Western Animation: Thundarr the Barbarian

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 the year 1994, the Earth was destroyed in a mighty cataclysm. (What? You don't remember that happening?) Some 2,000 years later, and the world is still a pretty big mess, with many of the survivors having mutated into hideous monsters. Those who still remain human live precariously amongst the ruins of the old world, at the mercy of evil sorcerers who've managed to combine the technology of yore with ancient mysticism and create magic-fueled weapons of awesome power.

Into this broken world rides our muscular hero and his sidekicks, the magic-wielding Action Girl Princess Ariel and the Chewbacca-like Ookla the Mok, a catlike, superpowered giant who communicates largely in growls. Together these three heroes ride the length and breadth of the post-cataclysmic world righting wrongs and protecting the shattered remnants of humanity from whatever dangers may threaten.

Created by the production team of Ruby-Spears with the help of comic artists Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, this show was one of the better Conan-inspired Heroic Fantasy shows of the early 1980s. The opening sequence alone (which featured the flashy destruction of Earth) was enough to secure its place in the memory of many a kid from that era, who undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief when 1994 had peacefully come and gone. A number of 90s kids remember the same opening, as Thundarr was a staple of the fledgling Cartoon Network, alongside shows like Centurions.


This show provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Ariel, whose versatile magic ability sometimes conveniently failed when the time came for her to be taken hostage or rescued (She can't cast spells when her hands aren't free). She managed to keep from slipping into Faux Action Girl territory, though, by her wit, intelligence and the genuine usefulness of her powers when the script allowed her to use them.
  • After the End
  • Alex Toth: While Jack Kirby designed most of the villains and other characters, the three leads were designed by Toth. This is most evident with Ookla, who is clearly a relative of Brak.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The wizards.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Ariel for Thundarr.
    • Well, he does get pretty mad whenever she's endangered or threatened so maybe her love is not completely unrequited.
  • Apocalypse Day Planner
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary Societal Collapse.
  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: The Sun Sword could cut through inanimate objects and Mecha-Mooks as if they were tissue paper. But the moment he tried to strike down a living foe, the Sun Sword inexplicably didn't work. (At least the writers lampshaded this by having Thundarr express surprise, dismay or both at this.)
  • Author Appeal: Toth's character designs for the leads can be easily found online. One of them is of Ariel naked, for sheerly gratuitous reasons.
  • Barbarian Hero
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Ariel is always immaculately groomed and her outfit is in perfect condition. In fairness, she is a sorceress and can magically keep herself looking good.
  • Berserk Button: Do not threaten or harm Ariel. Thundarr takes it extremely poorly. He also doesn't hesitate to dive into battle when he sees humans in danger.
  • Bland-Name Product: One episode has a scene where Ookla reads a comic book from "Marble Comics".
  • Brain in a Jar: One of the villains was originally a scientist who was mortally wounded in the apocalypse; he kept his brain alive through a combination of life-support technology and magic.
  • Catch Phrase: Thundarr's "Demon Dogs!", "Lords of Light!" and his battle cry, "Aaaaaaaahhhhh—ee!" Plus, the catchy and inspiring, "Ariel! Ookla! RIDE!"
  • The Chick: For the era the show hails from, Ariel manages to avoid a surprising amount of Chickification - she's still "the feminine voice" of the team, sure, and Depending on the Writer she can be placed in peril, but by and large she's treated as perfectly competent and a worthy, valuable companion to Thundarr.
    • She's also notable for being a non-white female lead in an era where that wasn't too common.
  • Colossus Climb: Thundarr often has to fight giant monsters and does this.
  • The Comically Serious: Thundarr seems to be going for The Stoic, but in the face of Ariel's wisecracks and other comedic events he often comes across as this.
  • Convection Schmonvection: The Power Trio could ride their horses over partly submerged rock sticking out of a pool of lava.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ariel, generally in contrast to Thundarr.
  • Defector from Decadence: Ariel was the stepdaughter of the wizard Sabian, holds the title of "princess" from an undefined source and is herself a quite formidable sorceress. By all the standards of their world, she should be part of the ruling elite, not riding around on a horse with a barbarian and a Mok playing heroine to the unwashed masses.
  • Detonation Moon: The Moon literally split in half when the runaway planet passed by. It does appear that it is gradually pulling back together though.
  • Empathic Weapon: Thundarr's Sun Sword, which could be wielded only by him.
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Ariel is called one.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Just about any bad guy who isn't a Mad Scientist.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Thundarr's Sun Sword, which may have been a Shout-Out to — or a direct rip-off of — Luke Skywalker's lightsaber note . More conventional laserlike Energy Weapons tend to be standard issue for the various Wizards' monstrous mutant Mooks. Another example: the werewolves turned their victims into werewolves by holding their glowy claws kinda near the victim.
    • Thundarr made sure never to use his Sun Sword on a living creature. He would not start in with the hack-and-slash until after he discovered that his enemies were robots; just to make sure we in the audience understood, he would then bellow, "They are machines!"
  • Feudal Future: Most people are effectively either serfs or slaves to wizards who rule over fiefdoms surrounding their citadels of sorcery and/or science.
  • Fun with Acronyms: An In-Joke. Ookla (the Mok) is named after the University of California, Los Angeles → UCLA → "ookla".
  • Functional Magic: What it is and why it became so prolific after the Cataclysm is unspecified. But in Time Travel episodes it is shown to work even in the 20th Century, implying that it was really rediscovered rather than something which did not exist in the past at all.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Most of the enemies.
  • Hellish Horse: Ookla's mount (an "equart") is half-horse, half-bug... and 100% awesome.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: The hangmen from those Mel Brooks movies is...guess who.
  • Human Popsicle: One episode centered on a trio of human scientists, cryonically frozen since the 20th century, who are awakened by our heroes. Of course, one of them Monster Faints upon seeing Ookla.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Not only did mooks seem incapable of hitting Thundarr, but they always ran forward while firing, moving into close combat with the barbarian for no apparent reason.
  • Insistent Terminology: Thundarr seems to reserve the use of the term "wizard" for the Sorcerous Overlords that oppress humankind. Ariel is not a "wizard", she is a "sorceress" (and don't call her a "witch" either).
  • Kirby Dots: Since Jack Kirby did the storyboarding artwork.
  • Land in the Saddle: Once an Episode, minimum. In one early episode, he does it from the top floor of a ruined skyscraper without injury.
  • Laser Blade: The Sun Sword.
  • Leotard of Power: Ariel wears one.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Thundarr is both strong and agile, often pulling off Combat Parkour moves, especially when fighting giant monsters.
  • Loin Cloth: Thundarr wears one.
  • Lost Technology: Often sought after by wizards and those seeking to protect themselves from them alike.
  • Magitek: At times it's hard to tell if something is supposed to be magical or just Magic from Technology. Also, Ariel and other wizards have shown that they can repair and power ancient vehicles using magic.
  • Magic Knight: Ariel, in a manner of speaking. While she could be a Squishy Wizard, she is actually fairly acrobatic and more of a Fragile Speedster who is not to be underestimated.
  • The Magocracy: There is a Council of Wizards, which is never depicted onscreen, but which the young wizard Artemus is very keen to impress. It is implied that there is at least some kind of loose government consisting of powerful wizards, although the overall system would appear to be feudal, with the wizards being akin to allied rulers at best.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Thundarr tore into many a goon before discovering that they were "Ma-chiiiiiines!"
  • Mega Manning: Ariel has the ability to learn an evil wizard's spell simply by watching him cast it.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The non-humanoid monsters are generally of this sort.
  • Mutants: All over the place. Many wizards appear to be mutant humans, although it is not clear whether their mutations are the reason for their ability to wield magic or a side-effect of it.
  • Ms. Exposition: Ariel often explains where they are and its historical significance to Thundarr and Ookla (and the audience).
  • Never Say "Die": "Destroy" was used in reference to humans and other living beings oftentimes when "kill" was clearly meant.
  • No Indoor Voice: Thundarr speaks in an almost perpetual shout. Ookla's growls aren't exactly quiet either.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Subverted quite hard compared to the standards of its contemporaries. He-Man had Orko, the Thundercats had Snarf, and Thundarr had... Ookla, a 9-foot-tall, perpetually enraged sasquatch man whom "cute" and "whimsical" don't quite fit.
    • This might be debatable, considering how often Ookla filled the "comic relief" role.
    • How original!
  • Oblivious to Love: Thundarr toward Ariel's romantic overtures.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Two, one for a trio of super-powered women and another for a teenage gender-flipped version of Thundarr and Ariel (while poor Ookla is represented by their steed, an annoying mutant vulture-lizard with two tails)
    • And again in the last episode, with the three women magically transported to the 20th century.
  • Power Trio: Ookla — Id, Ariel — Superego, Thundarr — Leader. Also, Thundarr— The Hero, Ookla— The Big Guy, Ariel— The Chick (she's also something of a Rebellious Princess, and a White Magician Girl).
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: It's very doubtful that the working machinery and the wrecked cars that everybody tosses around like footballs would be anything but dust in the year 3994, unless the world-ending cataclysm had, as one of its side effects, the stoppage of rust formation.
  • Scavenger World: Many humans and other beings live in the ruins of ancient structures and even wear oddly well-preserved 20th Century clothes.
  • Schizo Tech: Because of the lack of cohesive society. Wizards tend to accumulate a lot of advanced technology and live in high-tech fortresses. The average human lives what is at best a Medieval lifestyle.
  • Science Fantasy: In a big way! Wizards whose Mooks use Ray Guns are just the beginning!
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: It would probably take millions of years — not the couple of thousand years that it takes in the show — to create a population of different, apocalypse-adapted species.
    • They are mostly modified by magic. So, A Wizard Did It, literally. Only one (non-robot) monster was explicitly non-magical in origin; a genetically engineered relic from the Science Age.
    • The "two thousand years" mentioned in the opening — when most of the ruins look like they're less than two hundred years old— probably qualifies for No Sense of Scale too.
      • The runaway planet that passed between the Earth and the Moon appears to have stripped away much of the Earth's atmosphere. The resulting damage to the environment probably arrested the deterioration the ruins would have experienced so we don't get the full Life After People effect.
    • Lest we forget, a "runaway planet passed between the Earth and the Moon." The thing that whizzes by is not only going at a ponderous speed for an interstellar body, but also seems to only be about the size of the moon itself. And you thought arguing over Pluto being considered a planet was rough!
      • However, the moon is over five and a half times as massive as Pluto. Anything moon sized pretty easily qualifies as a planet — in terms of scale, at least.
    • The "runaway planet" is shown cracking the moon with its passing, and ripping away Earth's atmosphere. "Man's civilization being cast into ruin!" would be the least of the problems for any lifeform still alive after that.
  • Screaming Warrior: Thundarr is wholly incapable of fighting quietly, and Ookla is not much better. Only Ariel seems capable of subtlety (conveniently her spells do not require any spoken words).
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Pretty pointless one, too. We see the woman turn into a werewolf onscreen, then we see her shadow changing before she turns to attack a helpless human.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The leader of the werewolves is named "Zevon".
    • In the Elementary episode "One Watson, One Holmes", Watson identifies a suspect by offering him a rare Ookla the Mok lunchbox.
  • The Smart Girl: Ariel apparently spent most of her childhood studying in her stepfather's extensive library when she wasn't practicing her magical skills. Thus she is often the most educated character barring other wizards.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: About half the villain stock as befits the muscle bound hero with the epithet "The Barbarian".
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Jack Kirby created Gemini, a virtual dead ringer for Darkseid, particularly after Gemini is...
  • Super Strength: Thundarr definitely has this, although exactly why is unclear since he is supposedly human. Ookla is somewhat more justified.
  • Taken for Granite: The ultimate fate of recurring villain Gemini.
  • Thud and Blunder: A good example of the genre. Thundarr is somewhat more articulate and intelligent than many other Thud And Blunder heroes, though.
  • Time Travel: Via some sort of magic portal, which delivers our heroes to the late 20th century. They receive help in their mission from a 10-year-old girl, whom they leave behind at the end, presumably to die in the cataclysm about a decade later.
  • True Blue Femininity: Ariel
  • The Unintelligible: Ookla
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Because most of the enemies are mutants and evil disfigured wizards, our heroes are pretty much free to attack them, although dismemberments and mutilations are usually only reserved for robots.
  • X Meets Y: Cartoon Network once called this "Conan the Barbarian meets Planet of the Apes".
    • Or, considering the similarity between the Sun Sword and the lightsabers, also between Ookla and Chewbacca, it could be Conan the Barbarian meets Star Wars.

Alternative Title(s):

Thundarr The Barbarian