form of an extra-length special on January 23, 1985, with the series proper commencing in December of that same year. Most of the series took place on "Third Earth," where exiles from the planet Thundera had relocated after their own world had been all but obliterated by a variety of natural disasters. These aliens were giant feline creatures with human characteristics, led by the courageous Lion-O. With the aid of the magic Sword of Omens, the Thunderian refugees gained awesome powers and "sight beyond sights," and were transformed into the super-heroic ThunderCats. Lion-O's comrades included Tygra, Panthro, Cheetara, twins Wilykit and Wilykat, Snarf, Lynx-O, and Pumyra. Their sworn enemies were the various mutants, monsters and rogue cyborgs hailing from the planet Plun-Darr and under the command of Mumm-Ra, a mummy come to life. By the time Thundercats entered its second season on the air, the series was the highest-rated cartoon in daily strip syndication. In all, 130 episodes were produced, several of them grouped into five-part sagas that could be re-edited and reissued as two-hour specials.
by Hal Erickson synopsis