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Western Animation / Thundarr the Barbarian

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"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 the year 1994, civilization was destroyed in a mighty cataclysm. (What? You don't remember that happening?) Some 2,000 years later, the world is still a pretty big mess, with many of the survivors' descendants 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 (no, not that one) 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 book writer Steve Gerber and artists Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, this show was one of the better Conan-inspired Heroic Fantasy shows of the early 1980s. (Toth's character designs for the leads can be easily found online. One of them is of Ariel naked.) 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.

Was released on DVD and Bluray with a special feature: "Lords of Light!"

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: The show takes place after The End of the World as We Know It.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Ariel for Thundarr. However, he does get pretty mad whenever she's endangered or threatened so maybe her love is not completely unrequited.
  • All There in the Manual: Background materials explain that Ariel was the stepdaughter of the wizard Sabian, and Thundarr and Ookla were slaves of his who revolted, which is how the trio met up. None of that was depicted in-show, even though a later episode (Fortress of Fear), has Thundarr tacitly mentioning it.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: There are plenty of similarities between the series and Jack Kirby's comic book Kamandi.
  • Alternate History: This series follows a timeline where an apocalypse happens in 1994.
    • Hence it's not a mistake in the episode "Secret of the Black Pearl" when the World Trade Center (Destroyed in 2001) appears in the ruins of "Manhat", as in reality they would stand for seven more years.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The wizards. The young Merlik and Ariel's stepfather Sabian are the only male magic users shown or mentioned as good to halfway decent. All others heard of or encountered are bad, bad, bad, dedicated to conquest and exploitation.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Ariel. She's dark-skinned and dark-haired. When visiting an ancient Chinatown, she observes that her ancestors might have lived in such a place, implying Asian heritage.
  • And I Must Scream: Gemini, who ends his second and last appearance trapped forever in a shell of unbreakable rock.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary Societal Collapse via natural disaster From Space!.
  • Artistic License – Space: The rogue planet in the opening story likely wouldn't have the effect of breaking the moon or pulling the clouds off the earth. The moon and the Earth are shown to be much closer together than they are.
  • 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.)
  • Badass Boast: Thundarr wasn't shy about these, but this one from "Fortress of Fear" is probably one of his highlights.
    Resigned Prisoner: There is no escape from a wizard's citadel!
    Thundarr: You are wrong! Ookla and I once escaped a citadel as fearsome as this one, and we'll do it again!
  • Bait-and-Switch Credits: The scene from the opening where Gemini shoots Eye Beams at Ariel isn't in either of the episodes where he appears. Likewise, Thundarr breaking his chains in Sabian's gladiatorial arena (or any of Thundarr's origin story in general) never appears in any episode.
  • Barbarian Hero: Thundarr is a barbarian who once belonged to the wizard Sabian, until he led a succesful slave revolt.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Ariel is always immaculately groomed and her outfit is in perfect condition. In "Prophecy of Peril", Ariel shows how she likely accomplishes that by using magic to whip up a new outfit for guest-heroine Valerie, complete with a headband she didn't have before and replacing her high heels with sandals.
  • 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.
    • Don't refer to Ariel as a "witch". You might as well be calling her something else that rhymes with it if her reaction is anything to go by.
  • Bland-Name Product: Ookla, at one point, reads a comic book from Marble Comics.
  • Boats into Buildings: In the episode "Raiders of the Abyss" Thundarr visits a tribe that lives in the ancient wreck of a beached cruise ship. The chief of the tribe wears the old captain's hat and uniform as a sign of his authority.
  • Brain in a Jar: In "Mindok the Mind Menace", the title character was a scientist who was mortally wounded in the apocalypse in 1994, but kept his brain alive through a combination of life-support technology and magic.
  • Brainy Brunette: Apart from her knowledge of magic and ancient history, Ariel also has more common sense than any other hero or villain on the show.
  • Breaking the Bonds: As quoted above, Thundarr does this in the title sequence.
  • Catchphrase: Thundarr's "Demon Dogs!", "Lords of Light!" and his battle cry, "Aaaaaaaahhhhh—ee!" Plus, the catchy and inspiring, "Ariel! Ookla! RIDE!"
  • Colossus Climb: Thundarr often climbs giant monsters when he does this. Stabbing in vital parts usually follows, although with the Statue of Liberty, all he had to do was hold out until the wizard stopped empowering it.
  • 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.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In "Portal Into Time" we learn that the Wizard Khromm has a working time machine he just uses to get tech from the past to attempt to rule the present. He's too busy gloating about how awesome he is to consider actually taking over the past, or using this to live comfortably.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ariel, generally in contrast to Thundarr.
  • Defector from Decadence: Ariel was the stepdaughter of the wizard Sabian, holds the title of "princess", 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 cracked Moon and its shards are a massive, mute reminder that this is After the End.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: In "Challenge of the Wizards" the Scorpion machine and the Wheel machine both drop their considerable lead to mess with the trio.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: As part of the show's lore. An apocalypse caused by a small planet/large moon swinging WAY too close to Earth and Luna cracked the latter and royally messed with the atmosphere and tectonics of the former.
  • Evil Is Hammy: A lot of the wizardly villains, who were constantly yelling about things like the imminent demises of Thundarr and his friends.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Just about any bad guy who isn't a Mad Scientist. Vashtarr wanted to take over his part of the world via the power of his Gem of Glory, instead of making what he had a nice place to live.
  • Fake Wizardry: In the episode "Master of the Stolen Sunsword", Thundarr battles Yondo, a "wizard" whose powers turn out to all be fake and based on stage magic. Despite this, Yondo is a formidable opponent for Thundarr and company, giving them more trouble than many of the actual wizards they battled. He's one of the very few enemies who knows Ariel needs her hands free to cast her spells.
  • 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 . 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 something like "They are machines!"
    • More conventional laserlike Energy Weapons tend to be standard issue for the various Wizards' monstrous mutant Mooks. They were generally "stunners" or stormtrooper markmanship was in full effect.
    • Another example: The Brotherhood of Night's werewolves turned their victims into werewolves by holding their glowy claws kinda near their victims.
  • Feudal Future: Most people are effectively either serfs or slaves to wizards who rule over fiefdoms surrounding their citadels of sorcery and/or science.
  • Free-Range Children: Samantha in "Portal Into Time" happens to be wandering about downtown when the adventurers arrive. She takes them home - not a caretaker nor parent to be seen.
  • Fun with Acronyms: An In-Joke. Ookla (the Mok) is named after the University of California, Los Angeles → UCLA → "ookla".
  • Functional Magic: Why magic became so prolific after the Cataclysm is never explained. In Time Travel episodes, magic 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... but that in turn only raises further questions! In the end, it's best to just accept that Thundarr's world is governed by the Rule of Cool.
  • Gratuitous Princess: Ariel is a princess, but we never learn what kingdom she is a princess of. In fact, we never see any kind of nation-state in any of the episodes. In all of Thundarr, Ariel and Ookla's wanderings, most societies they encounter are villages, tribes, and wizards using their power to bully such communities into small fiefdoms.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Most of the enemies. The Carocs were crocodile-human with a bit of the snake about them.
  • Hellish Horse: Ookla's mount (an "equart") is half-horse, half-bug... and 100% awesome.
  • Hover Bot: In the episode "Mindok the Mind Menace", the evil wizard Mindok turns out to be one of these.
  • Human Popsicle: "Mindok the Mind Menace" centered on a trio of human scientists, cryonically frozen since the 20th century, who are awakened by Thundarr, Ariel and Ookla. Of course, one of them Faints in Shock 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.
  • Inept Mage: Sarot from "City of Evil". He steals an awesomely powerful magic gauntlet, but still loses it to Thundarr in the opening scene. When he tries to get it back, he turns its wearer into a monster that attacks Thundarr, and him.
  • 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).
    • Merlik is a young "sorcerer", not a "wizard", at least as far as Thundarr's concerned. Also as far as Thundarr's concerned, he's too young to be adventuring and should be at home; same for Merlik's friend Sharra.
  • Intelligible Unintelligible: Ookla speaks only in growls and howls, but Thundarr and Ariel have no problem understanding him.
  • King Kong Copy: In "Valley of the Man Apes", Simius and his fellow man-apes as they unearth various pieces of a Giant Mecha termed "the Mighty One." Despite efforts by Thundarr and his party to allay them, the man-apes succeed in reassembling a giant robot primate and use it as a weapon against the dwarf villagers. The locale is suggestive of old Hollywood, including derelict soundstages, meaning the man-apes have rebuilt an actual movie prop King Kong.
  • Kirby Dots: Since Jack Kirby did the storyboarding artwork. Often seen when wizards try to blast the heroes, when their mechas and robots try to blast the heroes, when revived tech or magic tries to blast the heroes - yes, there's a theme there.
  • Land in the Saddle: Once an Episode, minimum. In the first episode, "Secret of the Black Pearl", Thundarr does it from the top floor of a villain's fortress, carrying Ariel, without injury (to himself or his horse, whose spine somehow withstood the weight of two adult humans falling several stories).
  • Laser Blade: The Sun Sword. It's fiery and can cut through anything that isn't organic and alive. It's never stated if it's old tech, new tech developed from old, magic, or some other combination.
  • Leotard of Power: Ariel wears one. It's also a Sexy Backless Outfit.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Thundarr is both strong and agile, often pulling off Combat Parkour moves, especially when fighting giant monsters.
  • Loincloth: Thundarr wears one of brown fur, matching his vest. The way he's drawn often makes it look like vest and loincloth are part of the same outfit. He doesn't store things in the loincloth the way He-Man does.
  • Lost Technology: Often sought after by both wizards and those seeking to protect themselves from them. It stands out because Thundarr's world appears to have had access to some level of comic book-style advanced technology before the 1994 apocalypse.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: Thundarr's Sun Sword, which can be wielded only by him.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Apparently quite soon after the Cataclysm, since the wizard Mindok, who was a scientist at that time, was able to use magic along with technology to keep his brain alive when his body died from fatal injuries.
  • Magic Is Feminine: Ariel, the show's prominent Action Girl, is a sorceress. Her male comrades Thundarr and Ookla rely on an energy sword and brute force, respectively.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. The mutant rabbit was big, furry, with scaled ridges down its back and some sort of scaled attennae things.
  • Ms. Exposition: Ariel often explains where they are and its historical significance to Thundarr and Ookla (and the audience).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Having great legs and an ample chest while sporting a backless, high-cut leotard certainly qualifies Ariel as this.
  • 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.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Ariel's powers are often plot-convenient and aren't referenced in other situations where they'd be handy.
  • Never Say "Die": "Destroy" was used in reference to humans and other living beings oftentimes when "kill" was clearly meant.
  • New York Is Only Manhattan: In "Secret of the Black Pearl" there is only jungle surrounding the ruins of "Manhat", ignoring that there was a large amount of built up area around it.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In "Prophecy of Peril". The heroes find out a prophecy of three heroines who are destined to defeat the wizard Vashtarr. One of them lived before the apocalypse, and instead of letting events play out where she presumably dies amidst all the "cosmic destruction", Vashtarr brings her to the future so he can kill her himself. Where the source of his power ends up giving her powers to use against him, and where she can and does escape to join forces with his enemies.
  • No Indoor Voice: Thundarr speaks in an almost perpetual shout. Ookla's growls aren't exactly quiet either.
  • Oblivious to Love: Ariel is smitten with Thundarr and makes no secret of it, but he never seems to notice. Even when he's beating the crap out of enemies because their boss threatened or captured her.
  • Pelts of the Barbarian: Thundarr wears what is basically a brown fur vest and loincloth. Every other barbarian we see also has a fur costume of some sort.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: He's not really malicious about it, but it doesn't take a lot of watching to see Thundarr's somewhat dismissive of women. He has no trouble snarking back at anything Ariel says to him, thinks little of the girl Tai who shows up in a pair of episodes, or bossing around the guest heroines in "Prophecy of Peril," to name a few examples.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Two. The series finale involves bringing together a trio of super-powered women, Maya, Cinda and Valerie, who wind up materializing in the 20th century at the end. An earlier episode has 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).
  • Power Trio: Ookla — Id, Ariel — Superego, Thundarr — Ego.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: The last episode, "Prophecy of Peril", starts with the Crystal of Prophecy and Thundarr, Ariel, and Ookla's attempt to steal it. The Crystal held an unknown prophecy that told how to bring about the downfall of the evil wizard Vashtarr. When the Crystal shatters, because Vashtar zaps it to try to destroy it and the prophecy, the freed spirit tells all present the prophecy of the three women who will bring down Vashtarr, with pictures.
    Prophecy Crystal Spirit:
    One lies beneath Endor with silver to bind her;
    One comes from the past and her foe will find her;
    One dwells in the Canyon of Death, lonely-hearted;
    Unite them, and Vashtarr's power is thwarted!
  • Ragnarök 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. Note one of the survivals is the Statue of Liberty, which has been suffering deterioration even with regular maintenance and repair.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age: Ruins of 20th century civilization are to be found everywhere.
  • 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. However, 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.
    • Lest we forget, a "runaway planet hurtling between the Earth and the Moon." The thing that whizzes by is not only going at a ponderously slow speed for an interstellar body, but also seems to only be about the size of the Moon itself - a very small planet.
    • The "runaway planet" is shown cracking the Moon with its passing, and ripping away a chunk of Earth's atmosphere. "Man's civilization [being] cast in 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).
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The series finale "Prophecy of Peril" deals with three women, the hermit barbarian Cinda who wields the Staff of Power, the long-entombed Egyptian-esque Elemental Shapeshifter queen Maya, and the ordinary 20th century fashion model Valerie Storm. In the end, the three women destroy the Gem of Glory, the power source of the evil wizard.
    Prophecy Crystal Spirit:
    One lies beneath Endor with silver to bind her;
    One comes from the past and her foe will find her;
    One dwells in the Canyon of Death, lonely-hearted;
    Unite them, and Vashtarr's power is thwarted!
    • The wizard of the week, Vashtarr, goes back in time to kidnap Valerie and bring her to his era. The wizard states on camera he knows the sorceress Ariel cannot time travel. He could have simply let Valerie die, either before or after going to the trouble of "finding" her in the past. Not to mention how he accidentally gives her wings and powers when he tries to blast her.
    • Cinda couldn't care less about Vashtarr's tyranny, until he invades her domain. Vashtarr was trying to kill her and hopefully Maya, with Thundarr's crew as a possible side bonus. All he did was tick off Cinda and set her on his trail.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot: Pretty pointless one, too. We see a woman turn into a werewolf onscreen, then we see her shadow changing before she turns to attack a helpless human.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The writers came up with Ookla's name after seeing a sign for UCLA. "Ucla!"
    • The leader of the werewolves is named "Zevon".
    • One episode has Ariel trying to explain the concept of a movie to Thundarr, after they come across a poster advertising Jaws.
  • The Smart Guy: Ariel apparently spent most of her childhood studying in her stepfather's extensive library when she wasn't practicing her magical skills. She is often the most educated character, along with any other wizards.
  • Solitary Sorceress: In "Island of the Body Snatchers" the witch Circe (no relation to the Circe from Classical Mythology) lives alone on an island except for mooks she keeps as soldiers and servants.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: About half the villains, as befits the muscle-bound hero with the epithet "the Barbarian". Downplayed though, as most wizards rule their own fiefdoms, and sometimes make war on each other, rather than there being a single wizard ruler.
  • Super-Strength: Thundarr definitely has this, although exactly why is unclear since he is supposedly human. Ookla is somewhat more justified.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Jack Kirby created Gemini, a virtual dead ringer for Darkseid, even down to a penchant for Eye Beams,note  particularly after Gemini ends up Taken for Granite.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: In "Portal Into Time" the trio, teleported into the 20th century, infiltrate a computer company. No one notices them cutting open the wall. There's evidently no one at a front desk to note them coming in, no security at all inside. Security only notices them when they remove the component they need and they immediately give up and retreat.
  • Taken for Granite: The ultimate fate of recurring villain Gemini. There's a race of beings that dunk their young in a magic pool to give them super-strong, rocky skin. It's lethal to anyone but them. Gemini was going to dunk Thundarr in the pool. Thundarr was duly appreciative of the effort and returned it in kind, but more successfully.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: The Opening Narration spends a lot more time on describing the After the End setting, but after that it names and describes Thundarr, Ookla, and Ariel.
  • Time Travel Episode: In "Portal into Time", a magic portal sends Thundarr, Ookla and Ariel to the late 20th century. They receive help in their mission from a 10-year-old girl named Samantha, whom they leave behind at the end, presumably to die in the Cataclysm about a decade later.
  • Tricked-Out Gloves: The MacGuffin of the episode "City of Evil" is a mechanical gauntlet with awesome but vague powers.
  • True Companions: Ariel was sometimes annoyed by Thundarr's impulsiveness and stubbornness, and Thundarr was sometimes annoyed by Ariel's snarkiness and habit of giving history lessons at every opportunity. But the two of them (and Ookla) were completely inseparable and devoted to each other.
  • Unequal Rites: Ariel is a sorceress, and will angrily correct anyone who dares call her a "witch".
  • The Unintelligible: Ookla speaks in growls, though Thundarr and Ariel understand him.
  • Wandering Wizard: Princess Ariel is a sorceress (do NOT call her a wizard!) who wanders the post-apocalyptic world with her friends Thundarr the barbarian warrior and the monstrous but good-natured Ookla the Mok.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Most of the enemies are mutants and evil disfigured wizards, so Thundarr, Ookla and Ariel are pretty much free to attack them. Dismemberments and mutilations, though, are usually reserved for robots.