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Official Article

Vintage ThunderCats Merchandise


In 1985 ThunderCats were loose on TV screens in syndication and capturing the imaginations of elementary school age children across the world. Whether it was the multi-colored cat people, mystical weaponry or the iconic cat head logo design that caught our attention, most children of the 80’s remember the animated series from Rankin-Bass (yes, the Christmas TV special producers) fondly.

Adding to the excitement was the flood of merchandise to be found in toy stores, drug stores and fast food chains that got kids more pumped than Mumm-Ra at a discount medical supply warehouse! So activate your Sight Beyond Sight and let’s take a look at vintage ThundeCats merchandise!

ThunderCts VHS

Of course to start off you had to know the source material and this ThunderCats video cassette is beautiful. Sure, you could catch the show when it played on your local TV station, but you were extra awesome if you could pop a tape into the VCR whenever the desire hit. You may be noticing the strange creature next to Lion-O on the cover. No, Snarf didn’t mutate, this was the pet of Thundera’s royal family, Kano. One of the episodes on this tape finds Lion-O being transported back in time to his childhood where he goes on an adventure with his father, but is also reunited with this sabretooth dino. An interesting piece of ThunderCats lore we don’t often remember.

ThunderCats TV Tray

As a kid I always wanted a tray like this and was jealous of the kids who rocked them on their living room floor in front of the family television set. Why? Watching cartoons was totally enhanced with the addition of a licensed TV tray featuring graphics of your favorite characters painted on it. Plus, imagining your Handi Snacks and a Squeeze-It juice drink protected by Thundera’s greatest heroes meant Slithe or Monkian wouldn’t get their hands on your treats while your eyes were glued to the tube.

ThunderCats Sunglasses

This type of merchandise was always on hand at the local pharmacy in my youth, along with little flashlights and bubble sets. All they had to do was slap a ThunderCats sticker on a  generic toy and seal it on a card featuring a picture of Lion-O and we were sold. I mean, sunglasses were certainly never seen on the series unless Panthro was welding something, but I could totally imagine Wily Kit or Wily Kat throwing on these shades while surfing on their boards.

ThunderCats Wallet

Did Third Earth even have a currency? It felt like Mumm-Ra wanted to rule for some reason, but was their some type of monetary upside for Mr. Ra defeating his feline rivals? Either way, there was no cooler money storage device for a 5 year old than a wallet featuring the ThunderCats crew. These plastic wallets weren’t meant to last, but would certainly hold together long enough to carry the quarters you dug out of the couch or the dollar grandma sent you on your birthday. When you heard the ice cream man driving down the street that cash was long gone anyway.

Burger King Kids Meal

Happy Meals from McDonald’s were taken for granted by me as a kid, but a Burger King Kids Meal always felt special. Their ThunderCats themed meal had many items to offer like a Snarf pencil topper, a lenticular “flicker” ring and this truly unique light switch cover. Let’s face it, those other items would definitely be lost within a week, but Jaga, Cheetara and Lion-O could have remained part of your bedroom décor for decades. Plus the plastic cup with the ThunderCats logo molded into the lid was a really nice touch and the likelighood of it remaining in your parent’s kitchen cupboard long after you went to college was very high.

ThunderCats School Kit

Let’s face it, elementary school could be a grind with all the spelling tests and math quizzes, but if you had Lion-O as your wingman, it was always going to be a good day for learning. Surprisingly the Burger King Snarf Pencil topper wasn’t repurposed for this set, but you still got a cool ThunderCats logo pencil sharpener, Lion-O eraser and ruler. The pencil bag itself actually has really nice art, but Lion-o’s expression seems to say, “Did you seriously just taste that Elmer’s glue without offering me some? What’s up with that?”

ThunderCats Magazine, Activity Book and Comic Book

No franchise worth it’s salt in the 80’s could get away with not having at least one of these publications available for mass consumption. The activity book is pretty awesome in that it actually comes with a cut-out mask of Lion-O you can color in addition to various mazes and picture comparison games. The official ThunderCats magazine features a pull-out poster of the cover art, but given that it’s Tygra I can understand why it was never removed for display on a wall. The comics were produced by Marvel’s Star Comics imprint that adapted many episodes of cartoon shows to comic book format. Sadly there was no X-Men meets ThunderCats issue.

ThunderCats Gym Bag

I assume bags like these were generally used when a kid went to sleepover parties and just imagine the power move of showing up with a ThunderCats branded bag (with or without matching pajamas). You’d put the kid in Snorks PJs to shame, I can tell you that much. I personally would have used this type of bag for family vacations, packing the various pockets with candy, trading cards and action figures. Speaking of which…

LJN ThunderCats Action Figures

Man, oh, man are these ever sweet. Bigger than your standard G.I. Joe or even Masters of the Universe, These ThunderCats figures were very popular in my youth. My buddy Erik went so far as to get random side characters like Hachiman and Ratar-O, while I personally only had Lion-O as a kid. He had a feature where his eyes could light up to simulate the Sight Beyond Sight, which provided months of fun. Having an almost complete ThunderCats team is dream come true, now I just need to find a reasonably priced Wilykit.

ThunderCats Action Figure Case 

Last but not least is this beautiful carrying case for the LJN action figures. These cases were standard for any major toy line, in fact I have a whole book dedicated to just these types of pieces. You knew a kid was serious when they sprung for the carrying case. Because of their larger size, I never knew LJN produced a carrying case for ThunderCats, but here it is in all its glory. The graphics look even better on this massive case and the stark blackness of space used for the background really makes the characters pop.

I hope this was a fun trip down memory lane for you. These are just a few of the ThunderCats items that were available in the United States, there was plenty of international merchandise as well. But if this look back has you caught up in a wave of ThunderCats nostalgia, RetroDaze is bout to have you roaring with excitement!

ThunderCats is the theme of the latest episode of our YouTube series RD's Retro Detention and you won't want to miss this one. Not only does RD form his own team of heroes called the ThunderBrats, but we've got a cameo by Lion-O himself. No seriously, original voice actor Larry Kenney is reprising his role for our show and he's better than ever. Watch it now here!


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Looking for more from Hoju Koolander?

Mr Magic Posted on May 05, 2020 at 09:03 PM

I watched the first two episodes on Facebook yesterday. Never saw it till then. Great stuff!

I hope to catch the rest of the series.

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 06, 2020 at 04:40 AM

@Ben: I did indeed, and they look great. As Julie said, much more faithful to the cartoon designs.

Julie Posted on Mar 05, 2020 at 10:43 PM

These new figures are much more detailed and faithful than those launched at the time. Thanks for the links, @Benjanime.

Benjanime Posted on Mar 05, 2020 at 04:06 PM

did you guys hear that some new thundercats figures are on the way?

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 05, 2020 at 01:08 PM

In my youth, I had several of the figures. I recall not liking the varying heights of the characters. Lion-O was like a giant, while Panthro was like the ThunderCats version of Wolverine... short and stubby. That annoyed me. Plus I was used to the MOTU style of figure, with all the characters being the same height, proportion, etc.

Still, the cartoon was awesome and there was tons of other cool merch out there.

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